Our Picks: Wines to sip with seafood
White wines are the go-to pairing for fish and seafood - and there is no doubt that those from coastal regions make some of the most successful matches.
Think versatile Vermentino from Bolgheri or Sardinia, which pairs beautifully with simply grilled prawns and lobster or spaghetti alle vongole alike. The distinctive salty tang of Albariño from Rías Baixas on the coast of Galicia is the perfect foil for a decadent shellfish platter or ceviche, while more complex oak or lees aged examples, as well as Treixadura from Ribeiro, suit the richer fuller flavours of smoked fish and seafood stews.
Bone-dry Muscadet ‘sur lie’ from the western Loire Valley calls out for oysters, as does Picpoul de Pinet from the Languedoc, both of which offer fantastic value. For something more indulgent, an intense, textured Premier Cru Chablis is sublime with dressed crab or creamy seafood risotto and luxury fish pie.
Aromatic dry Riesling from the Clare Valley and Sylvaner from Alsace love fragrant Asian-inspired dishes and sushi, while peppery Austrian Grüner Veltliner partners spicy fish curry. Bold citrussy styles of Sauvignon Blanc from Australia’s Margaret River or Chile’s Aconcagua Valley complement oily and fried fish. And for a twist, why not try zesty Malvazija from western Slovenia or the red Nerello Mascalese variety vinified ‘in bianco’ from Sicily.
Terrazze dell'Etna, `Ciuri` Bianco 2018, Italy
`Ciuri` is an unoaked white wine from Etna, made from the indigenous red variety Nerello Mascalese vinified ‘in bianco’ without the skins. It displays great elegance, depth and intensity, with vibrant tropical fruit aromas, a hint of rosemary, and a long mineral finish. It is the perfect match for oysters or simple grilled fish dishes such as seabass, squid or sardines.
Antonella Corda, Vermentino di Sardegna 2020, Italy
Antonella Corda’s winemaking blends a proud, century-old family tradition in Sardinia with ambition and innovation. This unoaked Vermentino is sourced from the six-hectare Mitza Manna vineyard – the favourite of her grandfather, the famed viticulturalist Antonio Argiolas - where the marly limestone soil helps to maintain the variety’s natural freshness and aromatics. A deliciously refreshing wine to try with fresh white crab or prawns.
Poggio al Tesoro, `Solosole` Vermentino 2020, Italy
Looking to create a concentrated, elegant and ageworthy style of Vermentino, Allegrini selected a specific clone from Corsica for their plantings in Bolgheri. Sourced from seven hectares of their 'Le Sondraia' vineyard, this unoaked wine has an expressive nose reminiscent of white flowers and yellow plums. Succulent on the palate with a crisp acidity, it is an ideal accompaniment to seafood, sashimi and fish stews.
Santiago Ruiz, `Rosa Ruiz` Rías Baixas Albariño 2020, Spain
The Albariño for `Rosa Ruiz` comes from old, pergola-trained vines in O Rosal, the most southerly of the five Rías Baixas sub-zones, just over the Miño river from Portugal’s Vinho Verde. These old vines produce low yields of extremely concentrated fruit, which, following extended maceration and five months of lees ageing, results in a complex and textured wine with a rich and creamy mouthfeel. Bursting with intense aromas of ripe lemon and apricot, this Albariño pairs perfectly with rich seafood dishes.
Gašper, Malvazija 2019, Slovenia
The fish depicted on this wine’s label are a nod not only to its ideal food pairing but also to the Čarman family, who have been in the wine and hospitality business for over 50 years. Native to the Croatian and Slovenian coastal areas that once belonged to Italy, the Malvazija variety is known for being taut and zesty, but also slightly honeyed in character. Hailing from Goriška Brda, close to both the Adriatic Sea and the Alps, this wine is pleasantly soft with a tropical fruit character, lively acidity and hints of almonds on the finish – a perfect match for Asian fish dishes.
Loimer, Kamptal Grüner Veltliner 2020, Austria
Made from fruit handpicked from vines aged up to 50 years grown in Fred Loimer’s organic and biodynamic certified vineyards in cool yet sunny Kamptal, this dry and characterful Grüner Veltliner is an ideal partner to fish and shellfish. Aromas of zesty apple open in the glass with more spicy and herbal notes, while on the palate the wine is juicy with a piquant acidity and long mineral finish.
Outer Limits by Montes, Zapallar Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Chile
Aurelio Montes’ quest to push the boundaries of Chilean viticulture and find new sites led him to the 45-hectare Zapallar vineyard in the Aconcagua Valley. Located just seven kilometres from the Pacific, the site is ideal for Sauvignon Blanc and lends a vibrant acidity and subtle saline touch to this wine. Intensely aromatic on the nose and dry and steely on the palate, with attractive tropical notes of passion fruit and pink grapefruit, it pairs well with grilled oily fish like sardines or mackerel.
Owner-winemaker Stephanie Toole describes her wines as ‘hand-made food wines’ with an emphasis on structure and balance as well as generous fruit flavours. Her organic, limited release Riesling is a regional classic and among the finest in Australia. Wonderfully pristine and crisp, with benchmark Clare Valley lemon-lime citrus flavours and slate-like minerality, this wine is the perfect accompaniment for shellfish, smoked salmon or aromatic Asian and Mexican inspired seafood dishes.
