The right wine and food pairing can transform your meal from ordinary to extraordinary, and seafood—whether delicate scallops, flavorful lobster, or the many options in between—is no exception.
There are different schools of thought regarding wine and seafood pairings. Does “white wine with fish, red wine with meat” sound familiar? That doesn’t always apply. For one, seafood is rich in umami, a flavor that can make a dish seem more savory and satisfying, but can be difficult to pair with wines. Plus, the way a food is prepared can change the final flavor. Many umami-rich ingredients used in cooking with seafood are mushrooms, tomatoes, and seaweed. If your dish is rich in umami but lacks salt (such as mushrooms), a very fruity wine works well. Or…add a pinch of salt!
But don’t sweat it. You’re supposed to enjoy your meal, not stress out about the perfect pairing! Plenty of people subscribe to the “artistic” versus “scientific” school of thought, which purports that food and wine pairing should be left to an individual’s palate rather than a strict set of rules.
Either way you look at it, several distinct flavors within wine and seafood go well with each other. Below are winning pairings that will leave you satisfied, or inspired to cook with whatever fresh fish you have on hand.
Winning Wine and Seafood Pairings
Chardonnay or Barbera with Surf and Turf
Butter steak and shrimp, a classic surf and turf combo, is a complex dish to pair because shrimp works well with a full-bodied white wine like Chardonnay, but steak goes well with a rich red. However, bear in mind that the tannins in a full-bodied red may impact the flavors of your shrimp and somewhat dominate their flavor. So, if you want to enjoy a glass of red wine with your meal, choose one with a lower tannin content and a lighter body, such as Michele Chiarlo Le Orme Barbera d’Asti DOCG.
On the other hand, bacon-wrapped shrimp, a surf and turf party favorite, is often served as an appetizer at a catered occasion or as a shared small dish during a sit-down meal. The large shrimp wrapped in thin, crispy bacon combines wonderfully with an oaked white Chardonnay because it helps temper all that delicious yet thirst-inducing salt.
Riesling or Moscato with Scallops
Depending on how the scallops are prepared, you’ll want a wine with some residual sugar or a fuller body. Fresh raw scallops or those that have been prepared in a ceviche style with lime or lemon juice go well with a bottle of slightly sweet wine like Riesling or Moscato. If pan-seared or otherwise cooked, full-bodied whites like Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc will complement the texture and robust taste without overpowering the scallops.
Falanghina with Lobster
For seafood connoisseurs, lobster is frequently regarded as the pinnacle of sophistication. It’s decadent, beefy, and delectable. A premium dish like lobster deserves a thoughtful fine wine selection. While Chardonnay is a popular choice with lobster dishes, why not try something new? Opt for a southern Italian white wine like Villa Matilde Falanghina Campania IGP. The fruity, floral notes complement the fresh, delicate taste of pure lobster and don’t overpower it with “loud” oaky flavors.
Pinot Grigio or Lambrusco with Crab Legs
Once again, the best wine for crab legs depends on how you prepare and serve the crustacean. If they’re dressed simply with lemon dressing and served cold, a zingy Pinot Grigio will nicely underline the citrus flavors. For a warm crab leg preparation and a simple garlic butter sauce, a Riesling will bring out the natural sweet flavor of the meal and the wine. An unexpected but very successful pairing is a classic, sparkling Lambrusco from Italy. Medici Ermete Quercioli Dolce Reggiano Lambrusco DOC has a small amount of residual sweetness and plenty of fruitiness that brings out the flavor of the crab meat. It is a highly adaptable wine for pairing with practically any crab meat preparation (in fact, go ahead and try it with lobster, too!).
Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc with Delicate to Meaty Fish
Fish, of course, runs the gamut from delicate and flaky to hearty and steak-like. If you have a light, white fish like halibut, haddock, or cod, these pair well with a light, crisp white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. However, if you venture into the realm of meatier fish like tuna and salmon, full-bodied whites like Chardonnay and even light-bodied reds like a chilled Pinot Noir will stand up well next to the more pronounced texture and flavor of the fish.
White Burgundy with Eel
Our next seafood and wine pairing destination is eel. This is considered adventurous by most people! But if you like sushi, you’ll know eel isn’t scary, especially when served as a traditional sashimi dish. Eel is meaty, a bit fatty, and very flavorful. A fuller-bodied but still balanced Chardonnay is white Burgundy, which will be matched in flavor intensity to the eel. The dry white will also “cut through” the fattiness of the eel.
Champagne And Oysters
Last but not least are oysters. Oysters might be grilled, served with dips that are garlicky, spicy, and citrusy, fried, and more. As a result, a wine that can handle the variety is required, which is where Champagne enters the party. The bubbles can take various flavors without overpowering or underplaying them. So, grab a bottle and enjoy!
Are you hungry yet, or feeling excited to start pairing your seafood with the recommended wines? Buy the Pool Party Pack, which includes the wines listed above…in addition to others that would be great to begin your own seafood and wine pairing experiments. After all, the best way to find the perfect pairing is by tasting!