15 Foolproof Seafood and Wine Pairings
Pairing wine with seafood doesn't have to be a challenge. Try these can't-miss matches and smart suggestions for effortless—and delicious—sipping and serving.
Recipe: Paella Cubana
We love: Martín Códax Albariño Rías Baixas (about $14)
Seafood and wine make a natural pair, and choosing the right wine for your dish can really highlight those flavors of the sea. In this recipe, you have scallops and shrimp and mussels and oysters—oh my! When there’s this much delicious seafood in the mix, a semi-dry white is a terrific choice. A light red, which you can use in the risotto, is another good pick; serving both will please all palates. In either case, look for light-bodied wines to balance the richness of the buttery rice, the piquancy of the garlic, and the fatty, spicy chorizo.
Other can’t-miss matches: Albariño, red or white Rioja
We love: Navarro Vineyards Gewürztraminer (about $19)
Halibut just may be one of the friendliest fish in the market—because it has a mild flavor and firm but flaky texture, it pairs beautifully with a wide range of ingredients and wines ranging from white to light red. Here, the sweet-tart combination of strawberries and rhubarb means you can’t go wrong with a sweetly aromatic Gewürztraminer (guh-VOORTZ-truh-meen-er), a wine that’s as fun to drink as it is to say.
Other can’t-miss matches: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Sémillon
Recipe: Sesame-Soy Salmon
We love: Esser Vineyards Pinot Noir (about $14)
You’ll want to double this recipe—because salmon pairs equally well with red and white wines, it’s an ideal choice for entertaining, pleasing drinkers on both sides of the spectrum. Here, the earthy flavors of the meaty fish, soy sauce, and sesame oil meet the smoothness of Pinot Noir. Look for a varietal with low tannins to really let the salmon shine.
Other can’t-miss matches: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, vin gris
We love: Greg Norman Estates Santa Barbara County Chardonnay (about $15)
Chardonnay is a lovely accompaniment to crab, which has an inherent sweetness and delicate flavor—big, bold wines will not do here. Citrus notes lend bright acidity and echo the lemony tartar sauce, and hints of vanilla balance the anise touch from the fennel. A mallet, a corkscrew, and plenty of napkins, and dinner is served.
Other can’t-miss matches: Sauvignon Blanc, sake, brut sparkling wine
Recipe: Grilled Split Lobster with Pesto
We love: Matanzas Creek Winery Sonoma Valley Chardonnay (about $27)
The luxury of fresh-from-the-sea lobster means you’ll want to serve a wine that’s born to play that essential supporting role, and there may be no better choice than a well-balanced Chardonnay. Look for a crisp, light sipper that won’t muddle the flavors of the rich grilled lobster and the cheesy, nutty, herbaceous pesto.
Other can’t-miss matches: Sauvignon Blanc, brut sparkling wine
Recipe: Coconut Shrimp with Maui Mustard
Shrimp, coconut, and lime fairly scream for a cold beer, but these crunchy nuggets are so festive we can’t resist a glass of bubbles. The effervescence of sparkling wine makes an ideal match for fried seafood, and the dry finish stands up to the sweet heat of the fruity mustard sauce.
Other can’t-miss matches: Pinot Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Columbard
We love: Donnafugata Chiarandà (about $35)
Chiarandà is a Sicilian white wine made from Chardonnay grapes, so if you’re a Chard fan it’s a great varietal to add to your rotation. Its delicately floral flavor matches well with the briny, sweet taste of the mussels. Pour a glass for yourself and a splash in the recipe itself for a truly perfect pairing.
Other can’t-miss matches: Verdicchio, Pinot Grigio, Bardolino
Recipe: Clams with Prosciutto and Thyme
We love: Sauvignon Republic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (about $18)
Sauvignon Blanc is something of a chameleon—a pleasantly complex mix of flavors that pairs well with a wide range of seafood, including plump, meaty clams. It’s especially nice with spicy food, such as the kick of crushed red pepper here. Look for one with a balance of herb and citrus notes to echo the lemon, thyme, and parsley.
Other can’t-miss matches: Verdicchio, Pinot Grigio, Bardolino
Recipe: Tuna Tartare Blini
We love: Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle (about $105)
With a combination of buttery sushi-grade tuna and luxe caviar, only the best will do, and that means bubbles! A truly fine Champagne is a worthwhile investment you won’t regret, but there are many affordable sparkling wines on the market that will also provide the crisp effervescence to complement the velvety crème fraîche, bright lime, and salty capers in these petite pancakes.
Other can’t-miss matches: Prosecco, cava
We love: Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Chardonnay (about $45)
Oysters and white wine are perennial best friends, but the assertive flavors of celery and smoky Virginia ham here call for no shrinking violet. A full-bodied white, such as a big, round Chardonnay or dry white Burgundy, is your best bet for amplifying all of the bold ingredients in this savory presentation.
Other can’t-miss matches: white Burgundy
Recipe: Maryland Crab Cake Salad
We love: Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (about $15)
A dry white wine complements sweet crab beautifully, but the horseradish heat of Dijon mustard, the grassy greens, and the kick of seafood seasoning throw a delicious wrench in works—so in this case, Sauvignon Blanc, with its range of food-friendly flavors, is just the right tool for the job. The combination of chilled white wine and cool, crisp salad is a classic, beachy favorite.
Other can’t-miss matches: Viognier
We love: Domaine André Neveu Sancerre (about $30)
The sweetness and buttery texture of scallops play well with a medium- to full-bodied white. Sancerre’s roundness stands up to the sometimes-tricky-for-wine asparagus, as well as the smoky pancetta and salty Parmesan, while also speaking to the flavors of citrus and dry vermouth in the silky sauce. Bonus: the brilliantly simple recipe is ready in just enough time to take the chill off the bottle.
Other can’t-miss match: Chardonnay
Recipe: Simple Nori Rolls
We love: Iron Horse Russian Cuvée (about $33)
A dry sparkling wine is always a reliable go-to with tuna, but it may be a surprising suggestion as an accompaniment to sushi. Break out of the beer box with a brut sparkler, which will serve as a refreshing match with the cucumber and pickled ginger. Go easy on the wasabi, which can compete with the delicate bubbly.
Other can’t-miss matches: Pinot Gris, sake
We love: Wild Horse Viognier (about $19)
Sweet crabmeat pairs well with an aromatic, fruity white. Choose a varietal with a relatively simple flavor profile—the complex, fragrant spices in a curry and the umami fish sauce will come to the fore. Viogniers are known to carry floral and stone fruit notes, which speak to the coconut and ripe mango.
Other can’t-miss matches: Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, dry Reisling
Recipe: Nantucket Lobster Chowder
We love: Bonterra Vineyards Chardonnay (about $14)
Rich, buttery lobster is just right with a rich, buttery Chardonnay. Because this recipe calls for ¼ cup of Chard, remember this wine rule: Always choose a wine to cook with that you also like to drink! Because cooking with wine concentrates its flavors, great wine will taste better in this chowder, and the taste of not-so-great wine will become even more pronounced. Go for the good stuff!
Other can’t-miss matches: Chenin Blanc