Behaving With Seafood

When it comes to serving wine with seafood, we want the wine to marry with the delicate flavors of the fish.  In other words, the wine or the fish should not upstage each other in any way.  Remaining complementary is key.

Retaining a refreshing palate with wine acidity and working with the flavors from rich and buttery sauces accompanying fish can be challenging. 

Most dry white wines will work but it’s good to keep some things in mind.  Paying attention to the flavors of shellfish or fish you are serving will help guide you in your choice of varietal wine.

Overall, lots of fish have the same basic, gentle taste.  A fish like tilapia comes to mind. So with tilapia or any other similar white fish there are lots wines to fit the bill.  Choosing wines aged in steel rather than oak, wines like unoaked Chardonnay, Albarino, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Gruner Veltliner will reward you with a nice acidity, cutting through the heavy, buttery sauces commonly served with these types of fish.

When it comes to lobster, crab and scallops, the sweetness pairs nicely with the flavor profile of an oaked Chardonnay.

With a meatier fish like tuna, swordfish or striped bass I always choose a spicier white such as Viognier.

Grilled Salmon….I love Pinot Noir or Merlot…yes they are red.

When it comes to choosing reds with fish it can be tricky, they are often too powerful.  So what you need is a light-bodied red, low in tannins.  A soft wine, for lack of a better word.  A lovely Pinot Noir or Beaujolais are perfect.

Here are some of my favorite seafood dishes and the wines I love to serve with them:

Fried Calamari:  Brut Champagne/Sparkling Wine
Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc
Seafood Risotto:
  Champagne/Sparkling Wine
Chablis or Champagne/Sparkling Wine
Shrimp Cocktail:
Viognier or Sauvignon Blanc
Dover Sole:
  Pinot Blanc, Dry Riesling or Sangiovese
Clam Chowder: 
Cracked Crab:
  Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc

Enjoy these pairings.

What did you have to drink last night?

What I Was Blogging About One Year Ago Today:  The Money I Saved On Vacation Bling

Post a Comment


  1. Hilary 1

    Wonderful picture of a seafood market – makes me hungry and it’s only breakfast time!

    It’s great to have those wine recommendations and I will definitely utilise your recommendations.

    Thanks Cathy – lovely information ..
    & last night I’m sorry to say I had water = life giving!!

  2. Shawn 2

    Umm, only drank Diet Dr. Pepper last night.

    Hey Cathy, have I mentioned that I really really wanna have dinner with you sometime? Hmm? With wine please?

  3. I am going to try some of these suggested pairings soon. You are some wonderful to educate us.

    Going to Wine Fest soon!

  4. Donna 4

    Your recommendation for shrimp cocktail.. was curious if it is the same for other shrimp dishes like franchese and scampi? To drink was a bit too much Pinot grigio last night, headache this morning..

  5. One of these days I will get brave and try seafood again. Until then I will just sit back and appreciate the beauty of someone who knows (you) how to compliment a food I detest, with wine – that I love!

  6. Now you have me wanting seafood AND wine at 7 am! Love the pic. Believe it or not, I have never made it to the northwest, so I have never been at one of these seafood markets. I’d be in heaven!

    Thanks so much for this guidance, Cathy!

  7. This is so helpful! We were actually out at a very nice seafood restaurant the other night and wanted to get a red with our fish (it was cold out and something about a red was more appealing than a chilled white) and the sommelier wasn’t helpful at all! This is one of the nicer restaurants in nyc, I was really shocked. Needless to say we ended up with a beautiful sauvignon blanc. I’m printing out this little guide so that we will know for next time.

  8. Flea 8

    Hormone headaches – only drinking water the next few days. *sigh*

  9. Julia 9

    Great tips and recommendations!

    Last…. you’d be proud: I had fried chicken and champagne! The bubbly, crisp champagne was great to cut through the greasy, salty, yummy fried chicken.

  10. You’re going to love this…I had water. Boring, I know, but I’m trying to drink more since I know I don’t drink enough.

  11. ntsc 11

    We normally have a glass of either Hardys Shiraz or Chardonay depending. Both are from a 3 liter box.

    On a weekend I may open a bottle of an under $10 Austrailian (California wine in that price range gives me a headache in the morning).

    With guests we can go quite beyond this, into wine per course and a much higher price tag. We have friends where we will invite them for dinner, send the menu and they will bring the wine or the beer. This can be a lot of fun.

  12. Well, I had a dirty martini last night. But I love a Pinot Noir with my salmon! And I am glad to see our little lowly chardonnay has made it!

  13. Usually we prefer the reds and Pinot Noir or Beaujolais is what we do drink with seafood. Great recommendations!

  14. Ramona 14

    Give me a fork, I’m ready to eat. Had no wine last night. Sorry, I very, very, seldom drink. Only time I buy wine is if I’m wanting a blue or red bottle. I know “GASP”. I’m the idiot that walks in and says show me what you have in a blue bottle. Then usually DH ends up drinking it, cause I really don’t like the taste of alcohol. At least, that makes my MEAN Dr. happy.

