North Carolina’s commitment to maintaining fisheries and coastal waters has made it a hub for high-quality fish. Growing up, my parents would take me to the southern Outer Banks where Red Snapper, Spanish Mackerel, Mahi-mahi, Tuna and of course, Flounder, were all delicious staples on our table.
In my role at The Wine Feed, I’m often asked how to pair wine with seafood. Whether grilled, poached, steamed, baked, sautéed, broiled or fried, freshly caught fish deserve a light, bright wine partner that will make your palate dance.
Lin Peterson of Locals Seafood, who sources fresh seafood from N.C. fishermen, recently gave me some pointers on which species are available during the long summer days of July and August.
While the first rule in a wine and fish pairing guide is to match the weight of the wine with the weight of the food, a sauce or seasoning will play a large role in which type of wine you choose.
However, the pairings below focus primarily on the type of fish rather than the sauce, but if the sauce or seasoning is simple, or roughly equivalent to the fish in terms of intensity or weight, these pairings will still be a delicious success.
Medium Color and Rich in Oil
Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, and Swordfish are summertime catches that do well on the grill and will be your best options for pairing red wines with NC seafood. Consider a medium-bodied red such as a Cabernet Franc when adding a tomato-based sauce to lighter fish or with a tomato-based seafood soup.
With all due respect to red wine, I absolutely love grilled Swordfish with a refreshing dry rosé. Rosés can be more full-bodied than some white wines, and are typically lighter than the vast majority of red wines. The weight, acidity, and tannin level of rosé is incredibly versatile at the table.
Recommended wine: Badenhorst ‘Secateurs’ Rosé from Swartland, South Africa
White, Lean and Firm
Red or Black Drum and Grouper are succulent summertime fish that beckon for a richer white wine. While oaky Chardonnay has fallen out of favor with wine writers, it still has its place alongside creamy or buttery seafood dishes. A rich Roussanne from the Rhône Valley or a Vermentino from Tuscany pair equally as well, but my absolute favorite wine for Grouper is Chenin Blanc.
Recommended wine: De Morgenzon Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, South Africa
White, Lean and Flaky
North Carolina Speckled Trout, Flounder, Vermilion Snapper, Red Porgy, Tilefish, and Triggerfish make for some of the most gratifying meals of the summertime. These fish will all readily absorb the character and flavor of the seasoning or sauce you supply. With that being said, try preparing these fish sautéed in a simple lemon and butter sauce or fried in a light batter in olive oil and pair with an elegant Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
Recommended wine: Domaine de la Garreliere ‘Cendrillon’ from Touraine, France
Phillip Zucchino, born and raised in North Carolina, has three years of wine production experience throughout France and is the co-owner of TheWineFeed.com, an online wine retailer with a focus on helping consumers identify their personal taste through interactive wine events. Feel free to contact Phillip at email@example.com.