Here at The Publican, we’ve been talking a lot about the pleasures of seafood in recent weeks. Because we’ve got fish on our minds, it’s the perfect time to discuss the stuff that goes best with seafood. Namely, wine.
White wine is something of a given when it comes to seafood, but there are particular varieties that’ll be certain to send you to fishy heaven.
Laurent Rospars, Melbourne Pub Group’s head sommelier, argues that his upbringing on the French seashore makes him uniquely qualified to match seafood and wine. “I come from Brittany, from a little fisherman’s village,” he says. “I had the choice to become a chef, become a fisherman or join the coppers. That’s all we’ve got over there. So I know a fair bit about fish.”
For diners eating seafood, Rospars advises they seek out a wine that balances acidity with a fruity flavour. “I’m looking for something with quite a rich texture and for it to be minerally and a little bit tingly,” he advises. “Some fish can be a bit subtle, which is why lemon goes well with fish.”
To his mind, the smartest accompaniment for a delicious fish is a wine produced in Spain’s Galician region – the Alberino. “Alberino is probably the grape growing at the moment,” says Rospars. “It’s a truly a wonderful variety. It’s quite rich, it has good texture, it’s tingly with a good acid line. It’s the trendiest wine right now.”
For a more unusual match, Rospars suggests a Bourgogne variety from the western Loire Valley, little known here in Australia. “With oysters, I’d drink muscadet,” he says. “French people have been drinking muscadet with oysters for 400 years. There must be a reason.”
Melbourne Pub Group’s chef and director, Paul Wilson, concurs with his sommelier’s assessment, listing the aromatic Galician wines and the unusual flavours of muscadet as among his favourite. But Wilson also believes there’s another, very much under appreciated accompaniment to fish: cider. “It’s really interesting with fish,” admits Wilson. “It’s full of fizz and it cleans your palate. Australia is making some really good cider at the moment, because it grows some great apples.”
But what about that perennial controversy, forever dividing our society: is it a crime to drink red wine and fish? “Not at all!” exclaims Rospars. “In the Loire Valley in France where they make Cabernet Franc, we actually cook fish in red wine.”
Rospars also suggests that octopus with a glass of pinot noir – or even whole snapper cooked on the barbecue with a glass of Beaujolais – is perfection. Wilson, however, politely disagrees: “Red wine and fish, I’m not convinced,” he says. “Some people say they go together. The French do, but they mostly produce red wine, so they would say that, I guess.”
Perhaps the red wine and fish debate hasn’t quite been resolved.