A beautifully seasoned fish fillet or a decadent plate of shellfish with a glass of wine is a wonderful thing, however, it’s not a one-bottle-fits-all solution. Check out our handy breakdown on wine and seafood pairings for a steer in the right direction.

Seafood Pairing Overview

While there are no specific hard and fast rules, and we understand that tastes vary from person to person, there are a few guidelines that can help you out. Whether you’re in a restaurant and wanting to know what to order, or having a dinner party at home and wanting to know the right choice to serve with your meal, these guidelines should help you out.

  • White wines tend to be best, although lighter reds and sparkling can be good options with some dishes.
  • Pair based on the texture and weight of the fish; the more delicate the fish the more elegant the wine should be.
  • Consider the most prominent element of the dish (often the sauce) and pair accordingly.
  • Balance spicy with sweet, and salty with bubbles, as you typically would with other meats.
  • Sweeter dishes might need a sweeter wine.
  • Consider the saltiness of saltwater fish (in comparison to freshwater fish) when choosing your wine.

Types of Seafood

For our wine-pairing purposes, we’ve broken the broad category of seafood into four subcategories:

  • White Fish
  • Pink Fish
  • Meaty Fish
  • Shellfish

White Fish Guidelines

Fish is predominantly a white meat and therefore pairs better with white wines. Some of the more common white fish include halibut, cod, flounder, haddock, seabass, tilapia, and white tuna (albacore)

Leaner white fish like sea bass, flounder, and tilapia tend to be quite delicate and relatively mild in flavor. These pair better with light, refreshing whites.

More medium-textured fish like haddock, cod, and halibut tend to be thicker and more capable of withstanding a more flavor-intense wine. Look for medium-bodied, aromatic white wines through a red could also be an option.

Best Wines to Try

Whites – Light- to medium-bodied: Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay

Reds – Light-bodied: Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Sangiovese, Zinfandel

Classic Black Marlin Wine Pairings

Pecan Brown Butter Cod

Cod is an incredibly versatile dish. Part of cod’s versatility comes from it’s mild flavor and delicate texture. White cod is categorized as a flaky white fish, it has bigger flakes and more robust flavor than lighter fish like sole. Our pan sauteed brown butter with fresh lemon has just the right herbal note to pair perfectly with any of our Sauvignon Blancs, which are famous for having their own herbal characteristics.

Bayside Flounder

Flounder, fluke, northern fluke, flatfish….this fish of many names is ever-so-popular all along the eastern North American seaboard. The fish can be prepared in many ways: grilled, broiled, baked or pan-seared. Happily, there are a number of crisp white wines that pair well with flounder. The challenge is to select a wine that does not overpower the delicate fish. Not so difficult with our baked flounder as our dish is on steroids with the addition of crab, scallops, and shrimp. Try a little sweetness like our Barnard Griffin Riesling to complement the rich stuffing, or any of our Chardonnays will do the dish justice.

Pink Fish Guidelines

Quite a lot of fish are slightly pinkish in color, but will actually turn white when cooked. Real pink fish, such as salmon, sea trout, and steelheads, remain pink when cooked (though not all salmon have pink flesh). The color of the meat often indicates the most suitable color wine to pair it with. With pink fish you can actually use both red and white wines. The way it’s prepared and other ingredients or sauces tend to be key deciding factors too.

Pink fish (especially salmon) is very flexible and fun to pair with whites, reds, rosés, and sparkling.

Due to the fattiness of pink fish, go for medium bodied whites or light reds (possibly medium reds if the dish is flavor-intensive).

Best Wines to Try

Whites – Light- to medium-bodied: Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay

Red – Light-bodied: Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Sangiovese, Zinfandel

Classic Black Marlin Wine Pairings

Salmon Provencal

Salmon is a heartier fish, packed full of those good Omega 3 fats. It’s a refreshing, subtle, and not particularly “fishy” flavored fish. Capers, tomatoes, garlic, butter, and olive oil need a wine that will add its voice to the chorus and not push the others aside to take center stage. Our Cakebread Cellar Pinot Noir is a wonderful accompaniment to our Salmon Provencal. Our Sassoregale Sangiovese keeps everything in harmony. If you prefer a white our Caposaldo Pinot Grigio will do the trick.

