Halibut remains one of the most flexible catches of the ocean, easily standing alone as a central dish or as a side to greens and potatoes. Unsurprisingly, that flexibility extends to wine pairings.
Pairing your halibut is a delicate balance between maintaining the fish’s gentle, salty flavor and brightening the notes of your wine. Depending on how you prepare your dish, you could have a dozen wines to choose from! Instead of throwing a dart at random, we’ll help you narrow down your choices properly.
In this article, we will share our top halibut wine pairings separated by the halibut recipe and recommended side dishes. By the time you’re finished, you’ll be prepared to make your best dish yet!
Types of Halibut
What kind of halibut are you in the mood for? Before you get started making your wine with halibut, let’s take a look at different ways to prepare this delicious fish. You may just get an idea for a whole new platter!
A go-to method for cooking halibut is the old-fashioned grill method. Since halibut has a gentle and slightly salty flavor, it’s able to easily take on the personality of any coals or wood you use. That said, you need to be extra careful grilling halibut due to how delicate its skin is.
Grilled halibut can be smoky or slightly sweet depending on your grilling style. If you’re using an electric grill, enhance your fish’s flavor by choosing seasonings or dicing up onions.
If you want to go with an even simpler method, pan-fried halibut will still give you a juicy and tender result. To enhance the flavor of your meat, be mindful of what you fry your fish in.
Olive oil is a healthy and well-rounded choice for pan-frying, while butter is fattier and yields a crispier surface. Consider sprinkling in a few herbs, minced garlic, or a squeeze of lemon to round things out.
Are you a fan of classic fish and chips? Breaded halibut is a heartwarming combination that gives you extra texture to enjoy alongside the fish’s tender flakiness.
Do you steer clear of fish if it’s even a little bit dry? Poached halibut is a highly malleable method that keeps the fish buttery, moist, and oozing with extra juice.
You can poach halibut in broth, butter, curry, milk, and unsurprisingly, wine.
The Best Halibut Wine Pairings
When choosing a wine for your halibut, you want to ensure you’re not drowning out the fish’s dainty flavor. Likewise, you don’t want your wine to become muted by all the extra work you put into preparing the dish.
If halibut is one of the most flexible fish dishes, chardonnay is one of the most flexible white wines. This French staple remains a pairing powerhouse thanks to its balanced flavor notes and legendarily buttery texture.
Chardonnay pairs well with savory vegetables like potatoes, yams, and squash.
The Best Halibut for Fresh, Unoaked Chardonnay: Pan-Fried or Breaded
A fresh, unoaked chardonnay will lean toward yellow fruit, a honeyed aftertaste, and a silky smooth mouthfeel. Balance out this bright approach with either pan-fried or breaded halibut.
Pan-fried halibut will be juicy and salty enough to make your chardonnay’s natural pear, papaya, and honey notes pop. If you’re leaning toward a crisp, breaded halibut, your wine’s smooth texture will wash things down nicely.
The Best Halibut for Aged, Oaked Chardonnay: Grilled
Aged, oaked chardonnay is bursting with ripe fruit, vanilla, and its iconic buttery mouthfeel. Grilled halibut made with coals or wood will impart a subtle smokiness that will make this pairing taste especially rich.
If chardonnay isn’t quite as zesty as you like, look no further than pinot grigio. This white wine grape is grown throughout the world, with this particular varietal cultivated in Italy.
Consider pairing pinot grigio with crunchy salads, zucchini, or roasted asparagus.
The Best Halibut for Pinot Grigio: Pan-Fried or Grilled
The lively and tangy flavor notes of pinot grigio will sing when paired with a pan-fried or grilled halibut dish.
If you grill on a wood or coal stove, the smoky aftertaste will contrast smartly with pinot grigio’s propensity for apple and lemon flavors. If you prefer a pan-fried dish, hold the lemon and instead sprinkle in some garlic, onions, and herbs.
