Top pairings | The best wine pairings for anchovies

Top pairings

The best wine pairings for anchovies

Since Nigella devoted the best part of an episode of her current TV series and a wonderfully discursive chapter of her new book Cook, Eat, Repeat to anchovies* you may have been inclined to give one of her recipes a try, particularly the sublime anchovy elixir. But what wine should you drink with them?

It depends how much of an influence they have on a dish: not much in the case of a pizza, far more in the case of anchovies served in oil or with bread and butter which is obviously all about the anchovies. Or a dish like the warm anchovy dip bagna cauda though oddly you can drink a red such as barbera or dolcetto with that. At least the locals do as you can see from this piece by Marc Millon.

It also depends if there’s meat involved. Anchovies are often used to stud roast lamb or as an accompanying sauce for rare steak as with Nigella’s elixir. I’d still be inclined though to be led by the meat rather than the anchovies though Italian reds like Chianti do seem to be particularly sympathetic to them.

And if cream is involved as it often is, for example in Nigella's celeriac and anchovy gratin, try a Chablis or a similarly mineral white burgundy such as a Saint-Aubin.

It also makes a difference whether the anchovies are salted or cured like Spanish boquerones which tend to work with a fruitier white (e.g. verdejo or sauvignon blanc) than their saltier counterparts. Often they’re part of a spread of tapas which makes sherry a good option too.

*complete with an entirely new anchovy-related vocabulary. Anchovian, Anchovising. Holstein as a verb - “I am always ready to Holstein anything”. Do read it!

Wines to pair with salted anchovies

Manzanilla or fino sherry

If you’re a sherry fan this is a match made in heaven. From a well-chilled, freshly opened bottle.

Txakoli

Northern Spain's quirky spritzy white - if you go to San Sebastian this is what to order as you can see from this post I wrote a couple of years ago.

Other ultra-crisp, dry whites such as assyrtiko, Greco di Tufo and albarino (and Portugal’s alvarinho) work well too - the latter particularly with cured anchovies as you can see here

Dry southern French rosé, particularly from Provence

Anchovies are popular along the Mediterranean coast especially in dips like anchoiade and dry rosé is the perfect accompaniment. It’s also a good match for salade niçoise which is generally topped with an anchovy or three though I personally think caesar salad, particularly chicken caesar salad, is better with a light chardonnay (maybe because of the parmesan).

Dry vermouth

We don’t drink vermouth on its own as much as we should or perhaps I’m just speaking for myself. But with its slight herby bitterness it’s a really good pairing for anchovies. Served neat over ice with a slice of lemon.

Victoria Moore also suggests a dirty martini in her Wine Dine Dictionary which I can imagine working really well.

If you feel in the mood to eat some anchovies after reading this try this roasted red pepper and anchovy salad from José Pizarro.

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