One of the best-known food and wine matching “rules” is white wine + fish, red wine + meat. While there are some exceptions on both sides (salmon + Pinot Noir and choucroute garnie + Alsatian Riesling are both winning combos), in general, it’s not a bad rule of thumb. According to conventional wisdom, it’s the tannins in red wines that make this an awkward match, bringing out the fishiness of fish, and not in a good way.
Turns out there’s some scientific evidence saying it may not be the tannins at all.An article in last week’s Economist summarizes some experiments recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showing that it’s the iron in some red wines that creates this fishy aftertaste. Unfortunately, there’s really no way to know how much iron a wine contains. However, the research also suggests that very acidic wines, regardless of color, work well with fish because the acidity seems to counteracts the iron-induced unpleasantness.
These findings will encourage me to experiment even more with matching fish and red wine — and you should do the same. High acidity reds like Cabernet Franc from the Loire or Long Island, Pinot Noir, even a Sangiovese (which, who knows, could work really well with a tuna in a tomato and garlic sauce) are all possibilities. And don’t be afraid to pop open a white too and see which combination you like better.