Sardines are best known for all of the nutrition that they contain, rather than their flavor or fine dining potential. However, when you start exploring outside of the tinned, supermarket sardine offerings, there is some promise. Fresh sardines taste like an exaggerated version of herring, with a distinctly saline, fishy flavor. In order to make the most of this little fish, it’s best to stick to white wine and high levels of acidity.
Wine Characteristics To Pair With Sardines
|Citrus fruits, lemon, lime and grapefruit, high salinity & minerality.
Sardines can be extremely oily, so you need a high level of acidity to cut through all of that and get to the core flavors of the fish. The notes of salinity that you find in classic “seafood” wines like Albariño are also desirable – sardines are nothing if not salty, and this will offer some potential for harmonization.
Best Red Wine To Drink With Sardines
The best place to look for inspiration when pairing wine with sardines is Portugal. They love their seafood, and in some cases, they enjoy fresh sardines with a light red. There aren’t many opportunities for pairing a briny fish with red wine – but this is one of them.
Taking a leaf from the Portuguese, our single red wine recommendation for sardines is Vinho Verde. Red Vinho Verde is much rarer than white, but it can be found. It is typically quite spicy, fresh, and fruity, and is made from grapes that have barely ripened. It usually has tart notes of sour cherry, coupled with fresh, aromatic flowers. Red wine with salty fish is an acquired taste, but this pairing has historical precedent, and it actually works because this wine is extremely crisp. Rosé versions of Vinho Verde can also be found if you search hard enough!
Best White Wine To Drink With Sardines
White wines are certainly the more obvious pairing when it comes to sardines, and there are plenty of high-acid, slightly saline choices. Many of these hail from coastal areas, so they are well-suited to pairing with briny seafood.
The Spanish wine Albariño is an essential one to try if you’re looking for a harmonious sardine pairing. It’s incredibly fresh and packed with acidity, which helps to cut through the oiliness of this small fish. To complement the fishy taste, Albariño also provides strong citrus flavors, vegetal notes and hints of salinity, which are strongly reminiscent of the seaside. You can also try out its Portuguese cousin Alvarinho, for a truly authentic dining experience.
Muscadet is another option with a strong oceanic influence, as most of these grapes are grown in the western reaches of France. Similarly to Albariño, Muscadet is intensely crisp and full of acidity for chopping through any oil. It has some wonderful stone fruit flavors, along with notes of citrus and an undercurrent of salinity that makes it extremely suitable for seafood.
Assyrtiko wines are great for providing a balance to the brininess of sardines. This lesser-known Greek grape is highly acidic and packed with minerality, including a salty edge. However, Assyrtiko can also be quite complex. There are zesty, herbaceous flavors to be found, which can act like a squeeze of lemon or a pinch of parsley on top of your fishy dish and offer a much-needed palate-cleansing aspect. Additionally, Assyrtiko wines from Santorini often come from a unique volcanic terroir that can add an interesting dimension to the pairing.
Chardonnay can come in all shapes and sizes, and when it comes to salty seafood, the region of Chablis is hard to beat. These wines are known for having a steely, slightly flinty edge to them. When combined with the wine’s naturally high acidity, this can be a fantastic counterpoint to the oiliness of sardines. Pure notes of citrus and green apple can also add a refreshing touch to the pairing and elevate the flavors of the fish.
Best Wine To Drink With Sardines
When it comes to pairing the rich, salty flavor of sardines, there is a relatively limited selection of wines to choose from. That can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on whether you like crisp white wines or not! These are our top 5 choices:
- Vinho Verde