Tinned Fish and Wine Pairings

Tinned Fish and Wine Pairings

In the tiny seaside towns dotting the Galician coast, and the bustling streets of colorful cities that rise from the ocean’s edge, whole menus are dedicated to conserva. Because here, tinned fish is an art form. It’s a way of eating that celebrates the abundance and flavors of the sea.

In Galicia and the surrounding regions, mollusks, octopi, squid, and fish are plucked from the ocean and cooked straight away, in some cases, on a woodfired grill at the water’s edge. After they’re cooked to perfection, they’re covered in sauces and oils chosen to enhance their distinct flavors, then packaged in tidy little containers, preserved at the pinnacle of freshness.

There’s something incredibly fulfilling about popping the lid off a tin of perfectly cooked mussels, tearing a chunk off a fresh baguette, and pouring yourself a glass of Albariño. Or diving into a can of lusciously inky squid with a glass of Mencia at your side.

We’ve put together a list of our favorite Galician conserva pairings so you can get the most out of your precious cans.

Squid in Ink with Mencia

One of the most distinctive, and classic, Galician conserva is calamares en su tinta, or, squid in its ink. Tiny pieces of tender octopus or squid are cooked and packed up tight in a glossy jet-black bath of ink.

It pairs incredibly well with Mencia, a grape native to Galicia. Mencia gives the bold fresh fruit flavors you find in Beaujolais, with the hint of greenery you might find in a Cab Franc, all combined with a unique dose of crushed stone drenched in red berries and pomegranate provide a luscious backbone that enlivens this conserva alone, or in a meal.

One of our favorite uses for calamares en su tinta is Nero di Seppia, a Sicilian pasta dish that calls for squid and its ink. Pair with a glass of Mencia, or a Sicilian red wine from the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna like Nero d’Avola or Frappato.

Why this pairing works

  • The aromatic, fruit forward, structured Mencia has the perfect backbone — reminiscent of the ridiculously steep hills it’s farmed on — to pair with the rich squid ink pasta.
  • Pairing with squid alone is a traditional regional pairing. This is our number on tenet — what grows together, goes together.

Mussels and Albariño

These Galician tinned mussels aren’t your average grocery aisle mollusk. Packed in a light escabeche sauce of vinegar, paprika, and bay leaf, they’re the perfectly balanced bite. Pair with Albariño, a grape native to the Iberian coastal region.

Albariño comes from Rias Baixas, the coastal region where rivers weave their way from the Atlantic into the lush green landscape of Galicia. Pairing with these mussels is a hyper-local move — one that fully embraces the axiom of “What grows together goes together.”

A non-regional pairing can offer tasty results as well. Look to Sicily’s island wines, Grillo in particular.

Why this works

  • The umami flavor of the mussels contrasts with the crispness of the Albarino.
  • Wines that provide contrast while matching acidity make a dish sing.

Razor Clams and Palomino

Razor clams are one of the most prized mollusks — they have a firm texture, delicate ivory color, and a flavor that calls to mind salty breezes on windswept shores. Pop a can and serve as is, with a squeeze of lemon and fresh bread, or in a seafood pasta dish with a healthy dose of fresh chopped herbs.

Whether they’re packed in their brine or olive oil, we eat them with wines that complement their coastal identity. Wines that turn bring a bit of the rich warmth of sunset to the beachy afternoon aura that razor clams give us. So we turn to slightly oxidative wines made with Palomino, the backbone of fino sherry.

Why this works

  • The evocative salinity of the clams matches the hint of ocean air in the Palomino.
  • This is one of the principles of pairing, that your food and wine should match each other’s intensity, in this case, saltiness matches saltiness.

Sardines with Godello

Sardines might have fallen off the radar in the U.S. (before the rise of hot girl tinned fish), but they never fell off menus or shelves in Galicia and the rest of the Iberian peninsula. And with their silvery sides tightly packed into rich oils in little cans, how could they?

We enjoy this conserva, packed in oils that accentuate the natural texture of sardines, with Godello. Generally, Godello is aromatic, citrusy,and slightly saline, but fuller bodied than Albariño and with a healthy dose of minerality. If you happen to find a skin contact Godello, like the one in our collection, even better.

If you opt for a non-regional pairing, look to Provence. A full rosé will give you all the lifted juiciness you could want to cut through the opulent weight of the sardines, with enough body to match.

Why this pairing works

  • The acidity and texture of these wines cut through the mouth-coating effect of the fish, and their medium body ensures that the oiliness of the sardines won’t outweigh the wine.
  • This is a typical regional pairing — in Spain, Godello is often served with meatier fish.