Pairing Scallops with Wine and Beverages

Pairing the tender, subtly sweet flavors of scallops with the right wine or beverage can transform an ordinary meal into a memorable dining experience.

As you select the perfect pairing, consider how the preparation of scallops can influence your choice.

Seared or grilled scallops, with their caramelized crust, harmonize with wines that offer a balance of richness and acidity.

If your scallops are prepared simply—eaten raw or lightly cooked—the pure, delicate taste is best complemented by crisp, citrusy wines.

Scallops arranged on a white plate, surrounded by glasses of wine and other beverages

For a classic pairing, reach for a chilled glass of white wine.

Varietals such as Chardonnay, Albariño, and Riesling are favored for their ability to match the weight and texture of scallops while providing a refreshing contrast.

A well-chosen Chardonnay, with its crisp acidity and buttery nuances, can enhance the sweetness of the scallops. Meanwhile, an Albariño or Riesling, known for their citrus and stone fruit profiles, often offer a mineral-driven sharpness that cuts through the richness of the shellfish.

However, don’t shy away from red wines if that’s your preference.

Light-bodied reds like a red Sancerre or an old Beaujolais bring a unique dimension to the pairing, with their subtle fruit notes and gentle tannins.

The interplay of the wine’s flavors with the succulent texture of the scallops can contribute to an unexpectedly delightful combination.

When choosing your beverage, consider the balance and the way flavors interact, ensuring that neither the scallops nor the wine overpower each other.

Understanding Scallops

A table set with seared scallops, wine glasses, and a variety of beverages

When selecting scallops, it’s essential to consider the type and the unique texture and flavor profile they present, as these factors will influence your pairing choices.

Types of Scallops

Sea Scallops: Larger in size, sea scallops are commonly found in seafood dishes. They’re often seared due to their thicker and meatier texture.

Bay Scallops: Smaller and more delicate, bay scallops are ideal for quick cooking methods. Their size makes them a great addition to salads and pastas.

Scallop Texture and Flavor

The texture of scallops is characteristically tender and succulent, making them a luxurious item on the menu.

Their flavor is subtly sweet and briny, reflecting their marine origin.

Sea scallops tend to have a more pronounced brininess, while bay scallops offer a milder, more delicate flavor profile.

Scallop Preparation Methods

Selecting the right preparation method for scallops can significantly influence their flavor and texture.

Each technique can bring out different qualities, making the choice of preparation pivotal to your culinary experience.

Searing Scallops

To sear scallops, you’ll need a hot pan, oil, and dry scallops to achieve a golden-brown crust while keeping the center tender.

Pat your scallops dry, season them, and cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side.

Grilling Scallops

When you grill scallops, preheat your grill to medium-high and clean the grates.

Lightly oil and season the scallops. Grill for 2-3 minutes per side, just until they are opaque and have slight grill marks.

Making Scallop Ceviche

For scallop ceviche, citrus juice plays a central role.

Marinate raw scallops in lime or lemon juice with seasonings and herbs. The acidity cooks the scallops and adds a fresh zesty flavor.

Let it sit for 10-20 minutes depending on the size of the scallops.

Baking Scallops

To bake scallops, preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).

Place seasoned scallops on a greased dish and bake for 12-15 minutes. They should be slightly firm to the touch and a milky white color when done.

Poaching Scallops

Poaching is a gentle cooking method ideal for scallops, where you cook them in a flavorful liquid at a low simmer.

This method retains their moisture and enhances their sweetness. Poach in wine, broth, or a seasoned liquid for about 4 minutes.

Broiling Scallops

Lastly, broiling scallops gives a rich, caramelized texture.

Position the oven rack close to the broiler and preheat. Broil scallops for about 2-3 minutes each side, watching closely to prevent burning.

They should have a light golden surface when finished.

Wine Pairing Basics

Scallops and wine on a table, with a wine glass and bottle, and a plate of scallops with a side of vegetables

In pairing wine with scallops, your goal is to complement the delicate texture and flavor profile of the seafood with a suitable wine that enhances the dining experience.

White Wines and Scallops

When it comes to scallops, white wines are often your best bet because of their high acidity which balances the natural richness of the seafood.

A Chardonnay with hints of oak can marry well with scallops in a creamy sauce, offering a buttery complement.

Alternatively, a dry Riesling or Albariño can be paired with scallop ceviche, their crisp acidity echoing the dish’s zest. Here’s a simple guide:

  • Cream-based dishes: Chardonnay (oak-influenced recommended)
  • Ceviche or raw preparations: Dry Riesling, Albariño, Pinot Gris

Red Wines and Scallops

Though not as common, you can match scallops with light red wines, particularly if they’re served with heavier elements like bacon.

Look for reds with soft tannins to avoid overpowering the scallops. A light-bodied Pinot Noir can be a harmonious match, offering subtle fruit notes without overwhelming the dish.

  • Dishes with bacon or strong flavors: Light-bodied reds (Pinot Noir)

Sparkling Wines and Scallops

Sparkling wines with their effervescence and high acid make an excellent pairing with scallops.

The bubbles in a Sparkling Wine can cleanse the palate and the acidity harmonizes with the sweetness of the scallops.

Bacon-wrapped scallops, in particular, go nicely with a brut sparkling wine, as the contrast in texture and flavor can be quite delightful.

  • Bacon-wrapped scallops: Brut Sparkling Wine

Wine Selections for Scallops

When selecting wine to complement scallops, your choice should enhance the delicate flavors of this shellfish without overpowering them.

