Wines to go with Seafood

From our tasting on… August 11, 2016

Seafood is a big category.  There are creatures in shells—mussels, scallops, clams, and oysters.  There are things with fins, ranging from the delicate (sole) to the meaty (swordfish) and everything in between.  There are critters that crawl (shrimp, crabs, and lobsters) and those with tentacles, like octopus and squid.  How do you choose a wine?

The adage is “White wine with seafood,” and it’s a good starting point. However, cooking method, sauce, and side dishes, as well as personal preference, also play a role in wine choice.  Certain wines should generally be avoided, such as tannic reds (e.g., Chianti, Cabernet, Nebbiolo, Syrah) and very oaky Chardonnay. Shellfish, crustaceans, and white fish pair better with white wine.  Grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Albariño, Picpoul, Vermentino, and Grüner Veltliner are great partners, as are wines from Chablis and Muscadet; their bright flavors and lighter weight complement rather than overwhelm the food. If red wine is a must-have, choose heavier fare—swordfish, tuna, salmon, octopus or squid; you can also use spices and flavorings that are hospitable to red wine.  Spicy fried calamari or clams love fruity reds; salmon and Pinot Noir is a classic pairing.  Tuna and swordfish go well with West-Coast Pinot Noir or lighter Zinfandels.

Whites dominate today, some obvious choices, others not so much.  Domaine du Haut Bourg Muscadet 2015 comes from Côtes de Grandlieu, a less well-known subregion.  The grape is Melon de Bourgogne, a child of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc.  It pairs well with mussels (put some in the pot and some in the cook) and is classic in beurre blanc sauce.  Hungary is not the first place to look for a seafood wine, but the Diszókő Tokaji Dry Furmint 2015 (made from the main grape used in the famous dessert wine), brings dry minerality, orchard fruit, smoke, elegance, and complexity to the table.  This clean sip is a good apéritif; it also pairs well with fresh trout with herbs or even smoked trout. Inama Soave Classico 2015 is made from Garganega grown in northeast Italy.  Its floral (chamomile, elder flower) and mineral notes lead to an almond finish, make it a good partner for white fish with toasted almonds and risotto or scallops.

Our rosé invites ahi tuna, swordfish, or grilled seafood to the table.  Señorío de Iniesta Bobal Rosado 2015 comes from central Spain.  It is a deeply colored, fragrant wine with pleasant acidity and some punch to balance its red berries.

On the red front, we’re going classic: salmon and Foris Pinot Noir 2012 from Oregon.  Whether sockeye or farm raised, planked or teriyaki, salmon goes with Pinot Noir.  This one provides plum, spice, and raspberry notes supported by supple tannin and lively acidity; it’s drinking well now and has room to grow.


-M.P. Rouse

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