It may seem like a cliché, but white wine and fish are the perfect pairing. But wait a minute - there are so many different types of white wines, and so many types of seafood, so can you really just make that blanket statement?!? Good question - there are nuances, and certain kinds of white wines do go better with certain kinds of seafood. Feeling overwhelmed, confused, want to throw in the towel?!? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! In this episode we talk about why white wine and fish pair so well, we give you ideas for white wines (and even red wines!) to pair with seafood, and we taste and review three wines that at first glance may seem like obvious choices, but each has a twist on the varietal and style that you think you know. We try an unoaked Chardonnay, a slightly oaked Sauvignon Blanc, and a vintage sparkling Cava - all under $20! So, for whatever reason you are eating fish and seafood - because it’s a Friday in Lent or just because you love it - this is the episode for you! Wines reviewed in this episode: 2020 A to Z Unoaked Oregon Chardonnay, 2021 Substance Sauvignon Blanc, and 2017 Juve & Camps Reserva de la Familia Cava Gran Reserva Brut Nature.
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Episode 65: Fish Friendly Wines for Lent or Whenever 00:00
Hello! And welcome to The Wine Pair Podcast. I’m Joe, your sommelier of reasonably priced wine, and this is my wife and my wine pairing partner in crime, Carmela. And we are The Wine Pair!
Ok, a quick orientation for those of you who may be new to the podcast - in each episode we learn about, taste and review three wines that are reasonably priced - meaning under $20 - and should be easy for you to find. Our goal is to have some fun, learn about some new wines, and talk about wines in a way that regular people like us can understand. And we are proud to say we are officially recommended by the editors of Decanter Magazine, who call us fun, irreverent, chatty, and entertaining.
Well, Carmela, after a week’s break, we are back! Some of you may not have quite noticed that we were on a hiatus because we released a mini-sode last week, but the truth is that we release those mini-sodes during weeks when we are out of town or not able to do a full episode for whatever reason.
But, because you were so sad about not doing an episode last week, we are back, and we are focusing on something that you will like Carmela - pairing wine with fish!
And, we are lining up this episode with the fish eating season that is upon us again called Lent! I know we talked about this in an episode last year, in fact it was episode 23, and we even tried to pair wine with Filet o Fish from McDonalds which was really fun at least it was fun for me, and we learned about White Bordeaux, but, you know, last year we got into the whole Lent thing a little late, so I thought this year, we are going to get ahead of it and talk about wine that pairs well with fish, and as an added bonus, we are going to pull some wines right out of our wine cellar and clear it out a little which I am sure makes you happy, Carmela. Because that thing is just clogged up right now.
Now, many of you out there in listening land may be wondering why we are talking about Lent and fish, and so here is the scoop. Both Carmela and I, as those of you who have been following us for a while know, are Italian-American and, like many Italian-Americans we were raised Catholic, and for Catholics, Lent is kind of a big deal. You’ve probably heard about Mardi Gras - the big celebration we hear about a lot happening in New Orleans, which is really a party associated with Fat Tuesday, and Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, and Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent, and Lent is the season in the Catholic and many Christian church calendars that leads up to Easter, and Easter is also related to the Jewish holiday of Passover - because, afterall, the Last Supper was a Passover meal that Jesus and his disciples observed. But that is a total digression.
Back to Lent, Lent is a season in the Catholic tradition where you abstain and fast and traditionally give up something as a sort of penance or preparation for Easter as a way to make it something you look forward to, and in the season of Lent, every Friday is a day of abstinence, which means for Catholics you are not supposed to eat meat, and fish is not considered meat, and so, we eat a lot of fish in Lent, and if we are going to be eating fish, we want to have a good wine to go with it. And so that is how we got here!
And, I did learn about this on the interwebs, but about a quarter of Americans observe Lent in some form, so it’s not like it’s a foreign thing. In fact, did you know that McDonald’s Filet o Fish was actually invented because Catholics did not eat meat on Fridays - in fact, in the past, it wasn’t just during Lent, but every Friday that they did not eat meat?!? And that instead of a fish burger, Ray Kroc who was the CEO of McDonalds at the time was actually putting his money on a pineapple burger he was calling the Hula Burger?!? It’s true!
