The popular notion of pairing white wine with seafood is not wrong. However, the way that the dish is prepared, the sauce, the spices and flavorings used must also be considered. The idea is for the wine to not overpower the food, and vice versa. A big, bold, tannic Cabernet Sauvignon will not pair well with a delicate poached white fish, as it will overpower the dish. It is correct to match the weight and texture of the wine to the weight and texture of the food.
Below are examples of wine and food pairings that work very well. The wines chosen are highly rated wines by wine experts from different wine publications. A 100-point scale is used as the method of rating. The wines cited are rated 90 or above in the price range close to $15 to $30. Prices will vary from one retailer to the next. The prices used here serve only as guide. Every once in a while an expensive bottle will be cited next to the word “splurge”.
Most of the recipes mentioned are linked to the websites where they can be found. Follow these links if you wish to try out these recipes. The bottles of wine are picked from websites such as Total Wine, wine.com and the actual wine maker’s website. You may also visit your local wine retailers to shop these bottles of wine or other wines you like to try.
Pinot Gris/Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis
Choose Pinot Gris/Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis to go with white fish, mussels, scallops and shellfish.
Pinot Gris is the name of the grape in French; Pinot Grigio is its Italian name. New Zealand is a great producer of Sauvignon Blanc. It is the white grape of Bordeaux in France. It is also called White Bordeaux. The Sauvignon Blanc grape is also cultivated in Sonoma County and the Napa valley in California. Chablis is made from Chardonnay grapes from the region of Chablis in France. It is made in a crisp and dry (not sweet) style. Pinot Gris/Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Chablis are generally delicate, light-bodied wines that are dry, crisp and with bright acidity. Look for these qualities when pairing wine with light seafood dishes.
Tesoro della Pinot Grigio, $16.99; Italy; rated 91 by Wine & Spirits; try with Seafood Piccata
Simonet-Febvre Chablis 2009; $15.99; France; rated 90 by Wine Spectator
Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc, $12.99; New Zealand; rated 91 by Wine Spectator
Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011, $19.79; New Zealand; rated 93 by Wine Enthusiast
Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc, $24.99; California; rated 93 by Wine Enthusiast
White Burgundy/Chardonnay, Viognier
Choose White Burgundy (made from Chardonnay grape from Burgundy, France), Chardonnay (from California, Australia and other wine regions) or Viognier (from the Rhone regions in France, Washington State, California, or other) to pair with lobster with butter, salmon in buttery sauce and other seafood dishes in rich buttery sauces.
White Burgundy/Chardonnay and Viognier are medium-bodied wines. Medium to full-bodied Chardonnay wines are often smooth, creamy with buttery texture and exhibit hints of vanilla due to oak barrel aging. They go well with an oily fish like salmon and other heavier seafood dishes as well as seafood accompanied with melted butter like lobster and crab legs. Viognier is a good alternative to Chardonnay. The Viognier grape is white wine grape from France’s Rhone Valley. It is also grown in Washington State and California. Viognier is medium-bodied wine; aromatic like its close cousin Gewurztraminer wine. Viognier wines have rich and creamy mouth-feel.
La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2010, $22; California; rated 91 by Wine Enthusiast; serve with Crab Risotto with Fine Herbs
Robert Oatley Mudgee Chardonnay 2009, $15.99; Australia; rated 90 by Wine Spectator
Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2010, $19.79; California; rated 92 by Wine Enthusiast
Ch. Tahbilk Viognier 2010, $13.29; Australia; rated 90 by Australian Wine Companion
Splurge: Guigal Condrieu 2010, $58.99; France; rated 93 by Robert Parker
Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Vouvray
Choose off-dry Riesling, Gewurztrminer or Vouvray to off-set the heat in spicy Szechuan, Thai and Indian seafood dishes.
Germany is best known as the producer of an off-dry (semi-sweet) style Riesling. Gewurztraminer is one of the primary grape varieties in the Alsace region in France. It makes highly aromatic wines with fruity and spicy flavors and styles ranging from dry to sweet dessert wines. Vouvrays are wines made from the grape Chenin Blanc. Vouvray is the name of the town where these wines are from. Vouvray is located in the Loire River Valley in France. Vouvrays are also made in dry to slightly sweet styles like Rieslings and Gewurztrminers. Off-dry Rieslings, Gewurztrminers and Vouvrays provide good balance to spicy foods.
Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling 2011, 13.79; Australia; rated 91 by Wine Spectator
Dr. Loosen Dr. L Estate QbA 2010 (Riesling), $13.79; Germany; rated 90 by Wine Enthusiast
Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica Riesling 2010, $19.99; Washington State; rated 92 by Wine Enthusiast
Trimbach Gewurztraminer 2009, $25.99; France; rated 90 by Wine Spectator
Clos Le Vigneau Vouvray, $16.99; France; rated 90 by Robert Parker
Splurge: Philippe Foreau Vouvray Moelleux “Clos naudin” 2008, $45.00; France; rated 96 by The Wine Advocate
Choose Pinot Noir to go with grilled or smoked salmon, tuna or swordfish and seafood dishes in mushroom sauces.
Burgundy is red wine made from Pinot Noir grapes from Burgundy, France. Old World wines or European wines are named after the region where the grapes are grown, so we hear of Burgundy (from Pinot Noir grapes), Bordeaux (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes), Chianti (from Sangiovese grapes), Rioja (from Tempranillo grapes of Spain). New World wines such as American and Australian wines are named after the grape varietal. One will not say that one is drinking a Sonoma Coast; instead, one may say that one is drinking a Chardonnay which is the grape varietal. Pinot Noir wines are known for their elegance, velvety texture, earthiness and smoky flavor. Pinot Noirs are also produced in Oregon, California, and other wine regions with cooler climate. Try Pinot Noir with Cedar Plank Salmon.
Heron Mendocino Pinot Noir 2010, $15.29; California; rated 90 by Wine Enthusiast
MacRostie Pinot Noir, $26.99; California; rated 91 by Wine Enthusiast
Splurge: Chateau de Chamirey Mercurey Rouge 2007, $34.99; France; rated 90 by Wine Spectator
Rose, sparkling rose, sparkling wine, Champagne
Choose a rose wine (still or sparkling) or Champagne when there is complexity of flavor in the food. Roses will go well with Mexican and Greek seafood dishes. When you can’t decide which wine to choose, pick a rose, sparkling wine or Champagne. These wines go very well with different types of foods and are not easily over-powered by certain seasonings or sauces. Provence, France produces some of the best roses around.
Only the sparkling wines from the region of Champagne in France can technically be called Champagne, the rest may only be labeled “Sparkling Wine”. In Spain they are called Cava, and Asti in Italy.
Chateau d’Eslans Whispering Angel Rose 2011, $19.99; France; rated 90 by Wine Spectator; goes well with Provence-style garlic-y cuisine
Tablas Creek Tablas Estate Rose 2011, $28.99; California; rated 90 by Wine Spectator
Louis Bouillot Rose (Sparkling), $15.99; France; rated 91 by Beverage Dynamics
Mumm Napa Brut Rose (Sparkling), $16.99; California; rated 90 by Wine Spectator
Juve Y Camps Rose Brut (Cava), $19.99; Spain; rated 90 by Robert Parker
Splurge: Pertois Moriset Grande Cru Brut (Champagne), $39.99; France; rated 92 by Wine Spectator
Albarino, Tempranillo, Sangiovese
Another useful guideline to follow when pairing wine and seafood is to match the wine’s place or origin to the food’s place of origin, such as matching Spanish paella with white Albarino wine or red Rioja. The same goes with matching Italian seafood in tomato-based sauce with a Chianti wine. Albarino is white wine grape planted on the northwest coast of Spain. They make dry crisp wines with lemony flavor. Use Albarino in the same way you use Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc. Drink Albarino with Spanish seafood tapas, like fried calamari rings. Tempranillo is red wine from Spain’s Rioja region. Sangiovese is the primary grape used in Chianti wines.
Martin Codax Albarino 2010, $16.99; Spain; rated 90 by Wine Enthusiast
Bodegas Fillaboa Albarino Rias Baixas 2010, $18.99; Spain; rated 90 by International Wine Cellar
La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Reserva Tinto 2005, $21.99; Spain; rated 90 by International Wine Cellar; perfect with tapas and grilled fish
Marques de Murrieta Rioja Reserva 2005, $23.99; Spain; rated 91 by Int’l. Wine Cellar
Castello D’Albola Chianti Classico, $13.49; Italy; rated 90 by Wine Spectator
The perfect pairing of wine and food should enhance the enjoyment of both. When all is said and done, drink what you like with the food that you like. Enjoy!