Seafood + Wine = Perfect Pairing


Summer has arrived in Vancouver. Although the sun has not shown up as much as we would love it to, temperature is creeping up and with it comes the need for lighter, fresher meals to keep the heat at bay. And when it comes to light, cold dishes, nothing like seafood! Lucky for us, we live right on one of the cleanest maritime areas of the world and the quality and diversity of our fruits de mer is second to none. Seafood is still a bit of terra incognita for a large proportion of consumers and when it comes to choosing the best wines to pair with a fish or shellfish dish, the subject can be outright obscure. “White wine with seafood, red wine with meat” goes the old saying, and for the most part it is a solid guideline. Having been raised sea side in Lima, and having worked for my family’s ceviche restaurant, my diet relies heavily on seafood. After moving to Canada, and being a wine apasionado, I have had no alternative but to test and try wines and local seafood in my adoptive homeland, findings that I now share with Everything Wine blog readers.

First of all, and before the season is over, get your hands on some spot prawns, sustainably harvested off the coast of British Columbia. Garlic butter is one of the most popular sauces to accompany this beautifully tender, naturally sweet tasting crustacean. A classic match is a lush, full flavored Pinot Gris, like New Zealand’s Sileni (15.99), Argentina’s Lurton (13.99) or Hungary’s Dunavar, which, at 9.99 offers tremendous value. More adventurous seafood lovers may like to add some wasabi and soy sauce to their garlic butter, which results in a delicious mélange. The cooking temperature takes away some of the wasabi’s aggressive heat but keeps its flavors. In this case a wine with more weight on the palate is in order. Kettle Valley’s Pinot Gris (24.99) is a good call. Even better, try Alsace’s Hartenberger (23.99) or Pierre Sparr Reserve, which at 29.99 has a massive presence on the palate and abundant, flavor-packed fruit that stands up to the spot prawn challenge.
 

Oysters deserve a post of their own. The mind boggling diversity and their aptitude to reflect the “sea-rroir” make the bivalves analogous to wine. East and West coasters taste different, and within the West Coast, they will have different taste and texture depending on whether they come from farms in Washington, Oregon or British Columbia. Keep in mind that in the case of oysters, farmed is better than wild for a number of reasons that would take too long to discuss here. Suffice to say that environmentally farmed oysters take the pressure off natural stocks, besides the fact that they are fed only clean ocean water and nothing else, no vitamins, hormones, antibiotics or dyes. Although Chablis (the real thing, from France, not the spurious sweet plonk made in California) is the classic match, we will look here at the best pairing for West Coast slimes: Sauvignon Blanc. Effingham oysters have a distinct savory taste, which calls for a wine that reflects that character. Wither Hills Rarangi, from Marlborough (26.99) comes immediately to mind. For the budget minded, Southern France’s Tariquet (15.99) will rise up to the job. Kumamotos and Kusshis have a sweeter, fruitier profile. Riper fruit is what you should look for in your Sauv Blanc. Napa Valley’s St Supery (37.99) is an excellent choice. A bit pricey, point taken, but then you are slurping the aristocracy of mollusks. Not convinced? Go for Argentina’s Mapema (20.99) or Paula (16.99). If you are rooting for Chile and not Argentina in the World Cup and don’t want to buy a Tango wine, then grab Casas del Bosque (17.99), a delicious Sauvignon of high fruit profile and persistent acidity.

Dungeness crab is another critter that British Columbians love to have on their table. The white, firm meat is packed in both legs and body. It is so tasty that for the most part all you need to do is cook it in boiling water (crustaceans have well developed nervous systems so please put them to “sleep” in the freezer for 20 or 25 minutes before you scald them). Dungeness, like King Crab, has a distinct touch of sweetness sparkling over the rich flavor and texture. Find a wine of analogous fat character, like a good Chardonnay. Los Alamos (14.99), Liberty School (23.99) or Oyster Bay (19.99) will do the job. For those who don’t mind a touch of sweetness in their wine, the Madrone (which is blended with 8% Muscat) should be the perfect match at 18.99.

Before closing this note, how can you write about West Coast seafood without mentioning the king of our waters, the mighty salmon? Here is when you can bend the white-for-fish-red-for-meat rule. Barbequed or poached salmon will be enriched by a fleshy Chardonnay but it has enough flavor to stand up to lighter reds. First in line, C’est la Vie, an idiosyncratic Southern French blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah is a great candidate at 16.99. A soft Pinot Noir, like the Tabali Reserva (29.99) or the Coldstream Hills (33.99) are also great picks. For the budget minded, the J.P. Chenet Limited Release (1.99) or the Morande Pionero (15.99) are the ones to look for. Look for troll caught salmon, as it is the tastiest and the fishing method is environmentally responsible.

 Grenache (aka Garnacha) is another red that enhances strong flavored fish. Seared Albacore tuna, which is harvested sustainably in British Columbia (barbless hooks minimize bycatch of other species) pairs wonderfully with a light Grenache like Vive La Revolution or Spain’s No Time Garnacha (both at 15.99). Not into light reds? No worries. You would still have a good pairing with something like the Wallace Shiraz Grenache (29.99).

Seafood and wine pairings are a bit tricky but when you find the right match, they are so terroir oriented that the synergy is rarely found in other pairings. And when you go seafood shopping, don’t forget to look for sustainable harvested fish and shellfish. That is the only way to keep the bounty of our oceans healthy and available for us and for future generations.

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3 Responses to “Seafood + Wine = Perfect Pairing”

  1. Leo Says:

    Hi Ivan,

    So where can you get high quality fresh oysters around town?

  2. winecouver Says:

    Lobsterman in Granville Island has a good selection. One Fish Two Fish in Langley. I normally get them from my neighborhood fish shop, one block east of Hastings and Gilmore, right on the south west corner. They sell live Effinghams for 59c. Havent seen lower price in town.

  3. Effingham Oyster Says:

    Love the story and very happy to see that you chose Effinghams as one of the choices to pair with!!!! I’ve been posting all over my Twitter: @effingoyster and Effingham Oyster Facebook Fanpage!!

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