Meaty Fish Guidelines

These fish will have a steak-like feel to them, firm and sturdy enough to hit the grill. Some of the meatier fish out there include tuna steaks, swordfish, mahi mahi, grouper, and monkfish.

The fatter, oilier nature of the fish, as well as its generally bolder feel, will allow you to go for more full-bodied wines.

Both rich whites and light or medium reds can be used depending on the dish and the way its prepared

If the dish as a whole is notably salty, a sparkling wine can provide a really good balance.

Best Wines to Try

Reds – Light- to medium-bodied: Pinot Noir, Red Blends

Whites – Rich, flavorsome: Chardonnay, Albarinos

Classic Black Marlin Wine Pairings

Grouper Daufuskie

There’s a lot going on in this signature dish: crab, and andouille crust, lemon beurre blanc and our Pure Paso. These amazing ingredients meet on equal terms to complete the perfect marriage. Our Laguna Ranch Chardonnay comes from a different angle but reaches a harmonized conclusion. A little different take would be our J Vineyards Cuvee Brut, a sparkling wine that integrates totally with the dish.

Sweet Heat Mahi Mahi

Heat and sweets (tropical fruit salsa) work well with sweet wines. This dish is made for our Lunetta Prosecco, Cupcake Moscato, or Barnard Griffin Riesling. A match made in heaven.

Shellfish Guidelines

Some of the most popular shellfish include squid, oysters, crab, clams, and shrimp. They tend to have quite rich flavors that are complemented nicely by acidic whites.

The main things to consider when pairing are the specific shellfish, how it’s being cooked, its tenderness, and any other ingredients/sauces being used

A lot of shellfish craves a counter balance of light fruit flavors and adequate acidity, meaning an acidic white can pair well.

Sticking to medium full-bodied whites is recommended to prevent the wine being overpowered by sauces or side dishes.

It’s always best to pair food with wine that can stand up to the intensity of the dish, as well as complement its flavors.

Best Wines to Try

Whites – Light- to medium-bodied: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Albarino, Chardonnay, Muscadet

Sparkling – Dry, Crisp: Champagne Cava

Classic Black Marlin Wine Pairings

Mussels Mesina

Mussels are meaty and salty. The wine you choose should accentuate these flavors. A dry Pinot Gris like our Santa Margherita or a sauvignon blanc (Infamous Goose) are a perfect match adding a delicate aroma while still allowing the unique mussel flavor to come through

Lump Crab Cakes

While crabmeat is light and sweet, there are so many recipes available to suit everyone’s palate. If the natural flavor of crab is the hero of the dish, a light crisp, slightly acidic wine like Sauvidnon Blanc is a great place to start, but what’s in your crab cake recipe? Ours are coated in seasonal breadcrumbs, pan seared and served with remoulade. A light, sparkling wine with your crab cakes is what you need to cut through those heavier elements. The acidity in the J Vineyards Cuvee Brut can provide the balance our crab cakes need.

A little more….Quick Pairing Hints

  • Lobster Rolls – Chardonnay
  • Snow Crab – Riesling
  • Seafood Chowder (creamy) – Oaked Chardonnay
  • Shrimp Scampi – Pinot Grigio
  • Linguine and Clams – Pinot Grigio, Prosecco, or Sangiovese (yes, it works)
  • Baja Fish Tacos – Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino
  • Shrimp and Grits – Chardonnay, Sparkling wine, Malbec
  • Fried Fish – Prosecco, Moscato, Pinot Gris
  • Raw Fish – Sparkling wines, Albarino, Muscadet
  • Fish and Chips – Sparkling wines like Prosecco
  • Fried Calamari – Sparkling wines

Wine and food pairing can be complex. The right wine can bring out the flavors in your food, while the wrong wine can actually prevent you from getting the full spectrum of flavors from your dish. This is why pairings are so important. Of course, if you’re now in the mood for some seafood and wine, there is no better place to go than The Black Marlin Bayside Grill. We have a well thought out wine list, modern coastal cuisine, and the freshest fish on Hilton Head. Put your new wine pairing skills to the test or you can ask one of our knowledgeable servers or bartenders and ask them about their favorite wine and food pairings. Either way, when you dine at The Black Marlin Bayside Grill you can be sure that you are always being served fresh, expertly prepared seafood as well as plenty of tasty wine selections for you to enjoy.

Scroll to Top