Expert wine pairings for your fish fry fare

What goes great with fried fish?

Pierogies? Yes. Mac-and-cheese? Definitely. Haluski? My Polish heart is fluttering. Wine? Um, what?

Yes, wine actually pairs perfectly with fish fry fare. But not just any wine. Adam Knoerzer, a wine educator who owns Pittsburgh-based ‘Burghundy LLC, gave us the scoop on how to elevate your Friday night meal (as long as you didn’t give up alcohol for Lent, that is).

We’ll be talking about wines that are around the $20 mark, so you won’t break the bank, whether your local fish fry is BYOB or you’re sipping wine at home with your take-out order on your quest to find the Ultimate Pittsburgh Fish Fry.

First of all, why do white wines work with a fish fry meal?

“It keeps it light and bright. It creates a foil,” Knoerzer explained, adding that you’re looking for wine with a high degree of acidity. “That helps cut through some of the greasiness that the frying process imbues on the food.”

So, what are we sipping?

Sparkling wines

You’ll want to look for sparkling wines done in “the traditional method.”

That means wines that have their second fermentation in the bottle, like champagne. Avoid prosecco because it’s made with tank fermentation.

Sparkling wines fermented in the bottle offer a “toasty brioche, nutty kind of flavor and that works really well with fried foods,” he said.

If you’re looking for sparkling wine on a budget, look for wines with “crĂ©mant” on the label. That means they were made just like champagne but not in the actual Champagne region.

“CrĂ©mant is such a signal to you that you’re getting champagne-style at a different price,” he said.

Try Cap Classique — sparkling wines made in South Africa — like Graham Beck or Villiera. 

Knoerzer also recommends California producers like Chandon and Roederer Estate, who make their wines in a traditional method, as well. 

Other white wines

If bubbles aren’t your thing, you’ve got plenty of other options.

Try a Muscadet, which Knoerzer describes as “crisp and fresh and light,” a great way to cleanse the palate. You can find a good bottle for $12-15. 

Riesling works, too. Sweeter options come from the Mosel Valley in Germany, while you can find drier options in the Eden Valley or Clare Valley in Australia. Pick up a bottle from a company called Pewsey Vale, whose “bone dry” riesling packs lime and lemon flavors.

Or if you’re looking for something closer to home, dry Fingers Lakes Rieslings are another good call, Knoerzer said.

How to serve it

Serve them on the colder side, around 43 degrees for sparkling and a tiny bit warmer for white wines.

With bubbly, keep it in the fridge and bring it out about 15 minutes before you serve it. With white, make that 20-30 minutes before pouring.

The cold fridge temperature will “mute the aromas and flavors,” Knoerzer explains, so give it time to warm up a tad before it’s bottoms up.