Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Pairing Wine with Seafood

By Liza B. Zimmerman


Summer is here and if you live anywhere near the Coast you will be digging into some freshly caught seafood. Nothing tastes as good as lobster right out of the water in Maine, fresh oysters that smell like the sea or a big bowl of steamed clams drenched in butter.

With seafood I am all about what grows together going together. I don' think that I have ever had a finer pairing than the heaps of oysters pulled out of the Bay of Arcachon, a sleepy little fishing village just outside of Bordeaux, with the local white wines. You could taste the same salinity in the White Bordeaux that was in the oysters.

Keeping it Coastal
Almost any wine made in the vicinity of sea, bay or ocean breezes is going to pair well with seafood. Muscadet from the Loire Valley is divine with most sea creatures as you can smell and feel the salt of the sea when you sip it. Almost all of the Loire Valley whites--from Sancerre to Pouilly-Fumé--are great choices.

The costal areas of Spain and Portugal offer some spectacular wines that cry out for a big platter of simply grilled or steamed seafood. The far north of Portugal produces wines from native grapes such as Trajadura and Loureiro and the region's soft and fruity Vinho Verdes are as good on the palate as they are on the wallet.

Their are few things that pair better with simple seafood than a great Albariño: especially from Rias Biaxas in Northern Spain. A handful of California producers have also been making some solid interpretations of this wine from regions from Santa Ynez to the Russian River.

Classics and Wild Cards
A beautifully balanced, but not too yeasty, Champagne is always a match made in heaven with oysters and lobster. Fairly dry domestic versions from California and New Mexico--particularly Gruet--will also do the trick. Spanish Cavas, and Italian Proseccos as well as Franciacorta, would also be good picks.

Unless the seafood is prepared in some kind of red sauce you are going to have a hard time finding a red wine that won't taste tinny and metallic with much of it. The use of tomatoes or anchovies will form a flavor bridge that can create synergies between some Southern Italian-style preparations of dishes of shrimp and other seafood, or Portuguese stews. Again low tannin and low-alcohol wines would be best with these dishes.

Many of the reds from Puglia, particularly those made from local grape such as Primitivo, can have modest alcohol levels of close to 13 percent. Despite its hot climate, Sicily also excels in making some seafood-friendly reds from cool climate areas and grapes such as Nerello Mascalese and Frappato. Spanish indigenous varitals such as D. Ventura's "Vina Do Burato" Rib

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.
Photo Credit: NFI

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