Coincidentally I’ve received two recent requests for help with pairing main course fish dishes that include saffron, a tricky spice with a slightly medicinal, taste.
The first was a dish of seared red mullet with a coriander and saffron bouillabaisse (preceded by a carpaccio of Scotch beef fillet, horseradish parfait and sprouting peas)
My advice in this case was to reverse the normal 'rules' and serve white with the beef and red with the fish. With the mullet I suggested a softish medium-bodied red - nothing too muscular or tannic. The ideal hunting ground for such a wine would be the south of France - something like a decent Côtes du Rhône Villages or a Faugères with a couple of years bottle age.
An alternative - and a good one though people are still resistant to serving rosé for a dinner party - would be to drink a strong, dry rosé with both dishes. Not one of those magenta-coloured ones that taste of boiled sweets - given the provenance of the dish I'd go for a Bandol rosé.
The second, more recent request was for a wine to accompany a Spanish-style dish of monkfish. A subscriber wondered whether I thought it was a good idea to offer sherry as the dish (which came from the Moro cookbook) was cooked with fino. But looking at the ingredients it was clear that the saffron in the recipe (a large pinch of 50 strands) along with a generous amount (8 cloves) of garlic was likely to be the more important factor in the pairing. He also suspected his guests would want to drink red - no problem, obviously with monkfish - so again in keeping with the inspiration for the the dish I suggested a Rioja reserva. A dry rosé from Rioja or Navarra would have worked too .
White wine is obviously also a possiblitity with both these dishes. Again I’d be inclined to reach for something dry and unoaked or very subtly oaked - a white Cotes du Rhone, maybe or a new wave Languedoc blend of Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier. Even an oaked white Rioja in the case of the second dish.
Unblended Viognier has an affinity with saffron but given the other ingredients involved in these dishes, is slightly more of a risk. Could be sensational, could just miss the mark!