Finding The Perfect Wine - Q&A with Karen Lavin The Irish Wine Doll
Fresh fish is a great dinner option and if you’re planning a special weekend dinner with your favourite bottle of wine, it’s important to get the flavours right. We caught up with Karen Lavin, who recently launched The Irish Wine Doll to ask her about the perfect wine pairings for fish dishes:
Q 1. Is red wine or white wine a better pair with fish?
Generally, the rule of thumb when pairing wine has always been red for meat and white for fish, however this rule is slightly outdated nowadays. The lighter white seafood dishes tend to pair better with white wines, but a light red (low in tannins), such a light Pinot Noir, Grenache or Syrah, can also compliment white fish. While meatier fish such as tuna, swordfish or salmon can take a red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon. Never opt for a highly tannic wine, as this can take out a metallic flavour in the fish.
Q 2. What’s the best type of wine to pair with flaky and light fish such as seabass, cod and haddock?
Light, flaky fish is strictly paired with a white wine - depending of course on how it’s cooked and what sauce it is served with. For seabass, I would recommend opting for a nice Sancerre from the Loire Valley. Cod and haddock typically have large sweet white flesh flakes, so pair them with a Albarino, Pinot Gris or a Gavi for a nice light feel.
Q 3. If you’re having trout, snapper or catfish, what kind of wine would you recommend?
These fish have very definite fish oils and a nice New Zealand sauvignon - crisp and full of acidity - would pair lovely with the trout. For the Snapper, I would recommend reaching for a denser bodied wine like a nice chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Viognier or a dry Riesling to pair nicely.
Q 4. What’s the best wine pair for fish such as salmon, tuna or mackerel?
These are stronger, bolder fish and are firm in texture, so you can go for more fuller bodied wines. Salmon and tuna would pair beautifully with a full-bodied white like a Chardonnay, white burgundy or white Pinot Noir. As these are meaty fish, you also get the opportunity to pair a red wine, like a Pinot Noir or a Gamay - don’t be afraid to try it, you’ll not be disappointed. The mackerel I would recommend a white wine with good acidity to cut through the rich oil, like a zesty sauvignon blanc with plenty of citrus notes.
Q 5. What’s your favourite wine at the moment?
I tasted one only recently and completely fell in love. Odfjell Orzada Carignan 2013, a red wine from Chile. It was just divine, smooth, velvety, with notes of cherry, cassis and hint of vanila, mild tannins. Honestly a wine that just slips down your throat. I was disappointed to hear that the Odfjell Vineyards are no longer in Ireland since Covid19, but hopefully will be back soon. I’ll be first in the queue for a case!
Q 6. If you’re a fully dedicated red wine drinker, what would you recommend to pair with fish?
Again, this depends on the fish but definitely a light Pinot Noir or Gamay for the lighter white fish. Then bolder as you pair with a firm, stronger fish like tuna and salmon - maybe opt for a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Q 7. What about shellfish?
Shellfish and wine – talk about a match made in heaven. Shellfish tends to call for a lighter white wine, nothing too overpowering. Try an Albarino from Spain or Portugal, these wines are perfect for shellfish.
Q 8. Where is your favourite place to eat in Donegal?
Oh there are so many, I don’t think I could name just one (being diplomatic 😊). It really does depend on my mood. My favourite dish would have to be something with fish, I love a starter of Monk & Prawn and probably John Dory for main course.
Q 9. What’s the best wine cocktail / cocktail you’ve ever had?
I’m only getting onto the wine cocktail trend and I tasted a really nice one recently ‘Strawberry White Wine Cocktail Spritzer’ perfect for the hot weather. Combines Sauvignon blanc, vodka, fresh strawberries and a splash of soda water.
Q 10. What’s the best piece of knowledge you ever learnt?
One of the best snippets of knowledge I’ve learnt on my wine journey so far is that a farmer gets very little money for his juice for each bottle of wine produced. So remember, when you’re buying a bottle of wine there are five servings in the bottle, keep this in mind when choosing, try to spend an extra few euro on a nice bottle, wine is not expensive when you consider you spend €8 to €10 on a single cocktail in a bar. If you spend a little bit more then the farmer will get more.
Want to know more? Follow Karen on @theirishwinedoll