Slideshow: Ask A Sommelier: Is 'Red Wine with Meat, White with Fish' True?

Pairing Depends On Prep
Pairing Depends On Prep
"That expression has long been gone! If I invited a few friends over for dinner and told them I was making fish—specifically tuna—they probably would be thinking a white wine. If, though, I am serving tuna tartare, that dish can easily go with a rosé or Pinot Noir. If it is pan seared tuna with a coconut curry sauce, I am probably now guessing something off dry, maybe a Riesling or Vouvray. If I do a tuna steak, grilled with rosemary, the texture of the dish completely changes, as does the flavor profile and I can easily get away with a full bodied Chardonnay. One of my all-time favorite pairings was pan seared pompano with an anise and shellfish jus paired with a Rioja. It was stellar and everyone was blown away by not only the concept of the pairing, but the pairing itself."—Virginia Phillip MS, The Breakers (Palm Beach, FL)
The Rule Is Not Set In Stone
The Rule Is Not Set In Stone
"It’s completely feasible to pair a red with fish, or a full-bodied white with meat, especially if the meat is pork or chicken. For example, a skin-fermented white wine (also called "orange" wine) or a complex white like a vintage Lopez de Heredia Gran Riserva definitely has the chops to stand up to roast chicken and pork, while a Pinot Noir or Trousseau can nicely complement artic char or roasted black bass."—Kerrie O'Brien, DBGB (New York)
You Can Do White With Meat—Even Steak!
You Can Do White With Meat—Even Steak!
"It can be an easy way to pair wine with your meal, but if you want to take it a step further look both at the cooking technique and the sauce before choosing a wine. For instance, steak tartare or steak with béarnaise sauce goes wonderfully with white Burgundy. Montrachet or Meursault are fantastic pairings for what most would consider to be a “red wine meat” because you have raw beef with the tartare and a bright herbal/lemony sauce with the béarnaise, both of which will match wonderfully with the white wine."—Savanna Ray, Wildwood (Portland, OR)
Times Have Changed
Times Have Changed
"This expression is certainly 'old' and I would say a very antiquated way to look at food and wine pairing harmony. When all we served was one type of fish, poached with lemon and olive oil, then maybe this worked, but these days we have more creativity with food preparations, cooking techniques and flavors. Think about sous vide chicken versus roasted chicken and how dramatic the difference in textures is. I like red wine with fish; on Christmas Eve we served tagliatelle pasta with prawns and a light seafood bouillabaisse alongside Domaine Tournelle Ploussard and it was a fantastic match."—Laura Maniec MS, Corkbuzz (NYC)
Sometimes True
Sometimes True
"It is not absolutely but often true. Fattier, meatier fish like char and salmon can handle red wine with softer tannins, especially if their garnish is geared a certain way, like toward sautéed mushrooms rather than steamed zucchini, for instance. Most pure white “un-fishy” fish are going to show better with whites, all manner of them, rather than with reds. "—Juliette Pope, Gramercy Tavern (NYC)
No Way!
No Way!
"Is the old expression about 'red with meat and white with fish' really true? No way!! The only rule with wine pairings is what tastes the best together and complements each other. With a seared ahi tuna steak and a red wine reduction and greens, you want a Pinot Noir, with a meat carpaccio with capers and citrus you want a Sauvignon Blanc!"—Mark Bright, Saison (San Francisco)
Be Careful
Be Careful
"I would never want to go with too heavy a red with fish...high tannins and alcohol will mask any flavors of the fish and leave a metallic taste in your mouth. But depending on the preparation and sauce or condiment, lighter reds may often work better than whites. For example: Salmon in buttery, lemony sauce = white wine. Salmon with sauteed mushrooms in savory sauce = red wine. Pinot Noir is light enough to not overpower fish, but has quenching acidity to cut through the richness of the sauce or the oily textures of many types of fish."—Gillian Balance MS, Cavallo Point (Sausalito CA)
Oily Fish is Great with Red
Oily Fish is Great with Red
"I actually think some fish fits nicely with red. For example an oily fish like salmon does quite well with a Pinot Noir. Currently on my wine pairing I have steelhead trout with brioche, squash, and caramelized yogurt matching up with a cool climate Nebbiolo from the Alto Piedmonte."—Michael Garofola, Genoa (Portland, OR)
Depends on How You Sauce It
Depends on How You Sauce It
"That expression may be true if it is only the protein on the plate, without sauce or accompaniments. But hopefully what you are eating includes some more ingredients, so they need to be taken into account as well. For example, we recently had a black sea bass with parsnip, chanterelle mushrooms and a fish fume/red wine reduction on our menu, and for me that is absolutely a red wine dish. Similarly, I often prefer white wine with pork, especially Alsatian whites like Pinot Gris."—Chris Baggetta, Quince and Cotogna (San Francisco)
It's a Framework, But There Are Exceptions
It's a Framework, But There Are Exceptions
"I believe that this expression creates some nice framework for food and wine pairing but with every rule there is the exception. You have to factor in the other ingredients, sauces, or spices, which can ultimately dictate the overall theme of the dish. We serve an arctic char dish and found the best pairing to be a red wine from the Languedoc made by carbonic maceration. The dish was composed of more savory ingredients such as roasted mushrooms and grilled romaine. The wine mimicked the meaty flavors of the dish while its soft tannins and bright acidity helped to keep things fresh without overpowering the delicate texture of the char."—Chad Zeigler, RN74 (San Francisco)