We don’t know about you, but the very thought of summer makes us think of sea breeze, wine, and delightful seafood dishes to go with it. And is there a more perfect ending to a searing hot day on the beach than a meal of perfectly prepared scallops. We think not. But to make the experience, be it real or still imaginary, perfect, one needs the perfect wine pairing for the scallops.
So how does one choose the best wine to pair with scallops? Well, we have some good news for you if you are unsure. Scallops are one of the foods that pair wonderfully well with wine. You can’t pair them with just any wine, of course, but there are lots of options to choose from. Today, we’ll show you a range of wines that pair well with scallops so you can choose what suits your taste and we will also offer guidelines on how to create your own pairings. If this sounds like just what you need, keep reading.
In order to find the perfect wine pairing to any food, it’s good to really think about the food in question. This will help you better understand the character and the flavour of the dish, so it will be much easier to find the perfect counterpart in the world of wine.
So, let’s start with the most basic question. What exactly are scallops? Perhaps you already know that and find the question silly, but you’d be surprised with how many people aren’t actually sure what scallops are, besides the fact that they belong to the world of seafood.
Scallops belong to the family of mollusks, but they are not oysters, clams, or mussels – they are their own species. Scallops grow in salt water only, which is why they inevitably will bring forth musings about the seashore no matter where you are eating them. The part of the scallop we actually eat is it’s only muscle – the muscle that opens and closes the shell as needed. That muscle actually has quite a lot of work to do, which is why it does often feel quite like meat in your mouth.
The great thing about scallops is that they can be both healthy and eco-friendly. Scallop meat is made mostly out of protein, which makes it fit well into almost any diet. If grown and harvested the right way, scallops are also a sustainable choice. Really the best of what the ocean can offer us.
Types of Scallops: Bay Scallops and Sea Scallops
There are two main types of scallops – bay scallops and sea scallops. “Sea scallops” are also known as Atlantic sea scallops or diver scallops. They live in the wild in the deepest parts of the ocean. These scallops can also be marked as ‘wild’ for this reason. The term bay scallops is typically used to refer to scallops that come from the East Coast of the United States. They typically grow in slightly shallower waters. Sea scallops can be harvested all year while bay scallops have their harvest season each year in the fall. Sea scallops are also larger than bay scallops. They can reach as much as 9 inches in length (but keep in mind that that translates to 2 inches if you look at the part that we eat).
Tips For Pairing Wine With Scallops
Scallops are a very meaty type of shellfish, but their flavour is still gentle, and it’s important to take care to bring the scallop flavour out with wine and other additions, rather than overpower it. If you’ve never tried scallops, we’d say they taste somewhat close to lobster, but still unique. They feel creamy and buttery (often enhanced by actual butter). Often, it may feel like you are actually tasting the sea in your scallop.
As you might have suspected, scallops are easier to pair with white wines rather than red, just like pretty much all seafood. However, pairing with rose or red wine is possible, if a bit unorthodox. Typically, you’ll want to choose white wines that are dry and have a pronounced, but not overpowering acidity.
Best Wines To Pair With Scallops: White
As mentioned already, white wine is a tried-and-true choice when looking for a pairing for your scallops. However, don’t just choose any wine. Typically, you’ll want to choose white wines on the drier side, but you can still go a bit bolder with the flavour without actually choosing a sweet wine. Here are some great options:
#1 Elizabeth Spencer Sauvignon Blanc
If you want a really classic pairing for your scallops, definitely go with Sauvignon Blanc. You really can go wrong with a Sauvignon Blanc when pairing with any seafood. This Sauvignon Blanc from Elizabeth Spencer winery is a delightfully refreshing specimen. Perfect for summer nights, this wine is playfully acidic and rich in fruity notes of pear, grapefruit, and citrus.A distinct minerality and hints of spice create a beautifully balanced flavour profile which is not too heavy on the palate (thus leaving room for the scallops to shine).
