How does a perfect summer evening look for you? A white linen shirt, sun-kissed skin, spending the evening on a boat or perhaps a tiny sea-front restaurant, a plate of wonderfly prepared shrimp scampi and a beautifully crisp white wine: for us, this image sounds about right.
However, no matter if you are the one preparing the whole dinner or just picking a wine to accompany your meal at the restaurant, pairing wine with seafood can be tricky business! Get the pairing right, and you’ll experience a symphony of complementing flavours, but get it wrong and it’ll throw your whole dinner off balance.
What Is Shrimp Scampi?
Do you have an image in your head of shrimp and pasta in beautiful garlicky sauce? Well, then, you are probably right. “Shrimp scampi” is often used to describe just such a dish, consisting of pasta, some type of shrimp, and a buttery sauce with a variety of additions.
Why is there no specific recipe for Shrimp Scampi? Maybe because shrimp is a topic surrounded with a lot of linguistic confusion. The ‘scampi’ in “shrimp scampi” comes from Italian.
It’s the plural of the word scampo which is technically a type of shrimp. So, when you say scampi in Italy, you are referring to a specific type of shrimp – Nephrops norvegicus. This kind of shrimp is also called a Norway Lobster or a Dublin Bay Prawn, depending on where you live.
However, the term “shrimp scampi” became common in the English-speaking world as a type of dish which incorporates scampi or any other kind of shrimp available. By the way, the difference between a shrimp and a prawn is also all but clear, as the terms are used interchangeably in various ways depending on where in the world you are located.
When we take this into consideration, it shouldn’t be that surprising that there is not a specific recipe for shrimp scampi. However, when you mention this dish, most people will expect to see shrimp, pasta, and a buttery sauce that usually incorporates garlic and wine.
That means that shrimp scampi not only go amazingly well with wine, but wine is also a part of the sauce.
So what wine should I put IN shrimp scampi?
So, should the wine you pair with shrimp scampi be the same wine you put into the dish? Well, not necessarily. Still, since shrimp scampi is such a delicate dish, we recommend seriously considering what kind of wine you want to incorporate in your sauce.
A cheap “cooking wine” that’s been sitting in your fridge is probably not the best option. Avoid skimping on wine, and you can really bring your sauce to the next level.
That being said, we certainly don’t mean you need a £50 bottle of wine just to prepare shrimp scampi. What you want for this dish is quality white wine and if you put some effort into it you can find a perfect pairing in the £10 range.
But which wine should you choose. We’ve already mentioned that it should be a white wine. This is not just a matter of orthodoxy – it is very difficult, if not impossible, to combine shrimp and red wine with good results. Rather, choose a dry and lightweight white wine.
There is really a lot to experiment with here even if you limit yourself to dry white wines – and it’s great fun too. Shrimp scampi can really bring out the subtle flavours of wine and vice versa. Just avoid anything too sweet or heavy, at least in the beginning.
If you are unsure where to start, here are a couple of options that are perfect for adding to shrimp scampi sauce:
1. Sauvignon Blanc: Oyster Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the first wines that come to mind for cooking with all kinds of seafood. While sometimes Sauvignon Blanc can have some very thick, deep notes which can be too heavy for shrimp scampi, there are plenty of options that fit perfectly to the dish.
Our favourite is the delightful crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough vineyards in Oyster Bay, New Zealand. This is a wonderful dry wine with delightfully refreshing mineral notes and a flavour profile that’s complex but light.
This wine will add a decidedly herbal note to your shrimp sauce which we love. Sauvignon Blanc is a great wine to pair with seafood dishes, but it shows it’s best moments when added to shrimp scampi.
Recommended vintage: 2016
2. Riesling: Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, New York
Riesling is another great option for adding to shrimp, but you have to be careful with this one: some Rieslings can be fairly sweet, but you want to choose a dry one for cooking. One such option is the Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling from Finger Lakes.
This is a fairly dry and crisp wine. The acidity of this wine is fairly pronounced, but it is balanced out by mellow citrus notes like lime. Light enough to fit the bill, but rich enough to bring a whole new dimension of subtle flavours into your cooking.
