The Case for Wine

Natalie MacLean gives her picks for tasty wine-seafood pairings.

Natalie MacLean is currently working on a book about wine, which will be published in the fall of 2006. She was recently named the World's Best Drink Writer at the World Food Media Awards in Australia and has won three James Beard journalism awards. This year, Natalie was nominated for the MFK Distinguished Writing Award. Her free wine e-newsletter with wine picks, food matches, cellar advice, articles, and humor has been nominated as one of the best food and wine newsletters by the James Beard Foundation. To sign up, visit

Sautéed Snapper on Wilted Spinach with Mulled Zinfandel Butter
"Often, wine choices aren't based so much on the particular fish as the sauce that accompanies it. In fact, many cultures drink red wine with fish because of the preparation. Wine is also often an ingredient in fish dishes, and traditionally the same table wine is served as the wine that was used to prepare the dish―like with like. Fetzer Vineyards Valley Oaks Zinfandel ($15) has aromas of spicy red berries that pair exceptionally well with the flavors in this dish."

Pinot-poached Salmon with Onion Confit
"Salmon used to be poached in a white-wine bouillon and served with a dill cream sauce. But today it's more often mesquite-grilled or prepared with deeper flavors, just as this dish is. Salmon is already a strong-flavored fish, and when you prepare it with additional bold flavors, the dish demands red wine. Red wines high in tannin are often a poor match because when they interact with the omega-3 fatty acids in fish, the wines taste metallic. Therefore, red wines with just a touch of tannin (the same compound in tea that makes your mouth feel furry) are excellent choices. Pinot Noir is often the most popular among these wines, but not all Pinot Noirs are the same―those from the hot New World wine regions can be as full-bodied as Cabernets. Try Mommessin Beaujolais-Villages ($12). It is like a basket of fresh raspberries and strawberries. This wine is lightly spicy with juicy, mouthwatering acidity that's perfect for the salmon."

Roasted Cod with Tomatoes, Fumé Blanc, Raisins, and Feta
"Light white wine goes swimmingly with delicate flaky whitefish such as cod, pollock, sole, plaice, or trout. Look for wines that offer a touch of sweetness and crisp acidity that will complement, but not overwhelm, the subtle taste of the fish. Acidity in wine acts much like the acidity in a lemon you might squeeze on a fish dish: It enhances the flavors and cleanses your palate of any oiliness, preparing you to appreciate the next bite all the more. Ironstone Vineyards Symphony Obsession ($10), a cross between Muscat and Grenache Gris, offers refreshing floral aromas with lovely citrus acidity to match the raisins and feta."

Shrimp Risotto with Pinot Grigio, Radicchio, and Peas
"Shellfish such as shrimp, lobster, and clams go well with Sancerre, dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley, Pinot Gris from Oregon, Pinot Grigio from Italy, or cool-climate New World Sauvignon Blancs such as those from New Zealand. These wines are often called "green" because of their tartness―both from high acidity and from the herbal flavors and aromas. Yet they're low in alcohol, so they match the shellfish's texture. I like the Coopers Creek Sauvignon Blanc ($17). Its herbal and grassy notes are perfect for the radicchio and peas."

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