Cullen, `Mangan Vineyard` Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2019, Australia
This richly textured and fruit-driven Bordeaux blend is a wonderful expression of Cullen’s exceptional biodynamically-farmed Mangan Vineyard in the Wilyabrup sub-region of Margaret River. With complex aromas of passion fruit, citrus and freshly cut grass that follow through to the long savoury finish, this wine pairs well with ceviche, scallops and mild Thai dishes.
Domaine La Croix Gratiot, `Bréchallune` Picpoul de Pinet 2020, France
The `Bréchallune` is a premium Picpoul sourced from a single parcel on a chalky plateau, where maritime breezes provide ideal conditions for developing the variety’s lively acidity and bright citrus character. The grapes are harvested later to produce a more concentrated wine, while lees ageing adds texture and complexity. This crisp, dry white is a versatile match for savoury fish soups, white fish cakes, crab or prawn salads, and seafood pasta dishes.
Domaine Vrignaud, Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume `Les Vaupulans` 2019, France
This distinctive `Les Vaupulans` is from a small parcel that Guillaume Vrignaud has identified as the best plot within his vineyard holdings in the Fourchaume Premier Cru appellation. Sourced from vines aged 25 years on average, planted on Kimmeridgian limestone and farmed organically, this wine displays intensely concentrated fruit and lovely texture on the palate, lifted by fresh acidity and a long, saline finish. Try with poached fish in creamy sauces, fish pies and stews, or seafood risotto..
Domaine Rolly Gassmann, Sylvaner Réserve Millésime 2019, France
Situated in the commune of Rorschwihr in Alsace, where a fault line created over 20 variations of limestone soil, the Rolly-Gassmann vineyards are farmed using organic and biodynamic principles. Pierre Gassmann allows his grapes to ripen fully then employs gentle pressing, a long fermentation with wild yeasts and extended time on lees for all his wines. The Sylvaner Réserve displays delicate floral and nutty aromas and a touch of residual sweetness, balanced by a taut acidity and saline character, which pairs well with sushi, seafood salads and Asian-inspired stir fries or noodles.
Dominio do Bibei, `Lalume` White Ribeiro 2017, Spain
Since the late 1990s, Javier Dominguez has worked tirelessly to revive Spain’s historic Ribeira Sacra region and its indigenous vines. Made solely from the Galician variety Treixadura, the `Lalume` is fermented in a mixture of oak barrels, concrete eggs and stainless steel and spends time on lees to enhance its wonderful pithy texture. With white stone fruit and floral notes, good acidity and a long vibrant finish, this wine is a perfect match for smoked salmon or baked cod.
Fairview, Chenin Blanc 2020, South Africa
Fairview may be one of the oldest properties in South Africa, but its wines continue to evolve in style under winemaker Anthony de Jager. This expressive Chenin Blanc is sourced from two sites, with the grapes from Darling dry-farmed bush vines imparting a signature concentration to the wine, while those from irrigated trellised vines in Paarl inject a freshness and purity of fruit. With a fragrant lime-zest and tropical fruit character leading to a lingering crisp finish, it is an ideal pairing for light seafood pasta and risotto dishes.
Azevedo, Alvarinho Reserva 2020, Portugal
Grapes for the Azevedo Alvarinho Reserva are sourced from inland sites in the Vinho Verde region, more sheltered from the cooling Atlantic influence, where the grape reaches optimum levels of ripeness. As 100% Alvarinho wines can only be labelled ‘Vinho Verde’ if they are from grapes grown specifically in the Monção e Melgaço sub-region, this wine is labelled Vinho Regional Minho. Pre-fermentation maceration on the skins, a cool ferment in stainless steel and lees stirring post fermentation has resulted in a rich and textured expression of Alvarinho with bright aromas of nectarine, apricot and mango balanced by a vibrant acidity.
Lagar de Pintos, Rías Baixas Albariño 2019, Spain
Lagar de Pintos is a small family estate based in the Val do Salnés subzone in the north of Rías Baixas and run by sisters Marta and Carmen Castro-Pintos. Winemaker Marta manages the 5.5 hectares of organically farmed Albariño and this complex, flavourful wine is a finely balanced blend from the seven plots surrounding their traditional Galician ‘pazo’, or manor house. Zesty citrus aromas follow through to the concentrated grapefruit-accented palate, with a trace of salinity on the finish. Delicious with fresh prawns or crab, shellfish platters and simply grilled fish.
Alter, Ribeiro Blanco 2020, Spain
Alter is a small family-run winery on the banks of the Miño river, founded by José Pérez Pousa in 2014 to preserve the local winemaking tradition since the 2nd century BC. Their 26 hectares of vineyards are divided into 168 small plots, each of which is hand-harvested when the fruit has reached optimum ripeness while retaining fresh acidity. A blend of the indigenous Treixadura, Godello and Loureiro varieties, the Ribeiro Blanco displays aromas of white flowers, grapefruit and green apple, a delightful savouriness on the palate, and a depth that derives from time spent on lees. A great match for seafood paella or grilled jumbo prawns.