Photo by Jeffery Cross
We don’t mind saying the West has the richest cache of seafood in the country—and the best wines. But we spritz lemon on that fish, spoon vinegary mignonette on the raw oysters, batter and fry those scallops, dredge our clams through tartar sauce, and dip our shrimp in spicy cocktail concoctions. Which wines are up to the task of handling all those additions while still pulling out the best in the seafood? They might not be the ones you’d expect. Here are our five favorites, to punch your next maritime feast up a notch.
With racy acidity and bubbles, sparkling clinches best all-around seafood wine. Typically made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, a flute of brut offers up apple, pear, and melon from the former and subtler berry and cherry from the latter. The red fruit plays up the sweet side of fish, but it’s joined by enough citrus to work like a spritz of lemon. Bonus: Those bubbles cut through the fat of fried goodies, while the wine’s yeastiness (from time on the lees) loops right into crispy batter.
Great matches: Oysters, steamed mussels, grilled halibut, crabcakes, ceviche, and deep-fried everything: calamari, clams, fish and chips …
Our picks: Argyle 2007 Brut (Willamette Valley; $27). Crisp green apple, pear, and cherry with a hint of peach and sprinkling of fresh herbs. Domaine Carneros 2007 Brut (Carneros; $26). Pretty apple and almond blossom around pear, with underlying flintiness.
We’re such fans of bubbly with seafood that two of our favorite partners are sparklers. Rosé brings all the strengths that brut does to the table. But it has a little more body and vibrant red fruit flavor from being heavy on the Pinot Noir and spending a smidgen of time on the skins. The bigger fruit, with the same great acidity, works well with tomato-based cocktail sauce, spice, and garlic.
Great matches: Oysters and shrimp with tomatoey cocktail sauce and horseradish, crab and shrimp with rémoulade, garlicky steamed mussels, and spicy tuna rolls.
Our picks: Gruet Brut Rosé (Rio Grande Valley; $15). Lovely wild mousse delivers a whole strawberry patch laced with lime. Scharffenberger Brut Rosé (Mendocino County; $23). Bright berries pop over creamy citrus.