Antica Casa Scarpa

Breaking the rules? Barbera and seafood can be a match made in heaven.

It’s one of the oldest taboos of historic gastronomy: Never serve red wine with fish.

No one knows for certain when or where this interdiction was first conceived. But most culinary historians point to 19th-century England where a newly formed upper-middle-class embraced a rigid codification of culinary practices. In those days wine pairings were known as “accordances” and by the time the 20th century rolled around, the notion that white wine was to be paired with “white” (i.e., fish) menus and red wine was to be paired with “red” (i.e. meat) menus obtained a quasi sacrosanct status.

But in 19th-century Piedmont, where very little white wine was produced at the time, there was only red wine to drink. Even as late as three decades ago, barely any white wine was grown and made there, even though fish — especially cured fish — was consumed there thanks to the region’s proximity to the sea (today, it takes less than an hour and half to drive from Nizza Monferrato to the Ligurian coast). Just think of how many classic Piedmont dishes include cured anchovies and tuna as ingredients!

Even today, it’s not uncommon to find old folks there who still only drink red wine at mealtime — even when seafood is involved.

So it’s only natural that certain red wines from Piedmont would be ideal for fish dishes.

Recently, we tried pairing Barbera with tuna crudo at one of our favorite Italian restaurants in the U.S. (above). And the results were brilliant!

The freshness, zinging acidity, and brilliant fruit flavors of the wine were ideal with the fatty tuna belly, refreshing the palate with every morsel — even with the wholly raw fish.

Granted, the pairing is always going to work best with a fatty fish like tuna, grouper, shark, or mahi mahi (as in our favorite fish tacos). It may not work as well with lighter, leaner white fish.

But the next time you sit down to eat your favorite fish, whether fatty or lean, try it with Barbera and we’re confident that you’ll thank us.

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