The best wines to pair with Sole are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Albariño. Dover sole is a low-fat fish with a firm texture and a delicate flavour. Dover Sole does not taste fishy, but rather, it tastes mild and slightly sweet. Despite being delicate in flavour, Dover Sole can stand up to heavier sauces.
What is Dover Sole?
Sole is a flatfish, meaning it spends most of its day resting on the ocean floor, half-buried under the sand. The majority of Sole sold in North America are Flounder, and the only species that is truly from the Sole Species is Dover Sole, which is imported from Europe.
Dover Sole has an unmistakable firm, meaty texture that is much different than the Flounder sold in North America that is sold and marketed as Lemon Sole, Grey Sole and Petrale Sole. If the Sole you are buying is not imported from Europe, then it is Flounder. Even if it is labelled as Dover Sole, you have to ensure it was imported from Europe as there is a Pacific Dover Sole marketed in the United States, which is really a Flounder.
Dover Sole vs Flounder
The main difference between Flounder and Dover Sole is that Dover Sole has firm flesh when cooked (like Halibut, but even firmer) and a delicate flavour. Because it is so delicious, Dover Sole is expensive.
Flounder, on the other hand, can be mushy when cooked and is very fragile. Flooder’s delicate texture makes it less versatile as it falls apart too easily. For example, you can’t use Flounder in a stew or soup as it will dissolve into flakes. In contrast, Denver Sole and Halibut are great for soups and stews as they will have a chunky texture.
Furthermore, cooking Flounder as a fillet, which is one of the most convenient ways to cook a fish, is a challenging task. Because Flounder is so delicate, the fish will turn to mush in the pan, making it nearly impossible to transfer it from the pan to the plate as a whole fillet. As such, the best way to cook Flounder is by keeping it whole, as the fish will remain firmer and taste tastier. Cooking a fish whole creates new problems as it has to be carved at the table once cooked, or if it’s a smaller fish, it will be served whole to each guest individually. Serving a whole fish in North America is quite confusing, as we are not used to eating fish with the skin and bones intact.
With all that said, the best way to cook Dover Sole is with the bones intact, as the bones add so much flavour to the dish. If you are in a fine dining restaurant, have no fear, your server or chef will often filet the whole fish right at the table for you.
Flounder is a delicious fish, however, it does not reach the culinary heights of other popular flatfish such as Dover Sole, Brill, Halibut and Turbot. One day, I will write a blog specifically for Flounder (and the Sole knockoffs), but for now, if you require Flounder wine pairings, all the suggestions below will work.
Can I serve Red Wine with Sole?
Absolutely Not! While you could serve red wine with Dover Sole, it is not recommended. Light red wines such as Beaujolais or Pinot Noir will not bring any value to this pairing as you will not taste any of the delicate but meaty flavours of the fish. Plus, the fish might also make red wine taste awful. I say ‘might‘ as I am not brave or crazy enough to try red wine with Sole. I feel it would be just as reckless to slather raspberry jam on your Sole and calling that a meal.
If someone insists on drinking red wine with Sole, shove a beer in their face (I’d recommend a Wheat Beer). If that fails, call an exorcist or the funny farm.
Best Wines with Dover Sole
|White Wine||Burgundy, White||Grilled Sole|
|White Wine||Burgundy, White||Sole Fried|
|White Wine||Chardonnay||Sole with a Cream Sauce|
|White Wine||Chardonnay, Unoaked||Sole|
|White Wine||Burgundy, White||Dover Sole|
|White Wine||Burgundy, White||Sole|
|White Wine||Sauvignon Blanc||Herbed Sole|
|White Wine||Burgundy, White||Sole Florentine|
|White Wine||Chardonnay||Sole with Lemon Butter Sauce|
|White Wine||Chardonnay||Sole Sautéed|
|Beer||American Wheat Beer||Sole|
|White Wine||Vernaccia di San Gimignano (DOC)||Sole Florentine|
|White Wine||Châteauneuf du Pape, White||Sole|
|White Wine||Alsatian Riesling||Grilled Sole|
|White Wine||Chardonnay||Sole Florentine|
|White Wine||Mâconnais, White||Dover Sole|
|White Wine||Gavi di Gavi / Cortese di Gavi (DOCG)||Sole|
|White Wine||Grüner Veltliner||Sole Fried|
|White Wine||Bordeaux AOC White||Dover Sole|
|White Wine||Alsatian Riesling||Sole|
|White Wine||Hermitage, White||Sole Florentine|
|White Wine||Châteauneuf du Pape, White||Sole with a Cream Sauce|
|White Wine||Kabinett Riesling||Grilled Sole|
|White Wine||Kabinett Riesling||Sole|
|White Wine||Geisberg Grand Cru||Sole|
|Beer||Piwo Grodziskie||Grilled Sole|
|White Wine||Pinot Bianco||Sole|
|White Wine||Weisser Riesling - South Africa||Sole Mousse|
