Whether you follow fiercely-guarded family fishing principles or hunt down the latest tactics on the forums, there’s a ton of angling advice out there. What bait to use, where to cast, how early or late to set out, and of course what beer to bring along. But it’s rare to get pointers on what to do after you’ve hauled in a net-full. Where’s the tackle box of wine pairings for that mess of fried, smoked, pan-seared pescatarian perfection?
Well surprise, surprise — it’s right here! Enjoy your favorite fresh catches through the lens of a spot-on wine pairing and take your fish-whispering to the next level.
Pike + Sainte-Anne Chardonnay
Pike, the fish, and Chardonnay, the grape, are not altogether dissimilar. Both take much of their flavor from their place of origin, be it lake or soil, and both can either be highlighted or muddled by the choices of the chef/winemaker preparing them.
Our opinion on both counts — less is more. If you’re lucky enough to score a pike from one of Minnesota’s pristine lakes, we recommend going simple with a light pan sear, some garden fresh herbs, and a brown butter pan sauce, maybe a caper or two if you like a pop of brine. Squeeze of lemon or no, you’ll want something bright but subtle in your glass. Sainte-Anne Chardonnay, a stainless steel-fermented Chard from Southern France, fits the bill nicely with its zesty citrus, yellow flowers, and a mineral core keeping things lively and fresh.
Smoked Trout + Ch Puyanché Bordeaux Blanc
If you know, you know. Smoked trout is beloved by its seasoned fans, but can seem a bold choice for the uninitiated. If you’re purchasing from the store, you might end up with a fairly intense flavor, but it’s easy to gently smoke your own catch at home with a basic kettle grill.
We recommend starting your preferred coals/wood chips in a chimney, then arranging them to one side once ready. Score the skin of your trout lightly and season with salt, pepper, lemon juice or slices, some torn dill, and a light drizzle of olive oil — don’t forget the interior. When you’re ready to cook, it’s best to place the fish on a sheet of tin foil (rather than the grate itself) and smoke covered about 25-35 minutes opposite your coals. Once the trout has soaked up enough smoky goodness and cooked to an internal temp of 150°F, it’s time to serve it up with some wine that can handle the flavors you’ve worked so hard for. The Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon blend classic to white Bordeaux is a great combo of rich texture and lively flavor, showcased in Chateau Puyanché’s crunchy green apple, kiwi, melon, white florals, and smoke-tempering notes of paraffin.
Fried Walleye + Lady Slipper Blanc
Let’s not overcomplicate things here, fried foods love bubbly wine. Salt meets fruit, fat meets acid, crunch meets fizz — all the pairing boxes are ticked. When the vibes match up as well, that’s a perfect pairing.
Fried walleye, deliciously casual and a staple of summer, can do delicious things with many styles of sparklers, but one of our favorite matchups is a canned wonder called Lady Slipper Blanc. A lightly sparkling blend of aromatic California grapes by Andrew Jones, Lady Slipper is refreshing but flavor-packed with pink peach, apricot, mango,and bright lemon — an essential note for any fish dish. Coming in its cute and convenient 375ml can, there’s no better match for this understated Minnesota delicacy.
-Aimee Hutchinson | Wine Manager Top Ten Liquors