Another angle you can approach pinot grigio with is pinot gris, grown in France instead of Italy. The more temperate French climate crafts bottles that lean toward a heavier body and a floral aroma.
The Best Halibut for Pinot Gris: Poached
Pinot gris is one of the more gentle white wines on this list, making it ideal for an equally gentle poached halibut. Expect peach and lemon flavors nestled in a dry, full-bodied mouthfeel.
More specifically, we recommend poached halibut in broth or butter to keep from overwhelming the pairing.
You don’t get much airier and breezier than a glass of chablis. This French white wine provides a dreamy bouquet of flowers with citrus and mineral flavor notes.
The Best Halibut for Chablis: Poached or Lightly Pan-Fried
Steer clear of more robust or seasoned halibut recipes so you’re not missing out on your wine’s flavor notes. Halibut poached in broth or butter will focus more on the fish, while light pan-frying will sprinkle some texture into a minimalist platter.
If you’re not a fan of white wines, you’ll be happy to know rosé pairs wonderfully with flaky, white fish. This wine type’s natural propensity for bright, red fruit keeps it complimentary without being heavy.
When choosing a rosé, pay close attention to which red wine grapes it’s made from. We recommend pairing a lightly tossed salad, soft white cheeses, or olives.
The Best Halibut for Rosé Made From Pinot Noir: Grilled or Breaded
Rosé made from pinot noir will have crisp acidity and a lean toward strawberries, raspberries, and melon. The crisp acidity will sing in a grilled dish (electric or smoked), while the light body and smooth mouthfeel won’t overwhelm a breaded recipe.
The Best Halibut for Rosé Made From Sangiovese: Grilled or Pan-Fried
Rosé made from sangiovese has a few similarities to rosé made from pinot noir, bearing strawberry and raspberry flavors. Where it differs is a lean toward ripe cherry and stone fruit.
Grilled halibut works well with the slightly more robust quality of sangiovese rosé. Similarly, the somewhat savory wine notes will remain steadfast if you want to season up a pan-fried fish.
Think there isn’t a red wine that goes with delicate white fish? Think again. Pinot noir is the jack-of-all-trades when it comes to food pairings, balanced and bright enough not to overwhelm.
Pinot noir pairs nicely with chewy and earthy vegetables like mushrooms, brussel sprouts, and squash.
The Best Halibut for Fresh, Unoaked Pinot Noir: Grilled
Feeling like adding a subtle smokiness or woody aftertaste to your fish? A fresh, unoaked pinot noir will offer a burst of ripe, red berries and a slight earthiness to balance things out.
The Best Halibut for Aged, Oaked Pinot Noir: Poached Stew
“Wait, a poached with a rich and complex pinot noir?”, you might be asking. Depending on the way you poach your halibut, this pairing could be too muted or absolutely fantastic.
Since aged and oaked pinot noirs pick up subtle vanilla and baking spice notes, pair this wine with a savory poached halibut recipe. A tomato-based halibut stew will add enough contrast to make everything pop.
Don’t worry, red wine fans: barbera is another red wine varietal that goes quite well with flaky white fish. This Italian red wine grape may not be quite as popular as sangiovese, but it’s earned fans for its vibrant acidity and berry profile.
Since this is a rather dry wine, we highly recommended grilled or roasted root vegetables.
The Best Halibut for Fresh, Unoaked Barbera: Grilled or Pan-Fried
With an intense acidity and dry mouthfeel, you’ll want to keep your halibut juicy and overflowing with flavor. Try grilled or pan-fried recipes next to a slew of roasted vegetables.
The Best Halibut for Aged, Oaked Barbera: Grilled or a Poached Stew
Barbera aged in oak barrels will impart darker fruit notes of blackberries and plums, so you want a heavier fish platter to match.
Try grilling your halibut with wood or coals for a more earthy finish. If you’re leaning toward a stew, a light curry or tomato base will pair nicely.