White wine with fish, red wine with meat, simple as that. Or is it? This pearl was most likely handed down in the halcyon pre-Delia days when white wine meant sancerre or muscadet and red meant bordeaux or beaujolais. Fortunately for us all, there are now many more exciting wines to choose from, which is just as well because recipes these days are so much more imaginative and eclectic, as shown by our very own Mark Hix on the previous pages. France has its jurançon, roussillon and Alsace and beyond, there's crisp fresh Spanish albariño and a host of native Italian whites (more of which next week), Austrian grüner veltliner and the new-wave drier styles of German riesling. There are the assertive sauvignons of New Zealand, New World graves-style blends with semillon and Cape chenin blanc, not to mention dry Aussie rieslings.
The succulence of shellfish's sweet, delicate meat begs for an accompanying white wine that can provide dryness with a cut of refreshing acidity. For fresh oysters, moules marinières or even grilled Dover sole, you want a wine that's dry and crisp, so you could go for the traditional French option or, thinking laterally, consider a light Australian Hunter semillon, vinho verde from Portugal, or Greek assyrtiko. Buttery, creamy textures might need a premier cru chablis or a meursault, or, with your lateral hat on, albariño, grüner veltliner, Clare Valley riesling or a semillon sauvignon blend. More exotic pairings, such as Mark's black pudding and squid recipe, require more imaginative solutions.
Mark's baked clams are offset, to an extent, by the inbuilt lemony zest. Here, the 2008 La Grille Cool-Fermented Loire Chenin Blanc, £5.99, or buy two = £4.99 until 30 March, Majestic, or the intensely flavoured 2007 Pouilly-Fumé, L'Antique, Jean Paul Mollet, £10.99, down from £14.99, Sainsbury's, will slice through any residual richness. Equally, classic chablis such as the 2007 Domaine Servin Chablis, £9.99, Majestic, or the mouthwateringly citrusy 2006 Domaine Pierre de Préhy Chablis, £10.99, M&S, will fit the bill nicely. With the scallops broth and the risotto, I'd incline towards a graves-style, lemon-grassy fresh 2008 Knock On Wood Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, £8.99, M&S, or the ultra-stylish, complex 2007 Cullen Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, around £15.99, Philglas & Swiggot, Whole Foods Market, Villeneuve Wines.
Competing layers of oily richness in the deep-fried sprats with wild garlic aioli require a wine made to handle richness with ease. A prime candidate is the bracingly refreshing 2008 Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde from Portugal's Atlantic, £6.24, or buy 2 = £4.99, until 30 March, at Majestic, or a crisp, sea-breezy, sea-salty 2007 Lagar de Fornelos Asda Extra Special Albariño, £6.80. Or be bold and try the richer, fuller and wilder 2007 Hatzidakis Assyrtiko, £9.99, Waitrose, an intense minerally wine from volcanic Santorini. Dry riesling too chimes well, the lime zestiness of the Clare Valley's 2007 Leasingham Magnus Riesling, around £7.99, Sainsbury's, Thresher, Somerfield, or Knappstein's 2007 Asda Extra Special Clare Valley Riesling, £8.12, the perfect foil. As for squid and black pudding, strike out with a red, a fragrant pinot noir like the 2006 Villa Wolf Pinot Noir, £9.99, Oddbins, or this week's sexy under a tenner Aussie red.