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Which Wine With Maine Lobster

Wine and LobsterAsk a wine expert what to pour with Maine Lobster and you’ll probably get a short answer: “It depends.”

Are you grilling, boiling or stir-frying the lobster? Are you pairing it with cream sauce, tomato sauce or black bean sauce? Karen MacNeil, chair of the professional wine studies program at The Culinary Institute of America, helps us navigate through the possibilities:

With a simple steamed or boiled lobster with drawn butter: “Go for something that isn’t as overwhelmingly big as California Chardonnay or white Burgundy. A fascinating match, although completely unconventional, is Albariño from Galicia, in the northwest corner of Spain, home of the largest fishery in Europe. That white wine is just built for shellfish. Oregon Pinot Gris could also be really fun. It’s a little weightier than Pinot Grigio.”

With lobster in a creamy sauce: “For lobster done in opulent manner, I think white Burgundy is the quintessential match. You can also do California Chardonnay, but I give the nod to white Burgundy because it generally has a bit more acidity. I wouldn’t cut corners. I would go for a Puligny-Montrachet, a Chassagne-Montrachet or a Meursault, and if the budget allowed it, a Grand Cru. Whether from California or Burgundy, Chardonnay is mouthfilling. Lobster also has a substantial mouthfeel, so it’s a textural match we’re making as well as a flavor match.”

With chilled lobster in a salad: “You’re looking for some bracing acidity because of the vinaigrette. French Chablis, Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé would all be great. An unconventional choice is German Riesling—a kabinett, high in acidity and matching the light freshness of the dish. If the salad has a strong herbal note or a lot of baby greens, I’d prefer Sauvignon Blanc. If it’s warm outside and the salad is primarily seafood without greens, consider a sparkling wine.”

With grilled lobster with a composed butter: “You might be able to get away with a toastier Chardonnay here, the toast mirroring the char of the grill. If you were ever going to try red wine with lobster, this is your chance, as the grill becomes the bridge. I’d be curious about how a Pinot Noir would work. If you have a stronger sauce than just butter, rosé would be a great idea. Some of my favorites are from Spain, from Tempranillo, Garnacha or Carignane grapes.”

With stir-fried lobster with Asian seasonings: “Definitely either a German Riesling, Champagne or sparkling wine, but I’d have a preference for the Riesling. Its high acidity, aromatic profile and background note of sweetness make it a logical contender with Asian and Southeast Asian seafood dishes.”

With lobster in a tomato sauce, perhaps with pasta: “Tomatoes are relatively hard on wine. Here’s a case where Chardonnay would give me the shudders. I would harken back to tradition and opt for Chianti. It’s one of the highest reds in acidity, and its flavors have withstood the test of time as a good foil for tomato sauce. For not much more money, you can get Chianti Classico, and for not much more yet, you can get Chianti Classico Riserva. I almost always opt for that. The grapes are better and the wines are aged a bit longer.”
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