Pairing Anchovies with Wine and Beverages

Pairing anchovies with the right wine or beverage can transform your culinary experience.

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Anchovies, with their strong and salty flavor, are a bold ingredient that can dominate a dish.

When selected carefully, wine has the capacity to complement this intensity, creating a harmonious balance on your palate.

Typically, wines high in acidity and minerality, such as Manzanilla or fino sherry, are excellent choices.

These wines are often served well-chilled to provide a refreshing counterpoint to the robust umami flavors of the anchovies.

Anchovies arranged with wine and beverages on a rustic wooden table

In addition to sherry, there are other white wines like Txakoli from Northern Spain, which are characterized by their slight spritz and citrus-driven notes that pair delightfully with anchovies.

White wines with the right balance of zest and saltiness are able to enhance the flavor of these small fish.

For those who prefer red wine, a light-bodied option such as Pinot Noir can also be a suitable match, especially when anchovies are part of a dish that includes earthy or smoky elements.

Also worth considering are non-alcoholic beverages that can stand up to the distinct taste of anchovies.

A crisp lager beer or a semi-sweet cider can offer a refreshing and satisfying alternative, ensuring that there’s a pairing for every preference and occasion.

Whether integrating them into recipes or enjoying them as a standalone snack, your choice of drink can significantly impact the enjoyment of anchovies.

The Basics of Wine and Food Pairing

An open tin of anchovies sits next to a glass of white wine and a bottle of red wine on a wooden table. A plate of assorted cheeses and crackers is nearby

When embarking on a culinary adventure, understanding how to pair wine with food enhances your dining experience.

Knowing the interaction between the flavors of your dish and the characteristics of your wine is crucial.

Understanding Flavor Profiles

To master wine pairing, it’s essential to recognize the basic flavor profiles: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami.

Anchovies are high in umami and saltiness which is critical when selecting a wine.

The umami richness pairs well with wines that have a corresponding depth, such as aged reds, while the saltiness finds a counterpart in crisp whites.

The Role of Acidity in Pairing

Wines with higher acidity can cut through richness and cleanse the palate.

For instance, food with a pronounced saltiness, especially anchovies, benefits from this contrast.

This acidity—found in wines like Manzanilla or fino sherry—provides a refreshing counterbalance to the pronounced saltiness of anchovies.

Balancing Saltiness and Wine Body

Your aim should be to complement the brininess of anchovies.

Full-bodied wines might overwhelm, but a light to medium-bodied wine will likely be more harmonious.

A spritzy Txakoli or a bright, acidic white wine enhances both the wine and anchovy flavors without overpowering them.

The Importance of Regional Pairings

Often, the best wine and food pairings are those that stem from the same region—a principle known as regional pairing.

For anchovies, consider regional European whites like an Italian Vermentino or a Vinho Verde from Portugal.

Both have the zest and lightness to balance the saltiness of the anchovies while bringing out the full range of flavors.

Anchovy Varieties and Wine Selections

A table displays various types of anchovies alongside a selection of wines and beverages, creating a perfect pairing for a gourmet experience

When selecting the perfect wine to complement anchovies, your choices should take into account the type of anchovy and the specific characteristics of the wine. Ensuring a harmonious pairing will elevate your culinary experience.

Types of Anchovies

Anchovies come in various styles and preparations.

Salted anchovies are intense in flavor and often require a wine that can stand up to this boldness.

Marinated anchovies, such as boquerones, tend to be milder and often pair well with lighter wines.

  • Salted: Preserved in salt, these have a robust, intense flavor.
  • Marinated (Boquerones): Usually in vinegar or oil, these are milder and tangy.

Choosing the Right Wine

The key to pairing anchovies with wine is balancing the intense salty-umami character of the fish with the right wine profile.

