Wine For Fish: How To Pair Based On Fish Style

You decide to host a dinner party for you and a couple of friends. You rally up everyone to see what they want. What do they choose? Fish and chips? Grilled salmon? Sushi? Whatever their choices are, the wine you choose to serve with it is equally important.

Choosing the wrong wine can be a complete dinner disaster. Selecting a wine high in tannins with fish that is already acidic can leave a bad taste in your guest’s mouth. Literally.

Choosing a wine that isn’t sweet enough to pair with a meaty fish might end up making your wine taste dull. Who will trust you to choose the wine the next time? 

But worst of all might be pairing a super bubbly wine with a super spicy dish. Have fish tacos with a side of explosive hot sauce on the side? Choose a bubbly wine, and you risk burning off your guest’s tastebuds.

Pairing the right wine with the fish you are planning on eating can be a difficult task. Yes, you can learn with trial and error. You can endure the whispers behind your back of how your pairing and cooking skills are insufficient. 

Or you can read this guide to help you choose Gamay to keep those negative comments at bay (when baking sea bass).

General rule of thumb

White wine is a lot better suited for fish than red. Why? Red wines have a lot more tannins than white wines. This will interact with the fishy oils on your plate and can give you a nasty metallic aftertaste. You definitely don’t want that.

If you still use a bottle of red wine, try to get one with the least amount of tannins as you possibly can.

This is only a general rule of thumb because some less oily fish dishes pair better with a glass of red wine. So, it’s essential to know which fish goes with which wine, which is the main reason you’re here right now. So let’s get to it.

Fried fish

Fried fish is best suited with a wine that is sweet and bubbly, like Prosecco.

Pairing a sweet wine like prosecco with anything other than an equally sweet dessert may not seem like it’ll be a good pairing. But trust that it will. 

You won’t have your palate overwhelmed by all the sugar all at once. This drink tastes fantastic with a salty fish dish like fish and chips, for example.  

If you plan on eating fried fish, prosecco’s citrus sweetness will elevate the savory flavor of the beer batter coating. 

Spicy fish

Spicy fish tastes fantastic with a sweet drink that has a low alcohol content like Moscato. 

Generally, you don’t want to pair anything spicy with overly bubbly alcohol, according to The New York Times. But choosing Moscato to pair with your spicy fish breaks this rule. 

It isn’t overly bubbly but still has a tiny bit of fizz. The fizz isn’t enough to make the spicy food spicier like champagne or beer, however. And the sweet, mild flavor balances out those spicy fish tacos. 

After eating tangy tilapia, taking a sip of Moscato can help control the spice a little if it gets overwhelming.

Oily fish

Salmon, sardines, and trout pair nicely with a highly acidic wine like American pinot gris. 

American pinot gris is an excellent complement to many meals. This fruity wine tends to be on the dryer side. It tastes incredible when chilled and because it’s so crisp. The fat from the fish helps carry the tannins released by the wine. This means both the flavor of the wine and fish will be enhanced, making this the perfect pairing.

If you want to highlight the notes of citrus and other fruity flavors, you can try pairing it with seared mackerel and watch how those flavors come to life.


Mild white fish

French Sauvignon Blanc is the best wine to drink with mild white fish.

Serving tilapia, flounder, or halibut? Serve Sauvignon Blanc along with it. This delicious wine is more on the dryer side and can range from fresh herbs to spicy lime.

This wine’s wide range of flavors makes it a great choice to pair with mild fish because the combination won’t overpower your palate.

To bring out the flavors in both the wine and fish, you can add fresh herbs like basil during the baking or broiling process. This lovely combination brings out the Sauvignon Blanc’s earthy qualities.

Meaty fish

Pairing a sweet wine with a dense, meaty fish subdues some of the wine’s sweetness. 

The combination of the flavors of this dense fish and wine can easily be thrown off balance with red wine. This is why white wine is a much better option.

The best wine choice to pair dense fish like tuna, swordfish, shark, and mahi-mahi is White Zinfandel. This is a sweeter wine that many people start out drinking, probably because it is so sweet.

Choosing a wine on the sweeter side ensures you don’t dull out your wine when eating meaty fish. Because no one wants a wine that they can’t taste, you’ll still have the perfect amount of sweetness to indulge in.

Not only does pairing White Zinfandel with meaty fish lessen the sweetness a bit, but it also brings out the more subtle flavors of the wine you might not otherwise taste.

You might be able to taste blackberry or even spicy oak.

Baked fish

The wine to accompany baked fish is a wine with low tannin content like Gamay.

Gamay pairs nicely with baked sea bass, for example, because the low tannin content and high acidity bring out the flavors of the fish. They also help bring out those flavors hiding in the Gamay. These include black currant, violet, and even banana. Who would’ve known?

This isn’t a traditional pairing like serving baked fish with dry Chardonnay. But served chilled, Gamay is a choice your guests will absolutely adore with their baked sea bass.



According to Forbes, sushi is best paired with a wine that isn’t too try as it clashes with the sushi.

So, the wine that complements sushi the best is Albarino.

Albarino is jam-packed with flavors like lime, green, peas, lemon, and blossom. The high acidity and bitterness give it an outstanding balance with tempura, for example. The oiliness of panko crumbs coupled with the acidity of the wine makes taste buds go crazy.  

If you’re serving sushi to your guests, especially the fried variety, Albarino will enhance the flavors to the max.

The takeaway

The wine you choose to pair with your fish can make or break the dish. Knowing which flavor profiles to pair with which type of fish helps dramatically. You avoid weird, metallic aftertastes that will leave your guests unsatisfied…and untrustworthy of your cooking abilities.

You will also make sure to highlight the lovely wine you bought. You want your guests to be able to taste all the hidden gems that may lie beneath the wine’s surface. You can’t do that with a bad fish and wine combination. 

Choosing the right wine also allows you to bring out those earthy, citrusy, or lemony flavors in the fish. Making these flavors pop will further highlight your cooking abilities. And your guest will love you for it.

Pairing fish and wine can be disastrous, so make sure you follow this guide to help you choose the right one.

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