Wine and Seafood Pairings

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The holidays are around the corner, and whether you’re planning on traveling for the holidays or hosting a soiree, why not get ahead with menu planning with food and wine!

Red wines are usually the diva of the dining menu this time of year, with the changing seasons, cooler weather and seasonal releases. But let’s not neglect our sensuous white wines as well!

Halibut and Fume Blanc
This may be the perfect fish to serve for any occasion. Halibut is a very neutral fish, lacking the fishy smell prevalent in trout, shrimp or salmon. Halibut is also structurally sturdy, satisfying those that want a steak feeling without consuming red meat. Halibut is also a sponge for flavor. Whether it’s marinated in a sauce or put straight onto a grill, this fish will stay true to the flavors you’ve added, including shaved almonds or crushed macadamia nuts.

With halibut, serve Fume Blanc, a drier wine that originates from sauvignon blanc grapes and is a Loire-style wine made successful by the late Robert Mondavi. The style can be herbaceous and it does not typically have the green apple or tropical notes of traditionally bottled sauvignon blanc, making it a pleasantly complex pairing to heartier foods served all year.

Scallops and Riesling
Scallops are also a delicious addition to seafood and wine menus. Scallops are available as both pebble-size bay scallops and larger sea scallops; they’re naturally tender from the time they are harvested. Scallops also take on the flavors in which they are surrounded, whether it’s in a creamy risotto or as part of a larger ensemble featuring truffles, leeks and garlic.

Riesling, a highly aromatic wine, provides the sweet, soft scallop with a balance of dry, highly acidic flavor; it may leave a slight spice on the tongue that can be interpreted as finishing sweet, although it’s mostly the fruit that’s detected. A sparkling wine of this nature would also be a delicious pairing for any dish with scallops.

Salmon and Marsanne
Salmon is perceived to be a difficult fish to pair with wine, but it’s a delicious fish to enjoy with a variety of wines. The fats in wild salmon allow the fish to retain a texture and flavor profile perfect for wines aged in oak. There’s just something about that malo-balance in chardonnay, marsanne and roussanne that creates a match made in heaven. When the wine is fermenting and aging in oak, it reacts with the natural wood chemistry, creating a creamy complexity that appears as buttery or creamy on the palate.

Marsanne is something special here in the United States, as it’s typically blended with roussanne to give it texture and mouth feel. However this beautiful Rhône wine has earned its place and provides lovely low-acid, high aroma pairing to foods and sauces containing fats such as salmon, Romano, parmesan and ricotta. The flexible salmon can be served cold, encrusted in almond or served with a honey sauce, so these aspects are drawn out through the pairing of marsanne/roussanne.

Halibut, scallops and salmon all take their place in the sushi realm thanks to their ability to retain natural, authentic flavor through varying sushi preparation using flavorful spices and sauces. These wines may be on the wine list at your favorite sushi restaurant to try by the glass or bottle.

Seafood and Red Wines?
After all the pairing advice in the world, it still comes down to what you like. If one of your traditions is making and enjoying cioppino, try grenache, malbec or dolcetto. These three distinct wines have great flavor structure with tannins that are not too overpowering for the fish course. You taste the fruit on the front of the tongue that dissipates to light spice and an even finish. And these semi-hearty red wines can be added to any of your red sauces or seafood stews. If you happen to have salami or lamb skewers as part of your appetizer, the wines will pair beautifully and everyone will be thrilled with your pairing prowess!

Crab season is right around the corner, and for many, the celebrations around this seasonal gift of the ocean are a family and community tradition. If you’re planning on hosting or attending a crab feed, enjoy a wine that is perfectly paired for the herbed buttery goodness of hot fresh crab. Whether it takes the form of crab ravioli, fettucini, meatballs, crab cakes or sushi, all these red and white wines will be a great supporting cast.

When you find the three to five wines you’re excited to feature for your holiday table, purchase at least half cases of each to have on hand for all your dinners and events. This way, you won’t have to worry last minute if the market has any more of that Washington State riesling you loved so much! ■

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