  • With Salted Anchovies
    • Fino or Manzanilla Sherry: These dry sherries, served chilled, can cut through the saltiness and complement the anchovies.
    • Port: A slightly cooler port around 16-18°C (60-64°F) can offer a sweet counterbalance.
  • With Marinated Anchovies (Boquerones)
    • Crisp White Wines: Look for bright white wines such as a zesty Sauvignon Blanc or a spritzy Txakoli to match the tanginess of the marinade.
    • Vermouth: An aromatic and herbaceous vermouth can often match the herb notes in the marinade.

Pairing with White Wines

Choosing the right white wine to accompany anchovies can transform your dish into a harmonious culinary experience. Here, you’ll discover how Sauvignon Blanc, Fino Sherry, and Assyrtiko each create unique and delightful pairings with various anchovy preparations.

Sauvignon Blanc and Fresh Anchovies

Sauvignon Blanc, with its zesty acidity and citrus notes, is an excellent match for fresh anchovies.

  • Recipe: Fresh Anchovies in Vinegar
  • Wine Characteristic: Crisp Acidity
  • Flavor Harmony: The wine’s brightness will counterbalance the anchovy’s brininess, enhancing the overall flavor profile.

Fino Sherry and Salted Anchovies

Fino Sherry, a dry and pale wine, complements salted anchovies exceptionally well, especially when served well-chilled.

  • Tapas Pairing: Salted Anchovies on Toast
  • Temperature: Serve Sherry Chilled (around 7-8°C or 45-46°F)
  • Palate Experience: The sherry’s dryness and slight almond nuttiness will cut through the saltiness of the anchovies.

Assyrtiko and Gourmet Anchovy Preparations

Assyrtiko, a Greek wine known for its minerality and crispness, pairs splendidly with more sophisticated anchovy dishes.

  • Gourmet Recipe: Anchovy Butter on Crostini
  • Wine Pairing: Assyrtiko, served chilled
  • Flavor Match: The wine’s fresh minerality and structured acidity complement the umami-richness of gourmet anchovy preparations.

Pairing with Red and Rosé Wines

An open bottle of red wine and a glass of rosé sit next to a plate of anchovies and crackers on a wooden table

Selecting the right red or rosé wine can elevate your anchovy dishes from good to great. It is essential to match the intensity and flavor profiles appropriately to ensure a harmonious dining experience.

Light Reds with Delicate Anchovy Dishes

For lighter anchovy dishes, like salads or simple pastas, Pinot Noir or a young Rioja made with Tempranillo grapes can be an excellent match.

These lighter reds carry subtle notes that do not overwhelm the salty and savory taste of anchovies.

  • Pinot Noir: Look for bottles with hints of red berries that can provide a refreshing counterbalance to saltiness.
  • Rioja: Choose young, unoaked varieties that offer vibrant fruit flavors and a slight minerality.

Rosé and Casual Anchovy-Infused Meals

When you’re enjoying a casual meal, such as pizza or bruschetta topped with anchovies, a chilled glass of rosé brings out the richness without overpowering the dish.

  • Provence Rosé: Known for its crisp and dry profile, perfectly complements the briny flavors of anchovies.
  • Rioja Rosé: Offers a fruitier palate, blending berry flavors with the fish’s saltiness for an enjoyable pairing.

Opt for a rosé made from Merlot or Tempranillo to find the right balance of fruitiness and acidity.

Anchovies in Global Cuisine

Anchovies have made a significant impact on global cuisine, finding their way into the heart of many classic and modern recipes. Their unique flavor enhances dishes from Spain to Greece, enriching everything from tapas to salads.

Spanish Influences

Your experience with anchovies in Spanish cuisine is likely to begin with tapas. These small plates often feature anchovies marinated in olive oil, paired with local favorites like:

  • Manzanilla or fino sherry
    • Regions: San Sebastián, Santorini, La Rioja
    • Characteristics: Chilled, freshly opened bottle to match salted anchovies
  • Palomino-based wines
    • Region: La Rioja
    • Taste: Complements the briny, sharp flavor of anchovies

French Flavors

In France, the marriage of anchovies with food and drink takes on a rustic yet refined approach.

