Kenya’s Favourite Wines To Pair With Fish

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Fish dishes can be so varied, and in Kenya influenced by so many different cuisines; what are the options for choosing a wine to accompany your food? In this article we highlight some of Kenya’s favourite wines to pair with our favourite fish, so you can choose the best wine to complement your meal.


Salmon has a silky, oily texture and mild flavour, so pairing wine with this fish needs careful handling. A lot depends on how the salmon is treated; but in general a bolder white wine or a light red wine will stand up to the fattiness of the fish well. (Yes, it’s perfectly fine to pair red wine with fish, provided you avoid wines heavy in tannins. See our article on how to pair red wine with fish for even more pairing ideas.)

So, for example, a pinot noir such as Louis Latour’s Valmoissine Pinot Noir will beautifully complement a seared salmon fillet. If you’re not keen on red wines, a pinot noir-based rosé such as the Yealands Rosé will also cut through the fattiness of the salmon with its dry, crisp fruit flavours.

For salmon presented with butter, herbs and lemon, your ideal pair is a herbaceous sauvignon blanc; a great match would be the Chilean Undurraga U Series Sauvignon Blanc. On the other hand, a chardonnay such as Louis Latour’s Chablis La Chanfleure will perfectly suit salmon in a cream sauce.

Smoked salmon is best served with a young, dry, aromatic white such as St Johns Road Peace of Eden Riesling. This wine will balance not only the smoky flavour but also the moist, fatty texture of the meat.


Tuna is a meaty fish which will pair with light red wines or full bodied white wines. Again, much depends on how the tuna is cooked; for example, a simply seasoned seared tuna steak will work well with a rosé from the south of France such as Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve Rosé. Conversely, if you like your tuna steak rare, a medium bodied red could be a great match; try Trumpeter Cabernet Franc with barbecued tuna.

If your tuna dish contains elements of Asian cuisines, think about the flavours in the meal before choosing your wine. For example in south-east Asian cooking you find a lot of lime, coriander and chilli; the more aromatic and fruity white wines will work best with these flavours. Try Voyager Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon for its citrus and tropical fruit notes; or Rutini Collection Gewurztraminer for its lychee aromas and spice.

Raw tuna in the form of sashimi is often served with sweet accompaniments such as mirin; in which case a dry white wine would work best. An oaked sauvignon blanc such as the Rutini Collection Sauvignon Blanc provides a refreshing foil to the fish’s soft texture.


Marlin is another versatile meaty fish, similar in texture to tuna, but not as fatty as salmon, and with a milder flavour than both. Try to avoid sweeter wines or heavier red wines which will overpower the flavour of the fish.

For barbecued or grilled marlin, a light to medium bodied red or dry rosé will work very well; great matches include Cinelli Colombini Chianti Superiore and Gérard Bertrand’s Cote Des Roses Rosé. On the other hand, a full bodied, lightly oaked white wine such as Yealands Estate Wine Makers Reserve Sauvignon Blanc will complement the caramelisation achieved in pan frying or roasting the fish.

If your marlin is cooked in a tomato based sauce, the best wine pairs would be an acidic rosé or a medium bodied pinot noir; these will stand up to the stronger flavours present without overpowering the fish. Hesketh’s Wild at Heart Rosé and Trumpeter Pinot Noir really complement dishes like baked marlin in tomato and olive sauce.


Snapper is a more delicately flavoured fish than any of the above, with a firm-but-flaky texture. Because of this it rewards more gentle cooking methods such as baking and pan frying. Think about the flavours in the meal as a whole before choosing wines to pair with this fish. For example, a vibrant rosé such as Charles & Charles Rosé will nicely complement snapper roasted in a tomato based sauce. However, a sauvignon blanc like Yealands Estate Land Made Sauvignon Blanc would better suit pan fried snapper in a lemon butter sauce; this wine will cut through the fat and provide balance overall.


Tilapia is also mild flavoured, lean and flaky; look for lighter, zesty white wines to pair with this fish so you don’t overwhelm the flavour. Dry, crisp wines like Yealands Pinot Gris or The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc are great choices to pair with tilapia.

If your dish is spicy or Asian inspired, go for a slightly sweeter, aromatic wine; the Undurraga U Series Gewurztraminer or Hesketh’s Regional Selection Eden Valley Riesling are great choices for this type of meal.

Nile perch

The Nile perch is a freshwater fish with a mild flavour and moist, firm, flaky flesh. This fish also pairs best with crisp, dry white wines, particularly pinot gris and sauvignon blanc. Try Hesketh Rules of Engagement Pinot Grigio with a simply seasoned, pan fried fillet of Nile perch. If your dish contains citrus flavours, for example a lemon and caper dressing, a fruity New Zealand sauvignon blanc will work well; the Clearwater Cove Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and refreshing, with complementary citrus flavours.

For a creamier Nile perch dish, your best bet is a chardonnay which helps cut through the fat and balance the flavours; Hesketh’s Lost Weekend Chardonnay would make a great match with a fish pie, for instance.

A word about pairing wines with sushi

Salmon and tuna are often found in sushi, which in itself is often delicately flavoured. However, its powerfully flavoured accompaniments such as wasabi and soy sauce can feel daunting to find a wine match for.

Sushi usually balances the elements of sweet, salty and umami very well, so a fruity, well balanced pinot gris such as Clearwater Cove Pinot Gris makes a good match. Remember, however, that the saltiness in the soy sauce can make your wine seem sweeter; so you might want to pair sushi with a drier, less acidic wine than you would otherwise buy. If you like adding a lot of soy sauce to your sushi, our recommendations would be Yealands Pinot Noir or Gérard Bertrand’s Cote Des Roses Sauvignon Blanc.