So, the short story is this. A guy named Lou Groen owned a McDonalds restaurant in Cincinnati, and his clientele was overwhelmingly Catholic - like more than 85% - and so on Fridays his burger sales would plummet, and so he needed to find a solution. In 1962 he invented the Filet o Fish, and brought it to McDonalds headquarters, and Ray Kroc made a bet with him - they would put Lou’s fish sandwich on the menu and the Hula burger, and whichever sold the most would be the one they went with. Thankfully for all of us, the Filet o Fish won, and the rest is history! Would you eat that hula burger?
But, enough about Filet o Fish, let’s talk about wines that go great with fish, and, if you are into it, Lent . . .
But first . . . we have to do our shameless plug, right Carmela? First, a big thank you to you for listening to us, and we would love it if you would support our podcast by subscribing which is free! - and we want to give a huge shout out of thanks to all of you who have subscribed - we appreciate you so much! And, another great way to support us for free is to leave a nice rating and review on our website or on Apple Podcasts or other podcast service so we can continue to grow our listeners. Anything you are willing to do to show your support helps us a ton!
You can also follow us or reach out to us on Instagram at thewinepairpodcast or on CounterSocial and now on the Fountain app, and you can contact us on our website thewinepairpodcast.com - and we really do love hearing from you.
And, as we do every week, we’ll tell you someone we think you should tell about The Wine Pair Podcast - and this week we want you to tell anyone who likes a good Filet o Fish or fishwich at any other restaurant, like my dear mama who is, as she would say, a very good Catholic.
ARTICLES and LINKS
Topic: What Makes White Wine a Great Pairing with Fish and Seafood? 10:00
So, let’s talk about why white wine is considered to be such a great pairing for fish and seafood in general. Just to be clear, when we say we eat fish on Fridays in Lent, the truth is that we are really talking about any seafood. We just are asked to avoid meat from land animals.
Any thoughts on why white wines are a good choice for fish, Carmela?
First, white wines tend to be lighter bodied, and that pairs well with the lighter flavors and textures of fish and seafood. There are some heavier bodied white wines, like an oaked Chardonnay, but even then, that wine is less heavy than most red wines.
Second, white wines tend to be lower in alcohol, and that also impacts the sense of body the wine has, so body and alcohol are linked. Because of the lower alcohol, it will not overpower the lighter flavors of fish.
Third, white wines tend to be higher in acidity, and that makes them crisp and clean, and higher acid wines tend to cleanse the palate, which means that in between bites, the flavor of the wine does not linger in the mouth. So, again, this helps with the generally lighter flavors of fish.
The acidity also helps to cut through the fat and flavors of butter or cream sauces which are often paired with seafood. This means that you taste those flavors without having them be overpowered, and the acidity also balances well.
Finally, white wines tend to have crisp fruit flavors, like apple and pear, and often pineapple and citrus, which pair really well with the lighter flavors of fish, and again the sauces and butter that often accompany seafood.
Now, here are some great choices for white wines and fish and seafood for you to consider, and you don’t have to memorize all of this, you can find it by going to our website and looking for this episode and going into the show notes.
Sauvignon Blanc: which is great with shellfish and lighter white fish.
Chardonnay: which can complement the richness of dishes like crab, lobster, or scallops.
Riesling: A wine I think is underrated and often mistaken for being sweet - which it sometimes can be, but we prefer the dry version, but it can go well with spicy dishes, such as Thai curry seafood or grilled fish.
Pinot Grigio: is another great option for shellfish like grilled shrimp or with seafood salads.
Vermentino: which is another underrated white wine which is great with grilled or baked fish, and dishes with lemon or herb flavors.
And, because sparkling wine is most often white, a blanc de blanc, Champagne, or other sparkling wine, particularly a brut sparkling wine, is a great choice, and we are going to drink one of our favorite brut sparkling wines tonight!
Now, people often ask, can you pair red wine and fish? And the answer is yes, if you choose the right wine. The rule of thumb is generally this - if the wine is heavy, tannic, high in alcohol, heavily oaked, or very dark, it is probably not a great pairing with fish.
