We should ask ourselves if this rule, which has always guided us in our wine choices, whether eating at home or at a restaurant, is still valid today. The art of the sommelier has evolved over the years, turning increasingly bold when it comes to questioning rules that a priori seemed written in stone.
This simple rule is valid, but it isn’t the only one, and exceptions abound. Saying that only whites go with fish or reds go with meat is an over-simplification, which implies that there is only one type of white or red, or that all fish and all meat are the same. And that isn’t the case, of course.
A little clarification is in order. The rule still applies in a very simple kind of pairing: a color match. And it also makes sense once we understand that the wine and food need to “respect” one another. For example, a delicate, light fish like a sole filet would vanish on our palate if paired with a potent red. The wine would overwhelm the fish, thus creating an imbalance.
What would happen, however, if instead of a mild white fish, we had salmon or tuna? A very light white wine might disappear in the presence of a strongly flavored and more oil-rich fish.
Does the pairing depend exclusively on the main ingredient of the dish? What wine would you choose to go with a traditional salt cod and samfaina, a slow-cooked mix of eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes and onions? Which element determines the aromas and flavors of the dish – the salt cod or the samfaina?
If it’s all right by you, we’ll clear up some of these questions. When pairing a mild-flavored fish and equally mild sauces or sides, it is best to opt for a light, crisp white wine. That being said, a light rosé also offers interesting possibilities. Either Jean Leon’s 3055 Chardonnay or rosé would pair beautifully with this type of fish or seafood. However, when the fish in question is tuna or salt cod with samfaina then Jean Leon 3055 Merlot-Petit Verdot would be the ideal choice.
For more oil-rich white fish or oven-baked recipes, we can opt for a more potent wine, but sticking to white. Jean Leon Vinya Gigi, an oak-aged Chardonnay, pairs perfectly with turbot.
Something important to remember about stronger red wines is that their tannins interact negatively with the salty and iodized flavors of fish, resulting in bitter and metallic taste sensations.
What about meat? What is the best approach?
Red and fattier meat tends to soften the tannic sensation of these types of wine. Clearly, a nice steak or wild game benefit from a great Cabernet Sauvignon like Jean Leon Vinya Le Havre Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva or Gran Reserva Vinya La Scala, which both make for an ideal match.
However, a wine this potent can create an imbalance when paired with mild-flavored white meat. In this case, a softer, rounder and lower-tannin variety like Merlot – best embodied by our Vinya Palau – is a good choice.
How about trying a white wine?
When the dish involves creamy milk- or cream-based sauces, forget about reds. Here the best option is a creamy, oak-aged white like Jean Leon Vinya Gigi Chardonnay. What about a simple grilled chicken breast or charbroiled meat? All of our wines offer great possibilities. Simple and very common choices among our dishes.
To wrap things up: The most important thing is to pick a wine that you like and will enjoy. Always keep in mind that wine and food must respect one another. If you do so, you will never go wrong…especially with Jean Leon wines! 🙂