You might enjoy your anchovies atop a crusty baguette with butter, or as a key ingredient in a Caesar salad.

Look for these wine interactions:

  • Rosé from Provence
    • Influence: A light, crisp counterpart to the saltiness of anchovies
  • Chardonnay
    • Serving: Slightly cooled to bridge the flavors of anchovies in butter-rich dishes

Gourmet Greek Pairings

Greece celebrates anchovies by incorporating them into various dishes.

On the island of Santorini, anchovies may be found in:

  • Pasta dishes with a touch of Greek olive oil
  • Light pizza versions, emphasizing local ingredients

For a truly Grecian experience, opt for:

  • Assyrtiko wine
    • Santorini: Renowned for its minerality and citrus notes to balance anchovy flavor

Pair your anchovy-infused dishes with these beverages to elevate your dining experiences, no matter where your culinary journey takes you.

Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Beverages Beyond Wine

A table set with anchovies, wine, and various non-alcoholic beverages. Glasses filled with different drinks, alongside a plate of anchovies

When integrating anchovies into your culinary experience, exploring both alcoholic and non-alcoholic pairings beyond traditional wine can enhance the flavors.

Your choices include a variety of beers and spirits that offer complementary tastes to the salty punch of anchovies.

Beer and Ale Pairings

With anchovies, your beer selection should balance the saltiness with either a refreshing contrast or a harmonious blend.

  • Alegria Manzanilla
    • Profile: Light and dry
    • Why It Works: Complements the fish’s brininess.
  • Romate Fino Perdido
    • Profile: Nutty and crisp
    • Why It Works: Supports the umami in anchovies.

For ales, seek out options with a touch of fruit or spice to bring out the best in both the drink and your dish.

  • Sauvignon Blanc Ale
    • Profile: Citrusy with white wine character
    • Why It Works: Its crisp acidity cuts through the anchovy’s oiliness

Spirits and Cocktails

A finely crafted cocktail or a neat spirit can also create a perfect pairing with anchovies.

  • Gin: Choose a gin with herbal notes to complement the intensity of anchovies.
    • Pairing Example: Gin & Tonic with a twist of lemon
    • Why It Works: The citrus element brightens the fish’s savory notes.
  • Vermouth: Opt for a dry vermouth to sip alongside anchovy-heavy dishes.
    • Pairing Example: A Dry Martini
    • Why It Works: Vermouth’s botanicals and anchovies share an affinity for complexity.

Consider ultra-dry sherries from Fino Spain, like Lustau La Ina, which have the body and complexity to stand up to the bold taste of anchovies, without overpowering them.

Tips for Home Entertaining

Anchovies arranged on a wooden serving board with glasses of wine and various beverages in the background

When entertaining at home, the pairing of food and wine can elevate the simplest recipes to an unforgettable culinary adventure.

Your selection of beverages can act as champions that enhance the flavors of dishes like pizza, pasta, and tapas.

Simple Recipes and Wine Combos

Caesar Salad: A classic Caesar salad pairs beautifully with a crisp Chardonnay. The wine’s bright acidity cuts through the creamy dressing and complements the umami from anchovies.

  • Recipe Idea: Add an extra layer of flavor to your Caesar by creating your own anchovy-infused oil.

Pizza: For a classic pizza topped with anchovies, choose a light-bodied red wine, such as a Chianti, which balances the salty fish without overwhelming it.

  • Wine Tip: Serve Chianti at room temperature to ensure the taste profile remains intact.

Pasta: Pair pasta dishes that incorporate anchovies with a zesty Pinot Grigio. Its citrusy notes highlight the briny flavors of the anchovies.

  • Easy Recipe: Toss spaghetti with garlic-infused olive oil, anchovies, and a sprinkle of parsley for a quick, yet refined dish.

