While seafood is a meal to be enjoyed all year around –Summer really is the perfect season to enjoy the bounty of the ocean, with the warmer evenings inviting us to spend more time dining outside.
Good-quality seafood, whether bought or caught, deserves a little effort where the matching of wines is concerned. As a general rule, the more delicately flavoured the fish dish is, the more subtle the wine should be.
But that’s about as far as the rules go. Have you always followed the old rule of thumb of drinking a bottle of bubbly with oysters, or a zesty Riesling with lobster? While those pairings can certainly be a match made in heaven, it really is too simplistic to say that only crisp, fresh young white wines work with seafood.
Pairing wine with seafood isn't a difficult task (we promise!) When thinking in terms of weight and substance, delicate raw fish and light, shellfish go best with equally delicate, light white wines. Similarly, a piece of grilled swordfish or salmon will go better with a richer, more substantial white.
The general view is that white wine should be served with fish and red wine with red meat, but while there is some validity to that belief, wine drinkers should not limit themselves to any single category. At the end of the day, it is the type of seafood (and the other ingredients on the plate) that will determine the best match for the wine glass.
Semillon is one of the best-kept secrets of the wine world and also the perfect partner for seafood. A zesty young Semillon is an ideal match to delicately flavoured dishes such as raw and lightly cooked shellfish - especially those with Asian flavours, oysters, fresh crab, clams and sashimi. A rich and complex aged Semillon is more suited to fully flavoured dishes, such as grilled fish (especially salmon) or lobster.
Shellfish such as clams, mussels, scallops, as well as crab and lobster call for light whites and sparkling wines. Sparkling wines and oysters are a classic combination. Verdelho is also an ideal wine to accompany shellfish. If the dish is spicy, consider an off-dry Gewürztraminer.
When it comes to lean, simply cooked white fish, the perfect wines to reach for are Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. Flounder, sea bass, cod, snapper, lobster, shrimp, clams, crab, raw oysters, mussels all do well with these wines. Similarly, light, slightly sweet Riesling pairs well with scallops, clams, grilled prawns, calamari, trout, or baked oysters.
For a meatier fish such as tuna or swordfish, look to match it with a white wine that has a bit more body such as a Viognier or even a Chardonnay. An un-oaked Chardonnay is especially well paired with creamy seafood chowders fresh cod or, trout, grilled or poached salmon, raw oysters, mussels and even lobster.
Rosé is another category that pairs well with seafood, especially when paired with a thicker meatier fish such as tuna or swordfish - or when adding some spice to the dish.
When it comes to salmon (especially smoked salmon), tuna or swordfish, it pays to look beyond the white varieties and consider a light to medium bodied Pinot Noir or Merlot. The light body and delicate flavours of these wines will not overpower the fish, and the fish are both meaty enough to match the heavier red wine.
Seafood dishes with garlic, olives or tomatoes can take an earthy red wine, especially Italian varietals like a Tempranillo. It's about as far removed from a crisp fresh white as you can get, but still, it works.
Lucky for us we don’t have to go too far to pick up this unique drop. Local winery Pokolbin Estate is one of the smallest boutique estates in the Hunter Valley.
With an enviable competition record, Pokolbin Estate have a reputation for producing outstanding wines - particularly with their Riesling, Semillon and Shiraz. They have also had lots of success with their three Mediterranean-style red wines - the premium Spanish variety Tempranillo and the Italian varieties that include Nebbiolo and Sangiovese.
This year, the Pokolbin Estate 2014 Phoenix Shiraz Tempranillo was awarded the Best Young Red Blend in NSW at the 2016 NSW Wine Awards. The wine is made from 50% Shiraz and 50% Tempranillo and aged in brand new French oak for 15 months. This wine is vibrant purple in colour with touches of scarlet and crimson. It possesses a highly aromatic bouquet of raspberry, plum and blackcurrant notes with a hint of vanilla. Try it with an Italian-style mussel dish. Enjoy!