Walk into an old-school British pub and say “Chardonnay, please.” You’re always likely to be served a lager or IPA with a scowl.
Fish, chips and beer seem like a match intended by nature, even before the first pub arrived. The dish emerged long ago from local “chippies” and neighborhood eateries to find equal reception in fancier eateries. However, the desire is always to order a pint to accompany.
But if you listen to Kerry Winslow, a wine educator who runs a shop at Windy Oaks in Carmel Valley (and you’re wise to listen), wine is also a good pairing with fish and chips.
“You want to go with a classic Chardonnay,” he says. “Chardonnays from the highlands of Santa Lucia have hints of pineapple and a toasty flavor.”
Winslow explains that the crisp fruit can tackle a rich, crackling, fried crust, while the undertones of wine support the malty note of a beer batter, all without overpowering the lean white fish.
“I really like the Samuel Louis Smith or the Morgan Double L Vineyard,” he adds. “They would do the job.”
With fish and chips, however, you’re confined to a restaurant’s wine list unless you want to run a corkage fee. The crust does not travel well.
Fortunately, Woody’s at the airport keeps Morgan Chardonnay in stock – not the Double L Vineyard version, but the Winslows’ favorite AVA. And chef Tim Wood’s crew presents clean, flaky fish, with airy beer batter and fries that are fluffy pillows inside a fluffy veneer.
The 2019 Morgan Chardonnay offers a nose of uncut pineapple and apricot, with a hint of toasted grain. As the glass warms, fresh peach joins the bouquet. Sipped fresh, the first impression is of sweet stone fruit. But that gives way to pineapple and Granny Smith, with a hint of warm spice and a hint of citrus.
Accompanied by fish and chips, the wine swells, becomes richer and more tropical, with a crisp slice of lemon on the finish, a palate cleanser.
“Don’t put malt vinegar on fish and chips,” warns Winslow. “That would change everything.”
How bad would that get?
“The only thing you can do is dry sherry,” he says.
This is where lager comes back into the picture.