With juicy white flesh and a famously delicate flavor, scallops are a staple of many dishes around the world. Choosing the best wine for scallops starts with respecting the limits of shellfish.
While flavorful red meats often demand aged red wines, scallops are better suited to lighter white wine or rosés. When considering adding different scallop recipes and side dishes to the mix? It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the food pairing possibilities!
We’re here to help you choose the best wine for scallops. We’ll make sure your pairings enhance – not mute – the dainty nuttiness and sweetness these shellfish are known for!
Choosing Your Scallop Recipe
An easier way to pair your wine with scallops is to choose your recipe first. Just like the focal point in a painting, your scallops will be the centerpiece of your side dish and your wine.
When you want the full freshness of the ocean on your platter, raw scallops are the way to go. Experienced chefs will order their scallops the same day and keep them cold before serving so they’re safe to eat.
Raw scallops are a popular ingredient in sushi and sashimi, though you can also find them in fusion dishes. The delicate sweetness and subtle brine from the sea are on full display here.
If you’re not comfortable eating raw seafood, grilled scallops are a delight. Scallops have soft and tender meat, so grilling sessions are kept short to keep them from drying out.
Scallops need just a few minutes on the grill to reach a proper internal temperature, enjoying a seared exterior and faintly smoky flavor. Extra ingredients you can toss in are sprigs of parsley, a squeeze of lemon, or a chunk of butter.
Another cooking method that protects scallops’ subtle flavor notes is poaching. You can simmer shellfish in a variety of liquids such as broth, butter, or wine!
Poached shellfish are extra tender and will practically melt in your mouth. Popular additions to poached scallops are soups, salads, or sides of rice.
Do you want an assortment of different textures both inside and outside? Sautéing is a lighter version of pan-frying, relying more on the heat of the pan than oil to cook the shellfish.
Sautéed scallops are exquisitely crispy on the outside and quite juicy on the inside. To save time, you can also toss in some shrimp and vegetables for a quick stir fry.
Last but not least, roasted scallops are a heartwarming dish that’ll pair wonderfully with a tall glass of wine. These scallops are baked in the oven, usually breaded with a dash of seasonings.
You can add a sharp white cheese as a top layer or stick to panko bread crumbs to enhance the scallops’ natural nuttiness.
The Best Wine For Scallops
Choosing the best wine for scallops starts with recognizing the delicacy of shellfish. Due to their propensity for subtle flavors, you want lighter wines that won’t overpower your dish.
Highly tannic and oaked red wines should generally be avoided due to their rich flavor and robust aromas. We’ll recommend a blend of suitable reds, whites, and rosés alongside specific scallop dishes so you’ll find your perfect match!
Best White Wine For Scallops
What’s the go-to wine for shellfish? White wine, of course! White wine grapes lack the tannins of their red grape cousins, resulting in tangy and smooth wines that bring out the ocean’s best.
Sauvignon blanc is not only a fantastic sipping wine for shellfish, it’s also used in poached or sautéed scallop recipes. This French white wine is a powerhouse of citrus fruit and grassy notes, both of which complement the salty sweetness of your dish.
We Recommend Sauvignon Blanc For: Raw, Sautéed, or Poached Scallops
Sauvignon blanc’s bright and zesty nature makes it one of the most versatile wine types for scallops. Raw scallops have the most subtle flavors of all the recipes, so sauvignon blanc’s lemon and lime notes will be a natural complement.
If you prefer cooked scallops, go for a sautéed or poached recipe. The former will give you a crisp texture to wash down with your wine (preferably chilled!), while a poached recipe will go great with your wine and a crunchy salad.
Sauvignon blanc’s tart flavors are a joy for many, but could still be a little too sour for your tastes. Pinot grigio adds a level of semi-sweetness for a more balanced approach.
While pinot grigio shares the lemon notes of sauvignon blanc, this Italian wine also has notes of yellow pear, apple, and honey.
We Recommend Pinot Grigio For: Sautéed or Grilled Scallops
Pinot grigio and the barbecue are a match made in heaven. Grilled scallops add a hint of smoke and earthiness to balance out the wine’s honeyed yellow fruit.
If you want to lean toward a more flash-fried option, sautéed scallops will give you a crisp texture that resembles grilled options. A dash of butter with some green vegetables (think asparagus or green beans) will round out the dish nicely.
