Pickled herring has been a staple of Scandinavian Christmas fare since medieval times, and though it is often enjoyed with aquavit or a pilsner, it has been quite the conundrum for pairing with wine. Flavored with a vinegar solution and the likes of raw onions, peppercorns, bay leaves, and even aquavit, mustard or sherry, pickled herring is a dish that can overpower a delicate wine.
If you like your oysters with potent vinegar-based sauces, you could turn to one of your trusted pairings with that delicacy – a steely, dry Chenin Blanc perhaps? Having said that, though, pickled herring is even more potent. Here’s a couple options for you to think about as yule approaches.
Boney Dry Riesling
Not just any Riesling will do, and definitely not one of the off-dry variety. Think bone dry, think briny, such as the Weingut Brandl Riesling Zöbinger Heiligenstein from Austria’s Kamptal region. True to the typical Riesling from the famous Zöbinger Heiligenstein vineyard, this Riesling displays a distinctive minerality, chalk, green apple, clean acidity and brine.
For your safest bet, you may want to look to the port city of Sanlúcar de Barramaeda at the other end of Europe to find a suitable match. The dry and briny Manzanilla sherry has enough oomph not to be overwhelmed by the flavours in the fish, and the oxidized and saline qualities of the Manzanilla compliment this pickled dish.
Thanks for another year of wine, and have yourself a very merry Christmas. Skål and kippis!