Dry or fruity? Which style of white wine pairs best with simply grilled fish?
About the last place I’d have expected to have an enlightening discussion about food and wine matching is in a fisherman’s shack called Chez Loulou down on the Languedoc coast. Actually I do it an injustice. It’s a restaurant - just - but one that relies for its appeal on fabulously fresh fish rather than fantastically skilled cooking.
The owner though, whose name I don’t yet know, has absolutely the right attitude to wine. How many restauranteurs when you order a particular wine would ask you how you like it - dry or fruity? (The wine in question being the local Picpoul de Pinet.)
When we hesitated he went on to suggest that if we were looking for a wine to drink as an aperitif we should choose a fruity one whereas if we were concerned to match the grilled sea bass we had ordered we should opt for a drier style.
Of course this advice is particularly apposite in France where, when you order grilled fish, that’s what you get. They don’t go in for veg or other accompaniments that might possibly create a bridge to a fruitier wine.
But there is a useful insight here - namely that ultra-dry whites that don’t particularly shine on their own (Muscadet being the other obvious example) spring to life when partnered with simply cooked, ultra-fresh fish. And that fruitier wines can sometimes overwhelm their delicate sweet flavour.
It also shows how deeply engrained knowledge of food and wine still is in the average Frenchman!
Although not enough to keep the restaurant going, sadly. It has closed since I wrote this post!
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