Wine + Seafood Pairings
While the sight of lobster, clams and crab stacked atop a bed of ice makes you want to grab the nearest three-pronged fork and dig in without pause, stop and consider switching up what to pair with your seafood smorgasbord. Sure, the safe choice is a crisp Chardonnay or a bottle of bubbly. But there are many other whites—and even a few reds and rosés—that can elevate and add even more nuance to the flavors on your packed plate. Here’s your guide to the other wines to drink the next time you step to the raw bar.
—Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen
Our Pick: Chateau Montelena 2012 Riesling (Potter Valley)
Seafood platters often include ceviche, uncooked fish that’s finely diced and tossed with lemon or lime juice, chili peppers and other spices. Preparation can vary, but dry Riesling will cover all the bases. Chateau Montelena’s Potter Valley Riesling is dry, with flavors of nectarine, Gala apple, rose petal and a whiff of clove. Its powerful acidity will stand up to citrus juice, while its voluptuous mouthfeel cuts through even the hottest of chilies. The nicely balanced fruit, floral and spice flavors are worthy complements to this pan-American favorite.
Our Pick: Gérard Bertrand 2011 Château L’Hospitalet La Reserve (La Clape)
Whether enjoyed on its own or dipped in freshly drawn butter, steamed or boiled lobster has an ethereal quality that delights the taste buds. Château L’Hospitalet is a blend of Bourboulenc, Vermentino and Grenache Blanc, all grown in vineyards overlooking the Mediterranean. This alluring wine offers flavors of lemon, orange, apricot, lightly toasted brioche and a hint of honey. It works really well with lobster, and the wine’s soft wood notes and zesty acidity will hold up on the palate of even the most hardcore butter devotee.
Our Pick: Torres NV Santa Digna Estelado Pais (Central Valley)
Torres’s Santa Digna Estelado sparkling rosé is made from Pais, the grape that migrated from Spain to South America in the 16th century. The first fine wine made from Chile’s workhorse grape, it is pale pink in color with persistent small bubbles. Its ripe strawberry and peach notes are a terrific match with the succulent texture and sweet, lightly saline flavor of fresh crabmeat. Meaty chunks and tender, flaky bits of crab are even more delicious when followed by a sip of this refreshing sparkler.
Our Pick: Terras Gauda 2012 O Rosal (Rías Baixas)
Spaniards have been on to oysters and Albariño for ages. In the town of Vigo, in Galicia, there’s an entire street of open-air seafood restaurants where abuelas sell you a dozen oysters to accompany your wine and meal. Terras Gauda’s O Rosal is mostly Albariño, blended with Loureiro and Caiño Blanco. Flavors of white peach, citrus peel and almond blossom, with a strong vein of minerality, are always right with the briny goodness of oysters on the half shell.
Our Pick: Raats Family 2012 Original Unwooded Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region)
Small bay scallops and larger sea scallops share a delicate sweetness and a burst of salinity, although size increases their firmness and bite. From South Africa’s Coastal Region, near the confluence of the Atlantic and Indian oceans, Raats Family’s Original Unwooded Chenin Blanc is a scallop’s ideal escort. The wine’s pureness of fruit and rich mineral backbone are unhindered by flavors from barrel aging. Notes of honeydew melon, Asian pear, ripe peach and lime zest are the consummate match to wash down scallops of any size.
Our Pick: Palacios Remondo 2012 La Vendimia (Rioja)
Made of equal parts Garnacha and Tempranillo, Palacios Remondo’s La Vendimia is a standout example of a joven, a young Spanish wine aged less than six months in oak. Vibrant fruit flavors of cherry, cranberry and Sevilla orange are even better when served slightly chilled alongside just-opened clams on the half shell lying in a bed of ice. Salty, sweet and with a touch of chewiness, clams transport the taste buds from boredom to bliss. Chase one down with this brisk red, and know that you have mastered the art of the bold pairing.
Our Pick: Craggy Range 2012 Te Muna Road Sauvignon Blanc (Martinborough)
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is a natural with the green-lipped mussels from the “Land of the Long White Cloud,” or anywhere, for that matter. Craggy Range’s Te Muna Road Sauvignon Blanc has flavors of Granny Smith apple and caramelized pineapple, characterized by a bright splash of acidity that cuts through the texture of the mussels and complements their slightly sweet flavor. Unlike grassier Sauvignon Blancs, the Craggy Range allows the fresh flavor of the sea to shine through.
Our Pick: Fattoria La Pupille 2011 Morellino di Scansano
Morellino di Scansano sits on the Mediterranean, so pairing the region’s fresh reds with just-caught seafood is a natural. Largely made from Sangiovese, with small amounts of Malvasia Nera and Alicante, this steel-aged red packs smooth flavors of ripe and tart cherry, backed by freesia and anise. Shrimp features the salty-sweet combo that taste buds crave, but plunge one into cocktail sauce to add layers of heat and tanginess. The wine’s vivid fruit flavors and spirited acidity flow across the palate as a rich accompaniment to naked shrimp, or a well-matched counterpoint to tomato and horseradish.
- 2Ceviche + Mendocino Riesling
- 3Lobster + Coastal Languedoc White
- 4Crab + Sparkling Chilean Rosé
- 5Oysters + Spanish Albariño
- 6Scallops + South African Chenin Blanc
- 7Clams + Rioja
- 8Mussels + New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
- 9Shrimp Cocktail + Morellino di Scansano