Creating a Memorable Culinary Adventure

Tapas: Spanish tapas with anchovies find their perfect match in a glass of Manzanilla or Fino sherry. Serve this pairing at the start of your gathering to set a sophisticated tone.

  • Culinary Tip: Keep the sherry well-chilled for a refreshing contrast to the salty bite of the anchovies.

Entertainment: While serving, educate your guests briefly on the PH (acidity) balance in wine and how it complements the oily richness of anchovies in your dishes.

  • Wine Champions: Select wines that have a marked acidity or spritz, such as Txakoli, to add a vivacious lift to the flavors on the palate.

The Science of Taste and Pairing

Anchovies are paired with various wines and beverages in a laboratory setting, with scientists conducting taste experiments

In exploring wine and anchovies pairings, you’ll find that a delicate balance between the saltiness of the anchovies and the properties of the wine is crucial. Understanding this interplay is key for an enjoyable tasting experience.

Understanding Palates

Your palate perceives taste through a combination of flavors, including sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami.

Anchovies, high in umami and saltiness, present a pronounced flavor profile.

To complement this, choosing a wine with sufficient acidity can provide a counterbalance, allowing a refreshing tang to cleanse the palate. Consider these elements:

  • Umami: The savory taste prominent in anchovies which enhances the depth of flavor.
  • Saltiness: A characteristic of anchovies that needs to be matched with care to avoid overwhelming the wine’s flavors.

When these flavors are matched correctly, you experience a harmonious blend on your palate.

The Chemistry of Fermentation

Fermentation is the process where yeast converts sugars in grapes into alcohol, creating wine.

This biochemical transformation also develops the wine’s complexity, including its potential for acidity which plays a pivotal role in anchovy pairings. Keep in mind:

  • Wines with higher acidity tend to provide crispness and can balance the intense saltiness of the anchovies.
  • The process of fermentation can introduce different flavor notes to wine, such as citrus or green apple, that can complement the robust flavor of anchovies.

By selecting a wine that aligns with the chemistry of your dish, you enhance both the beverage and the food.

Curating a Wine and Anchovy Tasting

An array of anchovies and a selection of wine and beverages arranged for a tasting event

Creating an exceptional wine and anchovy tasting event revolves around understanding the unique pairings that bring out the best in both the wine and salty fish.

It’s a balance of environment and education that will turn your tasting into a memorable culinary adventure.

Setting the Ambience

Location: Choose a setting that is comfortable and free from overpowering aromas that could interfere with your guests’ ability to discern the delicate flavors of the wine and anchovies. A well-ventilated room or an outdoor patio can be ideal.

Table Setting: Arrange your table with white tablecloths to help guests visually evaluate the color and clarity of the wines. Provide each guest with a clear wine glass and a small plate for tapas.

Lighting: Ensure the lighting is subdued but sufficient for guests to observe the wine’s hue and to navigate their tapas selections safely.

Temperature: Serve whites and sparkling wines chilled, between 8-12°C (46-54°F), whereas light reds should be slightly cooler than room temperature, around 14-16°C (57-61°F), to enhance the tasting experience.

Educating Your Guests

About Anchovies: Begin with a brief explanation of the types of anchovies being served, such as salted or marinated, and discuss the qualities that make them favorable for pairing with wine.

The Pairing Process: Explain how certain characteristics of wine, like acidity and fruitiness, interact with the briny, umami-rich flavors of anchovies.

Highlight crisp white wines, like Manzanilla or Fino sherry, that complement the saltiness of the fish with freshness and zest.

Wine Champions: Introduce each wine, detailing its origin, flavor profile, and why it has been chosen for the pairing.

For example, a dry white with citrus notes can brighten the dish, whereas a sweet and mature port can offer a contrasting indulgence.

Tasting Technique: Coach your guests on how to properly taste wine: look, sniff, swirl, then sip, allowing the wine to interact with the anchovies on the palate to fully appreciate the complementary flavors of both.