This beloved white wine is a staple of Greece, but rarely found outside its shores. We recommend doing a little digging to find an authentic bottle because assyrtiko is practically a sibling to seafood.
Sometimes blended with sauvignon blanc, single-origin assyrtiko is quite dry and citrusy. Lemon rind and lime are dominant flavors alongside subtle hints of white peach, passionfruit, and saline.
We Recommend Assyrtiko For: Raw or Grilled Scallops
Since assyrtiko is nearly as acidic as sauvignon blanc, we have similar recommendations! Raw scallops are a shoo-in for assyrtiko’s dry and slightly salty character.
In contrast, grilled scallops will bring out the wine’s faint peach and passionfruit undertones.
The only white wine associated with shellfish more than sauvignon blanc and assyrtiko is chardonnay. With flexible flavor notes that range from faintly tropical to ripe stone fruit, unoaked chardonnay is easy to pair.
New Zealand chardonnay leans toward dominant flavors of papaya, guava, and minerals, while California chardonnay often has apple, pear, and peach.
We Recommend Unoaked Chardonnay For: Sautéed Scallops
Unoaked chardonnay is fresh and inviting, bringing a fruit-forward nature that will push out your scallops’ salty sweetness. Sautéed scallops are a fitting pairing here, especially when dusted with a little rosemary or black pepper.
If the white wines we’ve recommended so far are too tart or light for your tastes, oaked chardonnay will be your calling card. This grape is an outlier among white wine thanks to its responsiveness to oak aging, resulting in a whole new arrangement of flavors and mouthfeels.
Oaked chardonnay has a famously buttery finish and creamy mouthfeel, unparalleled when paired with a melt-in-your-mouth scallop platter. You’ll also enjoy faint notes of vanilla, cedar, or roasted almonds.
We Recommend Oaked Chardonnay For: Grilled or Roasted Scallops
Since oaked chardonnay is savory and rich, you’ll need a more robust scallop recipe to match. Grilled scallops add a whiff of charr that pair nicely with your wine’s buttery texture.
An especially mouthwatering pairing is oaked chardonnay’s creamy mouthfeel with a plate of breaded, roasted scallops.
Best Red Wine For Scallops
While red wine is rarely paired with scallops, there are a few grape varieties that are bright and tangy enough to bring out the best in seafood.
A famously easy-drinking wine thanks to its reduced tannins, barbera is one of our top choices for scallop dishes. This Italian wine is lively and fresh enough to balance out your shellfish, but not so vigorous it drowns everything out.
The flavor notes you’ll enjoy most often with barbera are dried strawberries, cherries, and blackberries. Oaked varieties may yield hints of nutmeg and cloves.
We Recommend Barbera For: Roasted Scallops
Barbera’s fruit-forward nature and lean toward baking spices make it a perfect choice for roasted scallops. Your dish will be toasted, juicy, and meaty enough to make your wine sing.
With a similar flavor profile to barbera, grenache is another easy pick for your next scallop dish. While not as popular as pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon, grenache has been picking up steam for its unique flavor notes.
Barbera and grenache both have dominant flavors of cherries and strawberries. Where they differ is grenache’s surprising lean toward orange rind and grapefruit. When oaked, grenache can also boast tobacco and herbal notes.
We Recommend Grenache For: Grilled or Roasted Scallops
Grenache is a highly complex wine that gets even more so when oaked, so cook a complex scallop dish to match. Grilled scallops dunked in herbs or butter will pair well with grenache’s red fruit and citrus.
Roasted scallops are especially well-suited to an oaked vintage, offering a toasty character to your wine’s smoky, herbal finish.
Rosé For Scallops
When white wine is too acidic and red wine too fruity, rosé offers the best of both worlds. Since blushing wines can be made from any red wine grape, we’ve chosen a few in particular for scallops.
We Recommend Rosé Made From Pinot Noir For: Raw or Poached
Rosé made from pinot noir is rich with strawberry, raspberry, and melon notes. Raw scallops won’t be overwhelmed by the bright red fruit, while poached scallops offer a savory contrast.
We Recommend Rosé Made From Grenache For: Grilled
Rosé from grenache is a little more acidic, leaning toward lemon zest and tart raspberries. A grilled scallop dish will favor this lean toward citrus and bramble.