|White Wine||Chardonnay||Dover Sole|
|White Wine||Alvarinho - Portugal||Sole|
|White Wine||Grüner Veltliner||Herbed Sole|
|White Wine||Condrieu (AOC)||Sole Florentine|
|Beer||Lager||Sole with Lemon Butter Sauce|
|White Wine||Riesling||Grilled Sole|
|White Wine||Pouilly Fumé||Sole|
|White Wine||Bâtard-Montrachet||Lobster Cassolette|
|White Wine||Gavi di Gavi / Cortese di Gavi (DOCG)||Sole Florentine|
|White Wine||Torrontés||Grilled Sole|
|White Wine||Meursault||Dover Sole|
|White Wine||Sancerre||Dover Sole|
|White Wine||Semillon||Dover Sole|
|Sparkling Wine||Sparkling Wine||Sole|
|White Wine||Sauvignon Blanc||Sole|
|White Wine||Tempranillo Blanco||Sole|
|White Wine||Pinot Grigio||Sole|
|White Wine||Soave Classico||Sole|
|White Wine||Chablis||Dover Sole|
|White Wine||Chassagne Montrachet, White||Dover Sole|
|White Wine||Sauvignon Blanc||Dover Sole|
|Fortified Wine||Madeira, Sercial||Sole|
|Beer||Ale||Sole with Lemon Butter Sauce|
|White Wine||Viognier||Sole Sautéed|
Dover Sole & Chardonnay Pairing
For simple preparations of Sole that are poached, grilled, braised or pan-fried, a subtly oaked Chardonnay or white Burgundy is my top choice. Chardonnay pairs well with Sole as the wine features amazing flavours of apple, pear, peach, mango, pineapple, vanilla, smoke, and butter.
If there is no sauce accompanying the Sole, I would select a lean Chardonnay, which only features a subtle amount of oak and does not come across as too rich or creamy. A lean Chardonnay has just enough restraint to not overwhelm the delicate but meaty flavours of Denver Sole. Instead, this style of Chardonnay is focused on the citrus, apple, and pear flavours. For similar reasons, a lean Chardonnay is also exceptional, with Denver Sole served with a light lemon sauce.
For Denver Sole in a cream-based sauce or a butter sauce, I would select a richer Chardonnay that features pleasant buttery flavours, as they will complement the cream or buttery sauce.
Dover Sole is expensive, so I suggest buying the best Chardonnay within your budget for the best pairing. Perhaps it would be best if I rephrase that sentence: When eating authentic Dover Sole, don’t skimp out and buy a cheap Chardonnay. Lower-budget Chardonnay will use additives, shortcuts and flavourings to create Chardonnay that tastes perfumed or like rancid popcorn. Cheap Chardonnay has its time and place, however, it would be a waste of good fish and money to enjoy it with Dover Sole.
Herb Crusted Sole & Sauvignon Blanc Pairing
For herb-crusted Sole, a Sauvignon Blanc will naturally complement the green flavours of this dish. Sauvignon Blanc is adored for its grassy and herbaceous notes, which will blend in perfectly with the herbs sprinkled on top of your filet of Sole.
Sauvignon Blanc also delivers crisp lemon, grapefruit and tropical fruit flavours that provide plenty of refreshment with each bite. Furthermore, the high acidity of Sauvignon Blanc also brings out the best in each bite of Sole.
Sole & Riesling Pairing
Riesling is a crisp white wine that pairs with nearly everything due to its aromatic flavours of apple, honey, apricot, citrus, lime, minerals and peach. Bright with acidity, Riesling will make the Sole taste even more flavourful, as acidity amplifies the flavours of whatever it touches. This is why we often squeeze lemon on food, as the acid from the lemon makes whatever it touches taste brighter.
When choosing a Riesling, I would select something Dry. While I love an off-dry Riesling, which is slightly sweet and maybe a little effervescent, my preference with Dover Sole would be for a dry Riesling, as I want to taste the natural sweet flavours of the fish instead. I’m paying a lot of money for the Dover Sole, and I feel the kiss of sweetness found in the meat could get lost in the mix of an off-Dry Riesling and the fish.
Sole & Albariño Pairing
Albariño is a Spanish white wine featuring aromatic and fruity notes of apple, apricot, melon and peach. Similar to Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño comes across as fresh and bright. Yet Albariño has a lot in common with Riesling, as you’ll find peach and mineral notes.
Albariño is fantastic with anything you’d squeeze a little lemon juice on, such as Dover Sole. The high acidity of Albariño will make the firm sole meat taste even more delicious while simultaneously adding some exciting flavours that won’t distract or overwhelm the delicate flavours of the fish.
Gavi & Dover Sole Pairing
Gavi is not a white wine you hear mentioned all that often, however, this crisp white wine from Italy is delicious with Dover Sole and other white fish.
Featuring high acidity and notes of lemon, lime, mineral, peach and pear, the quite flavours of Gavi will never interfere with the flavours of your Sole. Instead, this perky little wine acts as a cheerleader, and encourages you to enjoy each bite of fish.