Fishing for something different

Helen Coburn advises on how to land a catch of the day, when it comes to finding an ideal wine to complement a fish dish.

FishingHugh Fearnley Whittingstall has presented a series about the fishing industry on Channel 4 and the public have been shocked by how much fish is wasted. Last year Scottish fishing vessels dumped 28,000 tonnes of fish potentially worth £33 million. Almost 60% of all fish caught in the North Sea is thrown back in the water. Throughout these islands, 50% of the total catch is believed to be discarded. In June 2008, 45 tonnes of cod was dumped off Dublin Bay in a single week. English and Welsh ships are reckoned to have discarded 32 million fish in the last decade.

Three things contribute to this waste. The EU quota system obliges fishermen to throw back anything caught over the quota designated for that ship or that region. Second, trawlers pick up many fish which are too small for sale, and much of the industry has been slow to invest in equipment which minimises this. And finally, British and Irish consumers are conservative in their tastes, resulting in dumping of fish which would happily be eaten in other parts of the world but which is rejected here. Almost 85% of the fish we eat is made up of salmon, cod, tuna (much of it in tins), prawns and haddock.

One way the public can help to reduce the waste is by choosing a wider selection of fish and Bord Iascaigh Mhara has recently been urging us to do just that. All regularly stock treats such as halibut, pollock, gurnard, snapper, clams, perch and fresh sardines.

Wine and fish

Naturally, fish is perfect with a glass of wine. You can play it safe with cod and Chablis and most unoaked whites will go with most fish. But, just as with fish itself, it’s worth being a bit more adventurous. Here are a few matches you might not have thought of.

Tuna: Only buy fresh tuna when it’s virtually as red as a beef steak. Once it browns, it tastes oilier and heavier. Tuna is good with chardonnay but also Beajolais and fresh pinot noirs. Try: Ferraud Les Marrains Beaujolais Villages 2009 (Febvre €14 retail).

Salmon: Sauvignon Blanc really is best with cold salmon. With hot dishes, chardonnay, pinot blanc and light reds such as Italian Bardolino work well. Try: Zenato Bardolino 2009 (Searson €11).

Mackerel: Like tuna, mackerel has to be hopping fresh. Muscadet is one of the best matches. Try: M.de Goulaine Muscadet sur Lie 2009 (Cassidy €11).

Mullet and Snapper: Here you can play safe with almost any unoaked white but better still is dry rose. Try: Ch de Sours Bordeaux Rose (€13.50 Gilbey/Gleeson) or  G Saignee des Anges Bordeaux 2006 (Gilbey/Gleeson €10.50).

Monkfish: Semillon is great with monkfish, especially if it’s Australian. Richer southern French varietals such as marsanne and viognier also work well. Try: Tahbilk Marsanne 2006 (Comans €13) – other vintages also available.

Hake: A great, versatile fish, similar to cod but with subtler flavour. Very slightly aromatic wines are good. Try: Esk Valley Verdello Hawkes Bay 2010 (Barry & Fitzwilliam €13) or Seifried Pinot Gris Nelson 2010 (Classic Drinks €16)

Pollock/coley: Needs to be very fresh for best flavour and the whiter the better. Good in light batter or flour coating. Works well with Italian whites. Try: Zenato Lugana 2009 (Searson €11).

Sea Bream: Can get a little earthy if it’s not eaten relatively soon after catching but it’s delicious when fresh. Good with pinot blanc, which can be a good counterweight to any earthiness. Try: Trimbach Alsace Pinot Blanc 2009 (Gilbey/Gleeson €13)

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