Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pairing Wine with Ceviche

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Raw fish is always challenging to match with wine. Ceviche can be even more difficult as it has citric notes from splashes of lime and often—these days—a healthy hint of soy sauce on unique, Asian-inspired takes on the classic dish.

High-acid dishes often pair best with similar wines or those that are completely different. Best bets might be cool-climate whites from Northern Spain, Chile or Portugal or total opposites, such as highly oaked California whites.

Chiles that are often in the sauce that dresses ceviche or spicy dipping sides can also pump up the volume on flavor intensity and make pairings more difficult. The better Peruvian ceviche places often leave the lime on the side so guests can increase the acid levels as they like while they are eating.

A Restaurant’s Perspective
LaMar has long been one of my favorite Peruvian restaurants in San Francisco. They work with Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji on fun and often challenging wine pairings from the restaurant’s mostly South American- and Spanish-focused wine list.

“Acid in wine is the key element to pair well with our food as it contains varied spices and high acid sauces that necessitate a high acid wine.” He adds that because of the spice factor, he likes to "use high-acid wines like [Spanish] Albarino and Godello from Galicia or Verdejo from Rueda.”

The types of raw fish that are used in ceviche can also make a major difference in terms of the right wine choices. “Texturally speaking I try to pair the wine to match the richness or meatiness of the fish. If the fish is of a delicate character, I try lighter wines like Albarino or if they are rich then wines like Sauvignon Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay,” said Kemiji.

He even had a very detailed list of ideal wine varietals that would pair well with different fish. They include tuna with Pinot Noir; salmon with Chardonnay; crab with Riesling; shellfish with AlbariƱo; and sole with Rueda.

In terms of Kemiji’s pairing insights the Alpha Zeta Soave 2014 from the Veneto would probably be great with a range of raw-fish based dishes. Its steely minerality will excel with the citrus notes and offset onions and other alliums in the dish.

Another idea might be the Bonnet-Huteau "Les Laures Granite de Vallet" Muscadet Sevre Et Maine Sur Lie 2012 from France’s Loire Valley. This wine is made from 100 percent Melon de Bourgogne—which is typical for this wine region that is close to the Atlantic. Its crisp citrus notes and buttery and mineral flavors on the plate will work well with a wide range of raw fish. It also runs fairly low in alcohol so it won’t generate heat in the mouth when savored with a ceviche and is not likely to overwhelm the parings.

Another great choice would be the Mesta Verdejo 2014 from Castilla y Leon, Spain. These lean and clean northern Spain pairings tend to excel with most seafood preparations.

Also some great Northern Italian whites will savor with these types of dishes. Italians, along the continental, have long known how to pair wines with local seafood. The mineral and cool fruit notes of the Icardi "L'Aurora" Cortese 2009 from Piedmont and its bright acidity would be lovely with a ceviche dish. Other classic Piedmontese wines, such as Arneis, would also probably be suburb.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.
Photo Credit: La Mar

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