Living in Southern California comes with so many perks; gorgeous consistent weather, stunning outdoor environs and a condensed and diverse disarrangement of culinary adventures. This week we choose to focus on one of our favorite culinary niches, the fish taco!If there has even been a great time to be a taco lover, it is now. It seems that with the up-rise in culinary diversity and the increase of small and mobile eateries, the modern taco is breaking all the rules of tradition. The Kogi Truck being the most famed fusion tacos at the moment. Even within the niche of fish tacos, there are still so many different flavors and fusions that can be involved. Here we'll try to break it down into bite sized mouthfuls to better understand how to pair unique wines with these eccentric flavors.
STEP ONE: Fish tacos, as you know, can be made from any given kind of seafood. When pairing with wine, the type of fish is always a good place to start. The second consideration being how you dress the tacos. It is the salsas and toppings that will shift your pairing selection or allow you to venture into more unique pairings.
Grilled White Fish and Shellfish Tacos: These tacos tend to be more traditional to the Baja style with deliciously grilled white fish on soft corn tortillas that are topped with shredded green cabbage, crème, salsa and lime. Of course cilantro and avocado are also common and delicious additions. Grilled fish tend to do well with crisp, dry wines like Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc.
Fried Fish and Shellfish Tacos:When done right, these tacos should not be greasy though still have more oils to compete with than grilled fish. With fried seafood, go for a wine with high acidity to cut through the fats of the taco, especially if yours are topped with crème and avocado. To pair these tacos, start with crisp and acidic dry Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc.
Hearty Fish: Swordfish, Salmon, Shark & TunaThese fish, when grilled, have an amazing punch of flavors that can stand up to a good red wine. Lighter reds, like Pinot Noir, can be a delicious companion. Sometimes a lighter bodied Merlot can be appropriate as well. White wines with medium to light body are also highly compatible with these heartier fish. Try a Chardonnay, dry Riesling, or Bordeaux Blanc.
Blackened Fish:This is where fish tacos can find a friend in more substantial red wines. This pairing can get tricky though because you do not want to wine too high in alcohol that will intensify the heat! Merlot and Zinfandel tend to blissfully accompany the spicy pepper of the fish. Lighter options previously mentioned are also not inappropriate.
STEP TWO: Now that you have you have a starting point dependent on your fish type, narrowing down your wine pairing becomes more reliant on your salsa choice and taco toppings.
Pico de Gallo: Since this salsa is very mild and deliciously fresh, you can get away with a wine that has a bit more body and slightly less acidity depending on the type of fish it is served with. A citrusy dry Riesling with stone fruit notes makes a great combination with this mellow salsa.
This green salsa is comprised mostly of roasted tomatillos, garlic, onion, cilantro, jalapeño and Serrano chilies. Sometimes avocado is also included with generous amounts of salt to balance out the sweetness and the tart citrusiness of the tomatillo.
Red salsas are often the spiciest and tend to be less common with fish tacos since the heat can overpower the delicate flavors of the fish. However some like it hot, and if you do, you'll want to choose a wine lower in alcohol content unless you are a glutton for punishment and want to amplify the heat even more.
Roasted and Smoked Chili Salsas:These salsas have extra layers of flavor complexity and heat that can pair extremely well with red wines. The smokiness and roasty bits in the salsa play well with Napa Cabernets and Bordeaux. However, with a light fish, try something more like an elegant but fruity Rosé.
Fruit Salsas:Fruit salsas like mango and peach are delicious when their fruitness is balanced out by lime, salt and a kick of chili. That being the case, you'll likely want to choose a white wine that is more citrusy rather than fruity if you desire balance. These salsas are often mild on the scale of spiciness so a wine with a bit more body, with grilled fish, can be a great companion. We'd recommend Sauvignon Blanc, which is full of citrusy aromas with bright flavors and plenty of minerality. Refreshing and crisp, this wine is the perfect counter balance to the ripe fruits of the salsa.
Lime:Lime is something to be considered when pairing. Its added acidity can help cut through the fats when the fish is battered and/or is toped with avocado and crème. This can help in a pairing where the wine is not high in acidity. However when it comes to lime marinated fish, like cevice, a fruitier wine may give you more balance and complexity to your meal. Try one of our complex Rhone Valley White. This wine has rich and exotic aromas of apricot, fig, honey and spice, with roundness to the finish and good minerality and acidity.
Fusion Tacos:Is your special taco recipe or food truck loot full of interesting spices of Asian cuisines? You may want to try something like Rhone White with curry and ginger flavors of Indian or Thai influence. For Korean and Chinese fusion tacos, try Riesling or Gewurztraminer.
This post has been contributed by Katrina Coulourides, our Art Director and Graphic Designer