Due to the long, rich and often storied history of winemaking and wine drinking, quite a few rules of etiquette have arisen over the years, with one of the most fascinating being the practice of wine pairing.
The so-called golden rule that one always pairs a white wine with fish and a red wine with meat dishes was common enough at one point to serve as a plot point in a James Bond film, but where did it come from, and does it still apply today?
The saying emerged during a time when both the culinary world and wine’s sphere of influence were both much smaller. This predates the Judgement of Paris, let alone modern organic wine culture, and instead was made for an age when wine types were far more monolithic.
At the time, conventional wisdom would dictate that the tannins inherent to almost all red wines interacted with the oils in the vast majority of fish dishes to leave a dry, almost metallic aftertaste that could potentially spoil the delicate taste of many fish.
By contrast, white wine tends to be slightly more acidic, which to anyone who has enjoyed lemon sole simply makes a great fish dish even better.
Red wines pair well with red meat and poultry, as the higher fat and rich taste reduces the tannin taste, and the juiciness complements the red wine taste and weight well.
Of course, these have always just been rules of thumb, and the key to good wine pairings is to find pairings that create great contrasts or complement each other.
There are plenty of red wines that are low in tannins, and fish dishes such as swordfish and tuna which have a flavour profile far closer to red meat would benefit from a well-selected light-medium red wine such as a Pinot Noir.
Ultimately, the only rule to follow is that you eat what you enjoy and drink what you enjoy with it.