Recommended vintage: 2019
3. Pinot Grigio: Borgo M Pinot Grigio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
Yet another white wine variety that is perfect for adding to gentle seafood dishes is Pinot Grigio. When choosing a Pinot for your shrimp scampi, we suggest you opt for Italian Pinot Grigio which is known to be more crisp, than the slightly sweeter and softer Pinot Gris.
The Borgo M Pinot Grigio is a great option which is not too expensive either. This wine was aged in stainless steel tanks instead of oak. This might sound strange at first sight, but aging in stainless steel is chosen in order to preserve the delightfully fresh citrus notes of this Pinot.
Recommended vintage: 2018
What wine pairs best WITH shrimp scampi?
So far, we’ve talked about the perfect wine to add to your sauce when preparing shrimp scampi. On the other hand, you’ll also probably want (at least) a glass of wine with your meal. While you wouldn’t be wrong to pair any of the above-mentioned wines with shrimp scampi, there are actually quite a few additional options you could consider.
Most of the time, shrimp scampi also contains liberal amounts of butter and garlic. What do you imagine is the perfect wine pairing for that? First of all, you don’t want anything too bold as the subtle flavour of shrimp is easily overpowered. For this reason, most reds are out of the question when it comes to shrimp pairings and so is pretty much anything aged in oak.
While you could technically manage to pair shrimp scampi with a rose, we recommended staying on the white side. You simply cannot go wrong this way. Light, crisp, and fresh notes are really what you probably want in your shrimp scampi to brighten the picture.
Shrimp Scampi Wine Pairing
La Marca Prosecco Superiore DOCG, Valdobbiadene, Prosecco, Italy
When you are not sure what wine to pair with your seafood dish, but you know you want to impress your company, it’s hard to go wrong with a bottle of good Prosecco. Especially if the occasion is festive at all, the sparkling freshness is going to be a hit. And the good news is – good prosecco can be very budget friendly too.
That’s certainly true when it comes to the La Marca Prosecco. This is a very light prosecco, but it boasts fairly bold notes of lemon and green apple which will be a perfect pair for shrimp and garlic.
Aphros Loureiro Vinho Verde, Vinho Verde Portugal
If you are tired of the most common seafood and pasta pairings, like Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Grigio, perhaps a bottle from the Vinho Verde region of Portugal can give the dazzle you are looking for to your shrimp scampi dinner.
Fairly acidic and amazingly bright, this wine will transport you to the beach atmosphere even if you are not on your holiday yet. With notes of citrus and white flowers, this wine almost lets you smell the seashore. You might even detect a hint of wet stone and sea breeze in there.
For Something Out of the Ordinary: Sokol Blosser Cuvée Rosé of Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills
If you want to dazzle your guests with your choice of wine (or perhaps simply you are not that into white wine – many people don’t really like it) you might want to try your hand at pairing rosé with your shrimp scampi. However, not every rosé will do: we recommended something that’s on the lighter side, just like this wonderful option from the Sokol Blosser winery.
This wine is simply made to impress. Starting from the colour reminiscent of pale roses, this rosé will take you on an aromatic journey. Opening with notes of citrus, particularly grapefruit and blood orange, which are softened with the faint sweetness of strawberry, this wine finishes strong with a hint of pepper. The Sokol Blosser Cuvée Rosé of Pinot Noir pairs perfectly with shrimp scampi accompanied by a mild butter sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where does the Shrimp Scampi dish come from?
The name scampi as well the dish have their roots in Italy. In Italy, scampi refers to a type of shrimp, but combining scampi and garlic is also very Italian. However, the dish consisting of pasta, shrimp, and butter-garlic sauce is these days a staple in the USA.
How does one thicken the Shrimp Scampi sauce?
There are two ways to thicken a shrimp scampi butter sauce. One option is to add flour lightly fried in butter and whisk gently but thoroughly. This is best done at the beginning, but the flour can be added at any point to save your sauce. Another option is to add more butter before serving. Take care that the sauce is not too cold though, as you will risk having chunks of butter in your sauce.
What is a good side dish to serve with shrimp scampi?
Shrimp scampi is one of those dishes that really does not require a side dish. The combination of pasta, shrimp, and sauce is already very filling and satisfying on its own. For an added dose of freshness, you might want to accompany the meal with a fresh green salad, seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.