Styles to try when pairing wine with scallops:
- Scallop ceviche or raw: Riesling, Albarino, Chablis, Vermentino
- Seared scallops: Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay (with some oak), Alsace Pinot Gris
- Baked scallops: Champagne (Chardonnay-dominant), Marsanne
- Reds: Trousseau, Beaujolais, red Sancerre
Matching wine with scallops is likely to lead you more to whites than reds.
Big, tannic red wines will generally overpower seafood dishes, although you could experiment with very light reds if you really can’t countenance a foray into white wine territory.
For those who can, choosing a good white wine to pair with your scallops depends on how your dish is prepared.
Scallop ceviche and raw scallops
‘Scallops marinated and served as ceviche usually works very well with dry Riesling, Albarino or Pinot Gris,’ said Jean-Baptiste Lemoine, head sommelier at The Goring in London.
‘It is like caviar to me. You don’t want to add too much and try to keep it as simple as possible. Bringing enough fruit, acidity and minerality is the basics with ceviche.’
If your ceviche involves lime and chillis then think about Riesling from South Australia’s Clare Valley, which often show lime flavours alongside crisp acidity, said Eric Zwiebel MS, sommelier at Summer Lodge in Dorset, southern England.
Alexandre Freguin, head sommelier at two-Michelin-starred Moor Hall near to Liverpool, suggested Vermentino with a bit of age with raw scallops for those feeling more adventurous.
‘If scallops are raw I would highly recommend a wine with a bright profile and a bit of texture,’ he said, highlighting Antoine Arena’s Vermentino from Corsica.
Looking a little beyond wine, Japanese saké can also work, Freguin said. ‘The Junmai Ginjo Lei of the Kura Katsuyama would be incredible, we are talking about a fragrant and low ABV saké with a real oiliness.’
Searing scallops, especially with butter or onion involved, can create caramelised flavours in the dish that can marry well with a more complex wine.
Acidity is still important but a slightly fuller-bodied white wine, perhaps with some time on lees or oak or bottle ageing under its belt, could sing with those richer flavours in the dish.
‘Seared scallops will require a wine with more structure and density such as white Burgundy [with some oak], old Chenin Blanc or a Condrieu [Viognier] with some age,’ said Lemoine, adding that wines made from Petite Arvine or Ribolla could be more adventurous options.
Zwiebel added that pan fried scallops with black truffle can work brilliantly alongside Pinot Gris from Alsace. A bottle with some age will have a rounded palate, perhaps be a little bit off-dry and show white truffle and candied, exotic fruit flavours, he said.
Champagne with baked or roasted scallops
Lemoine said The Goring’s baked scallops with rosemary and orange butter is a dish that pairs well with Duval Leroy’s Femme de Champagne, which is Chardonnay-dominant and marries freshness, creaminess and acidity.
‘What you absolutely want to do is cut the oiliness from the butter but keep that zesty orange feeling.’
Freguin suggested considering Roussanne and Marsanne blends from the Rhône, but also highlighted a light red wine.
‘If scallops are roasted I love Trousseau,’ he said, name-checking the ‘freshness and kick’ of that made by Arnot-Roberts in northern California.
Red wines with scallops
As Freguin suggests above, it is wrong to assume that red wines never match with fish or seafood.
Never say never in the wine world.
‘I recently found that very light red wine, such as red Sancerre, old Beaujolais or even St-Laurent from Austria can also be a very attractive pairing,’ said Lemoine. ‘Because of their high fruit presence and soft tannins, this is a fantastic alternative.’
How sustainable are your scallops?
In the UK, Scottish charity Open Seas last year raised the alarm over dredging the seabed in order to catch scallops. Also known as ‘bottom dragging’, it is a particularly destructive method for sea habitats, the charity said.
Eating hand-dived scallops is considered a much more sustainable option, if you can find them.
Sustainabiliy of stocks was the biggest concern among fishing industry members surveyed ahead of the UK’s Scallop Management Conference, held in February 2019. However, a conference report said that work was still underway to clarify existing stock levels.
Tensions boiled over last year between French and British fishing boats over access to scallops in the English Channel.