“In” are light red wines like a Gamay or a Pinot Noir or a Cabernet Franc, particularly one that you can chill and drink young.These wines will have less impact on the taste and experience of seafood.
“Out” are heavy red wines like a Cabernet Sauvignon, or a Syrah, a Grenache or a Bordeaux blend. They will just overpower the taste of the fish, and I think you will find that the pairing is just not good.
Again, you can find all of this information and more, including links to other great articles if you go to this episode on our website and look for the show notes.
Ok, enough about all of that, let’s talk about the specific wines that we chose for this episode.
ARTICLES and LINKS
Fish Friendly Wines We Chose for This Episode 16:01
As usual, all the wines we have chosen for this episode are under $20, and all of these should be easy to find. We got two of these wines from Costco originally, but as we go through the explanation of each of the wines in the tasting portion of the episode, we’ll also tell you other places you can get these wines - and so they should not be hard to find. And, even if you can’t find these specific wines, you can find similar wines pretty easily.
And, for balance, like I mentioned, we have two still white wines, and one sparkling white wine. And, as we always like to say, sparkling wines are not just for special occasions. They are for any time and any day of the week! Don’t save your sparkling for celebrations!
The first wine we are going to drink is a Chardonnay - what?!? - but it is an Unoaked Chardonnay from A to Z Wineworks in Oregon, and we believe at least according to ChatGPT that A to Z is behind many of the Costco Kirkland brand wines.
Now, unoaked, sometimes called “naked” is the key here for us, because I am not a huge oaked Chardonnay fan. We know that many of you out there are, and that is just fine with us, it is just not our preference. But, we also think that trying an unoaked Chardonnay is a great idea whether you like oaky Chardonnays or not.
We have mentioned this before, but Chablis from France is generally an unoaked Chardonnay, and is one of our favorite, and we think that if you have not had one before, you will be very surprised by how fresh and fruity it is compared to oaky Chardonnay. And that may be your cup of tea, or it may not be!
And, by the way, we are drinking the 2020 vintage of the A to Z, but the 2018 was #58 on Wine Spectator's top 100 of 2019.
The next wine we are drinking is a Sauvingon Blanc from Substance, which is by Charles Smith. Charles Smith is a Washington State winemaker, so right here in our backyard, who makes some great wines, including one of our favorites called Kung Fu Girl Riesling.
Substance is Charles Smith’s value brand, but they make very good wines, and are recognized for doing so. In fact, they aim to be the best value-based wine brand, which is pretty cool. The labels for these wines tend to be bold with solid colors and references to the periodic table.
What is interesting about the way that Charles Smith makes this wine is that they put 10% of the wine on French oak barriques, while 90% is left in stainless steel which is not super common for a Sauv Blanc. The goal of having only a small part of it on oak, and note that barriques are small barrels, so that actually enhances the flavor of the oak, is to add some body and depth and a bit of spice and wood. We have had this, and I think we will find that this is a bit different from the usual super crisp and tropical fruit flavored Sauv Blancs that we are used to, and because of that, I expect this will be good for heartier fish dishes. And it is an interesting flip that we are having an unoaked Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc that has a bit of oak on it.
The last wine we are drinking is one we have had many times and that we really called Juve & Camps Reserva de la Familia Cava Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2017. Now, a few things that are significant in the name. First, Cava is sparkling wine that comes from specifically designated areas in Spain, similar to the way that Champagne is a wine from a designated area in France. And, Cava is made in the same method as Champagne, although with very different grapes.
Second, Brut Nature is the driest of all sparkling wines, and means that no sugar or sweet wine was added in the second fermentation.
Third, the wine has a year which is not super common for sparkling wines. The fact that they call out 2017 means that they felt the year was a very strong year, and that they did not mix the sparkling wine from sparkling wine for other years, which is a very common practice for the second fermentation in sparkling wines made in the Champagne method.
Finally, Reserva usually indicates that the wine is aged longer, and in this case, they age the wine in bottles for at least 36 months. That’s a long time!