Sustainable Practices in Production

Anchovies and wine are being paired with sustainable production practices

In pairing anchovies with wine and beverages, you can enhance your experience by choosing products that are created with sustainable practices.

These practices not only support the environment but also can influence the taste and quality of your pairings.

Eco-Friendly Fishing

When choosing anchovies, look for certifications that indicate eco-friendly fishing practices.

These practices help to maintain the natural population of anchovies and the balance of the marine ecosystem.

For example, fishing methods like the purse-seine net, which targets shoals of anchovies selectively, limit bycatch and habitat disruption.

Sustainable fishing ensures that the anchovies you enjoy today will be available for future generations.

Organic and Biodynamic Wines

For a wine pairing, organic and biodynamic wines are excellent choices that reflect careful stewarship of the land.

Organic vineyards avoid synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, resulting in a lower impact on the surrounding environment.

Biodynamic wine goes a step further, treating the vineyard as a single organism where everything is interconnected.

This philosophy emphasizes a holistic approach where the vineyard’s biodiversity and the pH balance of the soil are carefully maintained.

  • Organic Wines: These are made from grapes that are grown in accordance with principles of organic farming. This includes a high level of biodiversity and the use of natural compounds rather than synthetic chemicals.
  • Biodynamic Wines: Biodynamic practices are inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s principles, which anticipate modern organic farming. In addition to organic farming practices, biodymanic wine production includes following a planting calendar that depends upon astronomical configurations, and treating the earth as a living and receptive organism.

When enjoying sherry or fino with your anchovies, consider choosing brands that value sustainable practices.

The region of Jerez, where many sherries come from, has producers who are increasingly adopting organic and biodynamic methods.

This provides you with choices that contribute to environmental preservation and offer a distinctive taste profile.

Purchasing and Preservation

Anchovies and wine bottles displayed next to preserved fruits and herbs

When selecting anchovies and wines, the focus is on acquiring quality products and storing them correctly to preserve their flavors and extend shelf life.

Selecting Quality Products

When purchasing anchovies, it’s imperative to look for freshness and provenance.

Fresh anchovies should have a bright, shiny appearance with firm flesh, indicating their freshness.

If you opt for preserved anchovies, choose those stored in oil for better texture and flavor.

Check the labels for any additional preservatives as fewer additives often denote higher quality.

In terms of wine, its quality is often reflective of the region and the care taken during the production process.

Selecting wines from reputable vineyards or regions known for their specific varieties will generally lead to a more satisfying pairing experience with your anchovies.

Storing Anchovies and Wines


  • Fresh anchovies are highly perishable and should be consumed within a day or kept in the refrigerator, not exceeding two days.
  • For preserved anchovies, ensure the seal is intact upon purchase.
  • Once opened, keep them submerged in oil and refrigerate; they can last for several months.


  • Keep wine bottles stored horizontally in a wine cellar or any cool, dark place to prevent the cork from drying out.
  • Ideal storage temperature for wine is between 45°F (7°C) and 65°F (18°C), with 55°F (13°C) being often cited as a near-perfect temperature.
  • Consistency in temperature is key — avoid storing wines in a place with temperature fluctuations.

Adhering to these preservation methods will maintain the quality and enhance the living essence of both anchovies and wines, ensuring each pairing is as intended.

Pairing Anchovies with Non-Traditional Beverages

An open can of anchovies next to a glass of red wine and a bottle of craft beer on a rustic wooden table

When you think of anchovies, traditional wine pairings might spring to mind, but there’s a whole spectrum of non-traditional beverages that can also complement their unique flavor. Let’s explore some novel pairings.

Exploring Unconventional Combinations

Gin: The botanicals in gin can offer a refreshing counterpoint to the saltiness of anchovies.

A gin and tonic, with its crisp effervescence, can cleanse your palate between bites.

Merlot: While not a typical choice, a young Merlot with bright acidity and fruity notes can balance the brininess of anchovies without overwhelming them.