  15. Wow… That looks like Pike Place Market!
    I had water. It doesn’t get much duller.

  16. Chardonnay (sigh)

  17. Scate 17

    I have fallen in love with Moscato d’asti lately. Would you plug that into anything that says “sparkling wine”? This market looks great – can I possibly hope that it is located in this snowy northland?

  18. Rebekka 18

    I LOVE your blog!

  19. dawn 19

    I love ceviche!! Hubby hates it, so when I make it I like to indulge, but I’ve always ondered what would go with it. Thanks for that list.

  20. Claire 20

    Excellent suggestions! I love it that the weather is starting to warm up & we can enjoy dry rose’ & whites while on the deck.

    I’m coming around to seafood…really.

  21. Grilled wild-caught salmon and pinot noir! Yes, I agree. That’s my favorite — but, alas, I’m not drinking right now. Sniff, sniff.


  22. Mary 22

    Cathy, what great information to have. Great tips from the vintner’s lips.

  23. Brian 23

    Sadly, I just had water last night. I’m waiting to tear into our Benziger shipment. Thanks for the pairing ideas.

  24. Elyse 24

    What fabulous pairings!! I need all the help I can get in the wine pairing department. Plus, I happen to love seafood, so it’s wonderful to know what pairs with what! Thanks for the tips!!

  25. Maureen 25

    Thank you! This is perfect for me, since we love our fish and seafood at our house. Will print this out and keep in the kitchen. :)

  26. Nicole 26

    Very beneficial! Thank you! I really needed that. I love my wine but the wrong one does not do the food justice.

  27. elra 27

    Such a perfect post come at the perfect time. I am going to have a formal dinner (my husband’s business related), I’ll some seafood for one of the entree, so having lists like this is so useful. Thank you so much Cathy.

  28. Thanks for the primer. Since I don’t eat fish, I really don’t know what pairings go well, so it’s nice to have this kind of advice for when I serve it to others.

    What did I drink last night? Water. I only drink on weekends because I am prone to bouts of insomnia and alcohol makes it worse (I fall asleep easily but when the alcohol is fully metabolized at 2 AM, I’m wide awake).

  29. Laurie 29

    Thanks for the wonderful tips, Cathy! We actually ate out at a nice restaurant and I had a glass of white burgundy (I don’t remember the vineyard)with my sauteed Chatham scrod and littlenecks. It seemed to pair well, but I’m no expert like you.

  30. dawn 30

    These are fantastic tips. I lvoe seafood and always screw up my limited wine pairing skills. Tonight we are having salmon so I will go and buy some Pinot Noir…I wish you had some to sell!

  31. Bob 31

    Heh, well sometimes I do eat tuna. ;) I’ll definitely keep the pairing suggestions in mind though. Last night I was actually drinking whiskey.

  32. Some great pairings that I can’t wait to try. I must divulge, my current romance with Viognier has me pairing it with everything from moon pies to mollusks. Eventually, I’ll let go and move on, but for now we have something special.

  33. Lisa 33

    I know what you mean about Oysters and Chablis…it is the perfect pairing…I adore it.

  34. Biz 34

    I am going to have to bookmark this page for future reference. Thanks Cathy!

    I sadly had a glass of BOXED Shiraz. :D

  35. Thanks! I never know what to serve with seafood. I’ll keep this list.

  36. Your wine lessons are very much appreciated, Cathy. Your posts are my handy reference guide. Thanks.

  37. Rebel 37

    I had a glass of Liebfraumilch with a pasta dish. I know! German and Italian, yum.

  38. imom 38

    I frequently drink merlot with salmon and had good luck with it!

    Last night I had water with my meal. Boring huh?!

  39. Sandie 39

    I absolutely love your posts on wine pairings—there’s always some food that throws me into a state of wine-confusion, so your tips are greatly appreciated!

  40. tipper 40

    Seafood is my favorite thing to eat!!!

  41. Lo! 41

    Nice. We definitely like red with salmon.

    More often, my wine pairing sense gets thrown off by other flavors in the meal… for instance, we just had a crab pasta dish the other night with habanero chiles & saffron. I picked an unoaked Chardonnay, which was good with the crab… but maybe a dry Riesling would have been better. Always doubting myself!!

  42. Sara 42

    Thanks for the pairings, I’m ashamed to admit that I know nothing about wine!

  43. I love salmon. We have it about once a week!

  44. Liz C. 44

    We love reds with salmon and with tuna. Through your gentle tutelage, I’m slowly educating Mr. Snoots on wine pairings and he’s actually *getting it*. He’s no longer buying the large bottles of the same wine (every time) @ Sam’s. Yay! This is the same man who used to mix white & red wines together. *sigh*

  45. Paula 45

    Wow, that’s some fish market! I know so little about wine pairings, tending to reach for things. I should give wine tastings a go because the same types of wine taste so different to me from winery to winery. Oh, and to be completely boring, I had milk last night!

  46. I appreciate the fact that your recipes are not just creative, but authentic. And you give credit where it’s due. There are many websites/blogs that use recipes from popular websites and claimed it as their own. Thank you for sharing your awesome recipes.


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