Can I drink red wine with fish?

By / Magazine / December 13th, 2017 / 2

For me, James Bond movies are like a Magic 8 Ball — watch one, and all of life’s important questions will be answered. Take this quote from Sean Connery’s 007 to the conniving Red Grant said halfway through the third act of From Russia with Love: “Red wine with fish. Well, that should have told me something.”

That flick is over 50 years old and Bond’s suggestion that what you choose to sip alongside your grilled sole (spoiler alert, Red chose red) is a sure barometer for how much you know about wine still resonates. And those two sentences have probably done more to perpetuate a wine-pairing old wives’ tale over the years than anything else.

You see, there are a lot of fish in the sea and the term casts a huge net. Claiming that white wine is the only mate for “fish” is akin to saying you can’t drink “craft beer” without a beard. Now, while Bond’s choice of fishy dish (grilled sole) does lend itself to a white partner, there are plenty of aquatic eatables that pair swimmingly with a glass of red.

The best myth-buster is salmon, a meaty piece of fish that makes a match made in heaven with the very red Pinot Noir grape. Tuna goes best with red as well. You can go Pinot, switch it up to a rustic Spanish Rioja or swing a bit lighter with a Gamay-based French Beaujolais or an Italian Veneto red blend. Calling shark a fish may be pushing it, but thick, steak-like cuts share its beefier cousin’s love of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Even most shellfish, which on their own typically align with white wines, can be lured to the red side. Think Sangiovese with deep-fried calamari or any seafood pasta where tomato sauce is added to the mix. So, yes, though many fish dishes may get overpowered [by reds?], there are lots of options to get your red on.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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