The Elizabeth Spencer Sauvignon Blanc is an elegant wine which goes well with classic dishes like scallops with lemon and garlic.
#2 Foral De Melgaço Alvarinho Vinho Verde
Alvarinho is one of the grape varieties used in Portugal to make the famous Vinho Verde. Vinho Verde can be made from different varietals or even blends, but this one from Foral is pure Alvarinho. Arguably the most characteristic wine of Portugal, Alvarinho will delight you with notes of refreshing fruits. You’ll detect green apple, peach, and some tropical hints like pineapple. The high acidity of Vinho Verde makes it the perfect wine to pair with heavier scallop dishes, such as those that involve lots of cream and/or butter.
The flavour profile of this Alvarinho works well with some more exotic scallop recipes. It’s a perfect pairing for thai-style scallops made with sweet chili and different aromatics like lime and ginger.
#3 Paco & Lola Ophalum Albariño
In case you are wondering, yes, the Alvarinho grape from Portugal mentioned above and the Albariño grown in nearby Spain are the same grape variety. However, there is a distinct difference in style between Spanish Albariño and the Vinho Verde made in Portugal.
The one we chose for our top list comes from Rias Baixas in the north of Spain. This is a stunning Albariño with pronounced acidity and lots of fruit-forward notes. The wine is rich in warm fruit flavours like peach and pear, with a gentle but definitely noticeable hint of orange.
Due to the high acidity and intense flavour, the Paco & Lola Ophalum Albariño works great with heavier seafood dishes like those made with cream or lots of butter.
Best Wines To Pair With Scallops: Sparkling White Wine
The perfect way to complete a very special dinner? Add some sparkling white wine. Perfect for celebratory occasions, but not only, these are our favourite sparkling whites to pair with scallops:
#1 Pergolo Prosecco Doc Brut
Gentle and lightweight but still somewhat serious, Prosecco is always a great companion for warm summer evenings or even afternoons. This Prosecco from Northeastern Italy is a great example of the playful but restrained character Prosecco can have. Grown in a cool climate, this wine is not overly sweet although it has hints of sweet fruit like melon. A notable but gentle acidity makes this wine pair well with almost any scallop dish. Our favourite pairing for it would be a creamy risotto with scallops and Parmesan. Just delightful.
#2 Avinyó Cava Reserva Brut
The uplifting character of Spanish white wines pairs amazingly well with scallops and this Cava wine from Avinyó is proof of that. A delightful alternative to Champagne and Prosecco, this wine has a unique flavour profile that will not leave anyone indifferent. Made with indigenour grape varieties – Parellada, Macabeo, and Xarel-lo, it’s bound to be unique. With fresh notes of apples and lemon and a distinct mineral finish, this wine offers a unique depth of flavour, partly due to being aged in oak barrels. If you want to impress your company with your choice of wine, this might be the right bottle.
#3 Crémant de Jura, Domaine de Montbourgeau N.V.
Is it true that a good bottle of Champagne must cost a lot? Well, maybe, but this bottle of Crémant doesn’t come quite close. Crémant de Jura wines are made the same way Champagne is made, and this one uses exactly the same Chardonnay grapes. The only difference is that it’s not made in the Champagne region of France.
Regardless of what you think of Champagne, this Crémant de Jura is a must-try. The delicate and well-balanced flavour profile pairs well with subtle scallop dishes. With warm notes of apple and pead, and hints of yeast, bread, and butter in the background, this wine is still very acidic and refreshing.
Best Wines To Pair With Scallops: Red And Rose
White wine might be the go-to when it comes to seafood pairings, but pairing scallops with rose can be awesome too. For those who are really open-minded, or simply only like red wine, we offer one example of pairing red wine with scallops.
