There’s nothing particularly new about the idea of pairing white wine with seafood. In fact, it’s such common knowledge that you’re probably wondering why I would bother to write about it. Well, here’s a new approach: coastal white wines, in which the grapes enjoy cooling maritime breezes along with a sunny growing season. These wines could not be more ideal for pairing with the fruits of the sea.
Some of the most exciting white wines can be found all along Italy’s Amalfi coast, which includes the region of Campania, where wine has been made for many centuries; the Greek island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea also delivers some amazing white wines; and then there are the bright, full-bodied white wines of Sardinia, the Italian island in the Mediterranean. These wines are perfect with seafood because they benefit from the strong sun and cool sea breezes, lending them flavor and ripeness along with mouthwatering acidity.
Next time you’re planning a menu featuring fresh scallops, fish, lobster, or shrimp, accent the dish with a wine from one of these coastal regions. Here’s a guide to help you begin exploring.
Assyrtiko from Santorini, Greece
The extreme winds blowing across this arid Greek island, combined with volcanic soils, lend the white wines brightness and intensity. The principal grape here is Assyrtiko, a mineral, high-acid, and high-alcohol variety. These wines are full-bodied enough to pair with grilled scallops, fried softshell crab, or buttery lobster dishes.
Tselepos Assyrtiko, 2014
Dried apricot, honeysuckle notes, and a citrus backbone characterize this refreshing wine, a perfect pairing for boiled shrimp or raw oysters.
Hatzikadas Assyrtiko, 2014
This certified organic property produces excellent wines with a lot of personality. Extensive lees contact gives this white a nice fullness.
Argyros Assyrtiko, 2014
Made from 70-year-old vines, this wine is complex, fresh, and pure all at once. Lots of citrus and a pervasive minerality make this bottle an ideal pairing for spicy ceviche dishes or sashimi.
Fiano, Falanghina, and Greco from Italy’s Amalfi Coast
Campania in southern Italy produces some very good and affordable white wines that will help you forget about Pinot Grigio all together. The terroir of Campania is rich in volcanic soil and many vineyards are located at higher elevations, helping the wines develop acidity. There are three main grapes here: the aromatic Fiano, which has aging potential; Falanghina, which tends to have a nutty, lemony flavor; and the dry, full-bodied Greco. All three are typically vinified nowadays in stainless steel. Lesser-known Italian grapes like these are a pleasure to explore—they are full of personality, can be surprisingly delicious, and do well with food. Especially seafood!
Widely considered one of the best examples of Fiano, this wine comes from grapes grown near a hazelnut orchard, which the producer believes lends a honey-nut quality to the juice. Perfect with grilled fish or linguini with clams. Mastrobernadino also makes a Falanghina.
Agnanum Falanghina, 2014
Smoky, with notes of grilled pineapple and significant structure, this is a wine to serve with seafood stew. This producer farms organically and uses minimal sulfur during vinification. At just $15, it’s a total steal.
An intense golden color with an aromatic burst of stone fruits and pear, along with the freshness and minerality of the volcanic soils, all conspire to seduce you into loving this bottle. Pair with shellfish.
Vermentino from Sardinia, Italy
In case you haven’t heard, island wines are all the rage right now, thanks to the unique grapes and climates to be found in places like Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, and the Canary Islands. Let’s start with Sardinia, where Vermentino is widely planted and makes crisp, bright, aromatic white wines, which could not be more ideal for pairing with a seafood risotto packed with mussels.
OK, this is a bit of a curveball because it’s a skin-fermented wine (aka an “orange wine”). Essentially, this is a style that uses the colored skins of white grapes—yep, the skins have color, it’s only the juice that is pale—to lend structure and tannin to the wine. This one is delicious and you can find it for just $13. The skin contact makes the wine a bit more robust. Serve nice and chilled just like a regular white wine, with the aforementioned risotto, or perhaps some fried shrimp.