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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

WINE BANTER - John Haggard on Pairing Wines with Fish

Oftentimes people drop by with Recipes to my store, many of which are seafood, and as we begin to break down the different kinds of seafood, broth, vegetables and herbs, I to try to figure out whether a red wine is going to be appropriate. Recently, I received an article (The Economist) which answered a question I’d really never thought too much about: why are there so few red wines that can be paired with fish that don’t create a fishy after-taste? – and the answer is actually quite simple: wines with high levels of iron turn out to be the culprit. While it seemed obvious not to pair seafood with big red wines like Bordeaux varietals ( such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petite Verdot,), or Zinfandels and Syrah, to name a few, it wasn’t obvious to me that perhaps it was a chemical component (iron) that may have been the reason (Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry).Thank you, Harvey Mendelson, for bringing this article among others to my attention.

While so many white wines (which I’ll go into later) may be paired with fish, I have often found that some pinot noirs make a great pairing with fish, if they are not heavily extracted – and it turns out these pinot noirs have little or no iron – some great examples being; Ferreira’s Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Preston Estate 2007 (ret: $30-$35) or EMTU’s Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2006, from organically grown grapes (ret: $35), and am looking forward to the release of the Paul Mathew 2007 Ruxton Vineyard Pinot Noir which normally retails ($35-$40) as his past vintages of this vineyard designate pinot noir have been exceptional and versatile to pair with fish and many other dishes. All of these pinot noirs make great pairings for fish dishes from grilled salmon to paella. Remember when pairing any wine with a cream based sauce that may contain herbs and or aged cheeses such as a pecorino romano that it will most likely pair better with a red wine, such as the aforementioned pinot noirs rather than a white.

Some white clones of pinot pair wonderfully with fish: Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Blanc. The Italian clone and its descendants all over the world being known as Pinot Grigio, typically (but not always) is harvested earlier and has a more steely, citric and mineral quality. The French clone, pinot gris, typically picked later, has a little more residual sugar, though still a dry wine, and creates a much rounder, softer quality and can be paired with seafood, and occasionally will have a mineral finish. I tend to find the Pinot Gris wines a little more elegant, perfect for pairing and sipping, whereas the Pinot Grigios more typically for pairing, but this is my palate, and I recommend you test your own. Pinot Blanc, yet another mutation of pinot, typically has a more floral quality to it, and once again, pairs well with some seafood items.

With Dungeness Crab Season in full swing, you can find some great white wines to pair from buttery Chardonnays; Hart’s Desire’s Carneros Chardonnay Ceja Vineyard 2008. (ret; $25) or Rielle’s Ritchie Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay (ret: $30) to crisp dry Sauvignon Blancs.such as PKNT 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from Chile (ret; $7) – it’s really a matter of your own personal preference but they will all pair well with crab. On these cool crisp days, it’s well worth heading out to Bodega Bay and the Spud Point Crab Company: 1860 Westshore Road, Bodega Bay. Tel; 707-875-9472.

Moshin Vineyards gets a new winemaker: Mat Gustafson
Congratulations to winemaker, Mathew Gustafson in his move as winemaker for Moshin Vineyards. Mat has long produced some of my favorite pinot noirs under his own label Paul Mathew and Dutton Estate. Moshin Vineyards has a spectacular facility; gravity fed, custom crush, used by several small producers. I anticipate that there will be much to look forward to in the coming years from Moshin Vineyards.

John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, The Sonoma Wine & Cheese Market in Monte Rio, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open 11am – 7pm, closed only on Wednesdays.