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Breaking the rules: Red wine and seafood, a match made in heaven or a culinary disaster?

When it comes to food and wine pairing, the first rule of thumb is to drink white wine with fish and red wine with meat. White wine has a higher and fresher acidity, making it the perfect partner for seafood, while red wine tends to leave a fishy aftertaste in your mouth. But what about red wine and seafood? Is it really such a bad idea to pair them together?


Contrary to popular belief, there are some red wines that can work well with seafood. The key is to choose a juicy, low-tannin red wine that hasn't seen the inside of a barrel or at least hasn't been oaked for a long time. Fish that typically goes well with reds includes tuna or salmon, while grilled fish such as barbecued salmon won’t be overpowered by red wine.

One red wine that is particularly well-suited to seafood is Pinot Noir. This light-bodied red wine has low tannins and high acidity, making it a great match for lean, flaky fish like cod or halibut. Another good option is Grenache or garnacha, which is also a softer, low-tannin red that works well with fish.

But why does red wine traditionally not work well with seafood? Researchers in Japan have found that the culprit behind the fishy aftertaste in red wine is iron. Scallops dunked in wine with high iron content reeked of decaying fish, while those soaked in samples with low iron content smelled normal. The amount of iron a wine contains depends on the amount of iron in the soil where the grapes were grown, as well as other factors such as how the grapes are harvested and vinified. Red wine tends to have a higher iron content than white, which is why it generally doesn't work well with seafood.

However, with the right red wine and seafood pairing, it is possible to create a match made in heaven. Just be wary of using too much chili, as this can make the wine taste metallic. Tomato-based seafood pizza or pasta with clams in a tomato sauce or even octopus in tomato sauce can also work with Sangiovese-based Chianti.

In conclusion, while white wine is still the go-to choice for pairing with seafood, it is possible to break the rules and experiment with red wine. Choosing the right low-tannin, juicy red wine can enhance the flavors of certain types of seafood, making for a surprising and delightful pairing. As with all food and wine pairings, it's important to experiment and find the perfect combination that works for you.

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