So, we have three different white wines, three different styles and sets of grapes, including an unoaked Chardonnay, a slightly oaked Sauvignon Blanc, and a sparkling wine from Spain. So, this will be really fun, and great way to see if these are three great choices for fish and seafood.
All right, enough of this talking - I think it’s time to get drinking! Whaddya say?!?
ARTICLES and LINKS
Unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Brut Nature Cava Wine Pairing Tasting and Reviews 28:10
Wine: A to Z Unoaked Oregon Chardonnay
Producer: A to Z Wineworks
Retailer: Total Wine
What we tasted and smelled in this unoaked Chardonnay:
- On the nose: Effervescent, apple, spice, banana, creamy, tropical fruit
- In the mouth: Fruity, rich, spice, body, apple pie filling, citrus, underripe banana
Fish to pair with this unoaked Chardonnay: Good with spicy, Thai shrimp curry, shrimp tempura, cioppino, ceviche, sushi with wasabi, fried fish taco
As a reminder on our rating scale, we rate on a scale of 1-10, where 7 and above means that we would buy it, and 4 and below means that we are likely to pour it down the sink, and a 5 or 6 means we are likely to drink it and finish it, but we are probably not going to buy it.
- Joe: 6/10
- Carmela: 6/10
Wine: Substance Sauvignon Blanc
Region: Washington, Columbia Valley
Producer: Substance by Charles Smith Wines
Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc
What we tasted and smelled in this Sauvignon Blanc:
- On the nose: Gasoline, glue, tropical fruit, durian, flower, ripe fig
- In the mouth: Lemon, lime pith, bitter citrus, stone, burnt sugar, tangy, very citrusy
Fish to pair with this Sauvignon Blanc: Rich fish, cedar plank salmon, oysters, shellfish, buttery sauce, orange roughy, lobster in butter
- Joe: 5/10
- Carmela: 6/10
Wine: Juve & Camps Reserva de la Familia Cava Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2017
Region: Spain, San Sadurní d’Anoia
Producer: Juve & Camps
Retailer: Wine Access
Grapes: Macabeo, Xarello, and Parellada
Professional Rating: WE 88
What we tasted and smelled in this Cava:
- On the nose: apple cider, spicy apple, cinnamon, pear, peach
- In the mouth: apple cider, dry, body, richness, apple turnover, stone, citrus, bitterness
Fish to pair with this Cava: Almost any fish, halibut, pizza bianco, fettuccine alfredo, linguine with clams
- Joe: 8/10
- Carmela: 8/10
Which one of these are you finishing tonight?
- Carmela: Juve & Camps Reserva de la Familia Cava Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2017
- Joe: Juve & Camps Reserva de la Familia Cava Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2017
Taste profiles expected from Unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Brut Nature Cava 46:46
- Unoaked Chardonnay
- Lemon, green apple, floral, pear, mineral, chalk
- Lime, pineapple, saline, shell, and almond
- WS on 2018: Vibrant, with plush fruit, offering medium-weight lemon and quince flavor
- WE on 2018: It's bright, spicy and nicely textural, with suggestions of citrus zest, green apple, lemongrass and bracing minerality
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Wine Folly: Gooseberry (tart, citrusy apple), honeydew, white peach, grapefruit, passionfruit
- Winery: Grapefruit, fresh cut grass, lemongrass and flint start you on the journey of discovery followed by an outburst of fresh pine needles, mountain wildflowers and lime leaf.
- From sparkling winos: Lemon/lime, quince, almond, and tart apple. Secondary flavors often include brioche, fig, and a chalky minerality
- WE: Aromas of flower blossoms, honey and green melon are nice and clean, while this feels round and cidery across the palate. Briny apple flavors turn slightly bitter in front of a weightless finish
- Winery: Evokes notes of ripe white fruits followed by hints of fennel, toast and citrus to complete its distinguished aroma. Its creamy mousse is perfectly integrated in the palate
Outro and how to find The Wine Pair Podcast 49:15
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Thank you thank you thank you and we will see you next time. And, as we say, life is short, so stop drinking shitty wine.