One of the best things about living near the Chesapeake Bay is our access to fresh, delicious seafood. If you’re looking for some great wines to pair with your next seafood feast, here are three wines built for the job.
One of my favorites is a sparkling wine— Spanish Cava. Named after the underground caves where these wines are produced, Cava is a blend of three native grapes: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo. Cava has been made since the 1800s, using the same tried-and-true process developed in Champagne, France.
Sparkling Cava is typically dry and crisp with flavors of apple, pear and citrus and a touch of earthiness. The crisp acidity and palate-cleansing bubbles make Cava a great pairing for seafood, especially clams, mussels, salmon and fried seafood. Most Cavas are in the $10-$20 range. Brands to look for include family-run estates such as Mont Marçal, as well as Cavas from larger estates such as Cristalino or Segura Viudas.
Another one of my “go-to” seafood wines is Spanish Albariño, which originates in Galicia. This region is almost entirely dedicated to two industries— fishing and winemaking. While much of Spain is hot and dry, Galicia is lush and green.
Albariño is a favorite of sommeliers for its ability to match well with a variety of dishes, including seafood. Classic pairings include steamed mussels, shrimp, scallops and lobster. Albariño is also a great match for spicy seafood dishes such as paella or shellfish with Cajun spices.
Albariños are typically medium-bodied whites with aromas of peach, apricot and citrus that are balanced by food-friendly acidity. This same grape is called Alvarinho in Portugal, where it’s used in the snappy wines of Vinho Verde, which can be a great pairing for Maryland crabs. Typically you can find good examples of Albariño for $15-$25, and brands to look for include Burgans, Morgadio, Laxas and Pazo de Señoráns.
If you like raw seafood, then you need to know about Muscadet. Hailing from the Loire Valley of France, this wine was built for raw oysters, shrimp and clams. Bracing acidity along with a citrus backbone make a sip of Muscadet as delicious as squeezing some lemon on your seafood. This wine’s fruit flavors come alive when combined with seafood. The acidity of the oysters will soften the acidity of the Muscadet, transforming this wine into a softer version of itself.
One of the best areas in the Nantes for high-quality Muscadet is Sevre et Maine and you definitely want to look for wines with that designated on the bottle. Another term specific to Muscadet is “sur lie,” and that will indicate a wine that was aged with its lees (dead yeast cells) after fermentation to add richness and complexity. The good news about Muscadet is that it is usually quite affordable, ranging from $12 to $20 per bottle. Brands to look for include Domaine de la Pepiere, Domaine de la Quilla and Domaine des Dorices.
Laurie Forster, The Wine Coach®, is a wine educator who creates corporate events, group tastings and team-building seminars. She is the author of “The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine,” and can be heard each week on WBAL Radio 1090AM. Visit http://www.thewinecoach.com.