Which Wines Should You Pair With Fish?

Whether you’re a wine newbie or a vino expert, pairing delicious varietals and blends with your favorite seafood is an exciting experience.

Whether you’re a wine newbie or a vino expert, pairing delicious varietals and blends with your favorite seafood is an exciting experience.

Much like wine, seafood spans a wide variety of flavors, aromas, and textures that give each a unique personality and range of pairing capabilities.

Whether you’re enjoying fish and chips, cedar plank salmon, a lobster dinner, or even a sushi platter, there’s no shortage of delicious seafood-wine combinations to take your meal to the next level.

For Wine Insiders’ essential tips and tricks on marrying wine and seafood, read on for our Guide To Pairing Wine with Fish:

White or Red?

Before we break down individual pairings, let’s dive into the traditional “rule” of wine-fish pairings:

With a few notable exceptions, stick to white wines when eating a seafood-based meal.

Though this suggestion might limit your pairing capabilities, it’s usually in the best interest of preserving the integrity of your fish:

Many red wines have high tannin levels that can mix poorly with the oils found in fish, leaving an unpleasant and famously “metallic” aftertaste.

Conversely, white wines have far lower tannin levels and are more acidic, creating a crisp, enjoyable pairing experience.

However, like any pairing suggestion, some cases break this pattern and can make for a delicious pairing of seafood and red wine or even Rosé -- as we will discuss below.

wine and fish pairing guide

Pairing Guide

Without further adieu, let’s break down the varietals and blends that pair best with your favorite kinds of seafood:

Flaky Fish

Flaky, usually white fish can make for an excellent meal when grilled, baked, or even fried.

Often served with simple herbs, spices, and light or creamy sauces, this category of fish can include popular favorites like:

  • Sole
  • Tilapia
  • Sea Bass
  • Flounder
  • Haddock


As these fish have delicate flavors and personalities, you’ll want to look for white wines with fresh, bright, and zesty flavors that heighten your fish rather than overwhelming it:


    These wines work exceptionally well with flaky fish due to their acidity and lighter bodies -- the perfect counterparts to more delicate seafood.

    Textured Fish

    As we move toward fish with more texture, the range of pairing possibilities begins to expand.

    The fish in this category are usually white, can be grilled, baked or fried and also have sturdier textures that hold up to more powerful herbs, spices and sauces:

    • Cod
    • Skate
    • Grouper
    • Trout
    • Halibut


    When you pair with these kinds of fish, feel free to explore a wider variety of medium and even full-bodied whites with more robust characteristics.

    In addition to fuller bodies, these varietals and blends offer more prominent flavors and aromas that will accentuate the best flavors in your fish:


      *We’ve earmarked this last option as a fun companion to fried fish (particularly cod), which pair well with exciting sparkling options like Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco that can add some effervescent enjoyment to your meal.

      Meaty Fish

      Moving to seafood with meatier textures can add more color to your lunch or dinner and once again widen your pairing options.

      This selection of seafood includes a variety of popular fish with exciting flavors, bolder personalities, and a broader range of colors:

      • Salmon
      • Tuna
      • Swordfish
      • Mackerel
      • Mahi Mahi


      A notable characteristic among some of these fish is a steak-like texture, which is essential because it opens this category of seafood up to pairings with red and pink wines.

      Though white options will still pair excellently, our recommended varietals and blends will be far broader than in our other categories:


        If you’re hesitant to try red wine or Rosé with your fish, your safest bet will be to pair these darker varietals and blends with fish that have colors and/or firmer textures of their own, like salmon and tuna.


        Sushi is delicious, diverse, and highly pairable with several fantastic wines.

        While there are many varieties of this cherished raw fish delight, popular serving styles include:

        • Rolls
        • Nigiri
        • Sashimi


        Within this serving framework, you’ll also find many types of fish, such as:

        • Salmon
        • Tuna (lean or fatty)
        • Shrimp
        • Scallop
        • Mackerel


        Since sushi includes this wide-ranging selection of fish (among others), we’ll break down our pairing recommendations into two general categories: lean and fatty.

        Lean options like shrimp, scallops, or lighter cuts of tuna pair best with white wines featuring pleasing acidity and light to medium bodies that won’t overwhelm the flavor or texture of your fish:


          As you move to fattier fish, like salmon, mackerel, or fatty tuna, feel free to shift toward white wines with fuller bodies or even a lighter red:


            While it can take some time to discover your favorite types of raw fish, pairing wine with sushi is a delicious and exciting adventure.


            Similar to flakier fish, many shellfish have delicate textures and personalities that can be easily overwhelmed by very robust white wines or your average reds and pinks.

            Shellfish can be perfect as an appetizer or a main course and is often broken down into two main categories:


            • Shrimp
            • Crab
            • Lobster



            • Oysters
            • Clams
            • Mussels
            • Scallops
            • Octopus


            To make the most of your shellfish experience, opt for white varietals and blends that are light to medium-bodied and bright, zesty flavors that subtly enhance the taste of your seafood:


              Take time to savor the delicious marriage between these whites and your shellfish, as the lighter body and prominent acidity harmonize with the saltiness of your seafood.

              best wine with fish

              Wine Insiders: Your New Home for Wine

              Now that you know the essentials of pairing wine with salmon, sushi, lobster, and all your seafood favorites, it’s time to explore Wine Insiders’ exciting selection of world-class wines.

              Whether you’re looking for an Old World red blend, a New World white varietal, or a gift set inspired by the experts, we have you covered for every meal and occasion.

              For more information about wine, food pairing, and more - check out our full library of Wine 101 Guide.