#1 Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Sparkling Rosé
Acidic and fruity, this sparkling rose from Shramsberg is perfect for celebratory nights. Don’t let the sound of the name fool you, this is a wine from Northern California. Made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this is a bold wine but one that offers an easy drinking experience. Full of fruity notes like berries, but not actually sweet at all, this wine is a real joy to drink on its own or with scallops.
#2 Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Rosé
Not a fan of sparkling wines but want to try a rose with scallops? Then try the Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Rosé. The peach colour of this wine reflects it’s flavours. You’ll feel hints of raspberry and lemon along with elderberry, jasmin, and grapefruit. There is also a notable minerality and a herbal quality to this wine. The result is a wine with character but still delightfully refreshing.
#3 Montinore Estate Pinot Noir
Pairing scallops with red wine is a bit risqué, but it can work if you know what you are doing. The key is finding a red that’s low on tannins, dry, and acidic. The Montinore Estate Pinot Noir is just such wine. Even though it’s low on tannins this wine still has a fairly full body. You’ll feel rich notes of fruit like cherry, plum and raspberries and hints of nuts and chocolate in the background. Pair well with stronger scallop dishes like scallops wrapped in prosciutto or something along that line.
Scallops Fun Facts
We talked about a lot of different wines, so to bring us back into focus on our main star tonight, here are some fun facts about scallops.
- Scallops have eyes. Yes, they actually do. Actually, they have up to 200 tiny blue eyes. They are spread out along the edge of their shell. Technically, it’s not the shell but the lining of the shell, but you get the point.
- Scallops can’t close their shells completely. That’s partly the reason why they live so deep in the ocean.
- You can tell the age of a scallop by the rings on its shell. Each ring represents a year of growth/
- Scallops are hermaphrodites. At least, many of them are. That means a single scallop can produce offspring on its own.
- The colour of the scallop’s shell can differ based on the food they eat. The diet of a scallop consists mainly of algae, plankton, and krill.
Fail Proof Scallop Recipe For Wine Pairing
If you are not sure how to prepare scallops to bring out the character of the wine you’ve picked, we’ve prepared an easy recipe for you. It’s simple, but so delicious and subtle that it’s hard to go wrong with it. The key to serving a good meal that incorporates scallops is picking high-quality fresh scallops. When they are good, scallops don’t need too much spice or anything else to bring out their flavour.
- 1 lb. sea scallops
- 3 tbsp butter
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Seasoning of choice (more about that below)
- Lemon or lime for serving
To start this recipe, first you’ll need to prepare your scallops. You’ll need to remove the meat from the shell, unless you bought your scallops already cleaned. Now, for the seasoning part. The basic version of this recipe uses only salt and pepper – and some would say that’ enough. If you’d like, you can use smoked paprika or other aromatics like fresh chives, parsley, cilantro or garlic. If you are using dry spices like smoked paprika, you’ll want to sprinkle them on the scallops before cooking. A note of caution: don’t overdo it. Scallops don’t need a lot of spice, they need subtle hints to bring out their flavour.
Cooking The Scallops
Step 1: Take a large saute pan and melt the butter in it over low heat
Step 2: Once the butter is completely melted and transparent, it’s time to add the scallops. Spread them out so they don’t touch each other. The butter should be fairly hot and just on the verge of burning – it’s the tricky part. Scallops need to be seared only shortly – only about a minute or two on each side. So get ready to start flipping quickly. Overcooked scallops do not taste good.
Step 3: Remove from heat and serve immediately. Serve the scallops on their own with some lemon wedges (perhaps put back in the shell), or with a side of your choice such as steamed asparagus or a fresh salad.
For those who haven’t tried making scallops or pairing them with wine, they can seem a bit intimidating. However, we do believe that scallops are some of the most delightful seafood to work with. They are not too difficult to prepare, and they pair so well with so many wines. If you are new to this world, try a classic pairing with something like Sauvignon Blanc or Prosecco. Then, you can compare this experience with something more exotic like Vinho Verde or a good sparkling rose.