Remember to opt for a wine that’s not too tannic.

Vermouth: As an aromatic fortified wine, vermouth—especially when served chilled—provides a harmonious blend of herbs and spices that can enhance the complex flavors of anchovies.

The Versatility of Anchovies in Drinks

Beverage Pairing: Your choice of beverage pairing should echo the primary characteristics of anchovies — saltiness, umami, and a certain boldness.

Non-Traditional Beverages:

Beverage TypeNotesWhy It Works
Craft LagerCrisp, SparklingRefreshes and contrasts saltiness
Hard SeltzerLight, FlavorfulComplements without dominating
Fine CiderSemi-sweetBalances umami with fruitiness

In essence, when you pair anchovies with non-traditional beverages, the aim is to either complement the umami and saltiness or to offer a refreshing contrast that cleanses the palate.


Anchovies sit next to glasses of wine and other beverages, creating a perfect pairing for a delightful evening

When selecting a wine to pair with anchovies, your aim is to balance the saltiness and intensity of the fish.

A crisp, bright white wine, such as a spritzy Txakoli or a zesty Manzanilla sherry, often serves well, complementing the brininess of the anchovies.

For a different experience, a sweet port around 16-18°C can offer a delightful contrast, provided it’s served just below room temperature.

On the other hand, should you prefer red wine, choose a light-bodied variety like Pinot Noir, which can handle the bold flavors, particularly if anchovies are part of a dish with earthy or smoky undertones.

Here’s a quick guide to your options:

  • White and Sparkling:
    • Manzanilla or fino sherry: Chilled, fresh.
    • Txakoli: Spanish spritzy white.
    • Wines with notes of lemon, lime, and white blossom.
  • Red Wine:
    • Pinot Noir: For a light-bodied choice that goes well with more complex anchovy dishes.
  • Sweet and Fortified:
    • Port: A sweet counterpoint to the anchovy’s saltiness.

For non-alcoholic pairings, the refreshing zing of a crisp lager or a semi-sweet cider can be equally pleasing.

The key is to look for beverages that provide a refreshing undertone to balance the pronounced flavor profile of the anchovies.

Frequently Asked Questions

An open book with a list of FAQs about pairing anchovies with wine and beverages

When pairing wines and beverages with anchovies, you want to balance saltiness and enhance the flavors without overwhelming them. Here’s the guidance you need to choose just the right pairing.

What types of wine complement the saltiness of anchovies best?

For the briny, salty character of anchovies, crisp and bright white wines are ideal.

Look for a wine with acidity such as a cool Manzanilla or Fino sherry, which has a refreshing profile that can cleanse the palate between bites.

Can you recommend a wine pairing for a dish featuring anchovies, like bagna cauda?

Bagna cauda, being a rich and savory dish, pairs well with a Vermentino from Liguria, which offers a balance between acidity and fruitiness, or a slightly chilled port, which contrasts the dish with its sweet notes.

What non-alcoholic beverages pair well with anchovy-flavored dishes?

Choose sparkling mineral water to cleanse the palate or a citrus-flavored soda that can provide a sweet and tart counterbalance to the savory umami of anchovy-flavored dishes.

How do I choose a wine that balances the umami flavor of anchovies?

Select a dry wine with a hint of salinity or herbal notes.

Varietals like Txakoli from Northern Spain or a tart Nero d’Avola from Sicily can interact well with the rich umami and saltiness of anchovies without competing for the spotlight.

Are there any specific wine varietals that should be avoided when pairing with anchovies?

Heavily oaked wines or very sweet dessert wines can clash with anchovies.

Their dominant flavors might overpower the delicate fish, so these are generally best avoided.

What characteristics should I look for in a beverage when serving it with an anchovy-heavy meal?

Aim for beverages with bright acidity, a touch of salinity, or slight effervescence.

Whether you choose wine or a non-alcoholic option, it should offer a refreshing contrast to the anchovies’ intensive flavor profile.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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