Crisp acidity and mineral undertones are key traits that create an exceptional pairing experience.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay, with its crisp acidity and potential for buttery notes, is a classic match for scallops.

Look for a White Burgundy or an unoaked Chardonnay to really let the flavors of the mollusk shine.

  • Ideal Pairings:
    • White Burgundy
    • Unoaked Chardonnay

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc offers a zesty acidity that complements the sweetness of scallops superbly.

A bottle from the Loire Valley, noted for its minerality, would be an exemplary choice.

  • Recommended Regions:
    • Loire Valley
    • Marlborough

Riesling

A Dry Riesling is high in acidity, which balances the richness of scallops.

This varietal often brings forward aromas of green apples and stone fruits that work well with the subtle sweetness of the shellfish.

  • Flavor Notes to Look For:
    • Green Apple
    • Peach
    • Apricot

Pinot Noir

While seafood is typically paired with white wine, a light Pinot Noir can be delicate enough to accompany scallops, particularly when they are prepared with a richer sauce or accompaniment.

  • Pinot Noir Profile:
    • Light-bodied
    • Soft tannins

Rosé and Light Red Wines

For an unconventional but pleasant surprise, try a chilled Rosé or a light red wine like Red Sancerre or an old Beaujolais.

These wines are refreshing and can accent the sweet, tender nature of scallops.

  • Unexpected Pairings:
    • Red Sancerre
    • Old Beaujolais
    • Austrian St-Laurent

Citrus Flavors and Herbal Notes

For scallops that feature lemon, lime, or herbal seasoning such as thyme, look for wines that share these profiles.

Sauvignon Blanc is a prime choice, with its vibrant citrus and grassy notes.

A well-chosen wine here should:

  • Accentuate citrus: Elevates the zesty flavors such as lemon zest and lime.
  • Complement herbs: Harmonize with notes of thyme and other green herbs.

Richness and Umami

If your scallops have a buttery or umami-rich profile, perhaps with additions like garlic and mushrooms, opt for a wine that mirrors this richness.

Chardonnay, especially one that’s oak-aged, can bring a creamy texture and a hint of vanilla that pairs excellently.

Your focus should be on:

  • Balancing buttery textures: Matches the creaminess of butter-laden scallops.
  • Enhancing umami: Pairs with savory accents from ingredients like mushrooms and garlic.

Seafood and Shellfish Complements

Wines that traditionally pair well with seafood offer a complementary balance to scallops.

For a fruity flavor profile, such as preparations with ginger or chilies, a crisp Pinot Grigio or a Sparkling Wine can be a refreshing counterpart.

Here are the key things you should attempt:

  • Match fruity to spicy: Offset the heat from chilies with a fruity flavor.
  • Opt for freshness: Choose a wine that reinforces the fresh, oceanic character of the scallops.

Accompaniments and Additions

Selecting the right accompaniments and additions for your scallops can elevate the dish to new heights, ensuring a harmonious pairing with your chosen wine or beverage.

Integrating Ingredients

When preparing scallops, consider including ingredients that complement their mild, sweet flavor.

Bacon or pancetta adds a savory crispness that contrasts well with the delicate taste of the scallops, making Sparkling Wine an excellent pairing choice.

Incorporating pepper can introduce a slight heat, which pairs nicely with the citrus notes of a Sauvignon Blanc.

To add a touch of richness, consider a cheesy risotto as a side.

The creaminess of the cheese and the starchiness of the risotto together with a buttery Chardonnay can create a well-balanced dining experience.

Matching with Side Dishes

Your choice of side dishes can enhance the flavor of scallops and should complement the wine pairing. Here’s how to match side dishes with scallops and appropriate wines:

  • Lobster: As another luxurious seafood, lobster pairs well with scallops. Serve with a light-bodied Chardonnay to maintain a balance of elegance.
  • Chorizo: For a bolder taste, chorizo brings a smoky, spicy flavor that can stand up to an oaked Chardonnay.
  • Creamy sauce: A sauce based on cream can add depth to scallops. Opt for a crisp Pinot Grigio to cut through the richness.
  • Oysters or Coquilles Saint Jacques: As mollusks, they share a similar taste profile. Pair with a delicate Sparkling Wine or a mineral-driven Sauvignon Blanc to complement their briny nature.

Wine and Beverage Serving Tips

To perfect the balance of flavor in your pairing, paying attention to the fine details of serving can elevate your dining experience.

Proper temperature and glassware can be just as crucial as the choice of wine itself.

Serving Temperature

Chardonnay, known for its buttery notes and citrusy nuances, should be served chilled but not too cold—typically around 50-55°F to allow the full bouquet to emerge.

For a firm and crisp wine like Albariño from Rías Baixas, slightly cooler temperatures of 45-50°F highlight its lively effervescence and purity of fruit.

Old vine Chenin Blanc is typically served within a similar range to Chardonnay to accentuate its marvelous balance between crispness and complexity, especially if you’re able to find a selection with a slightly off-dry profile.

Always ensure your brut Champagne is well-chilled at 45°F to fully enjoy its refined bubbles and subtle smoky flavor when paired with scallops.

Glassware Choices

  • For White Wines (Chardonnay, Albariño, Old Vine Chenin Blanc):
    • Use a white wine glass with a moderate bowl sized to concentrate the delicate aromas.
    • Ensure the glass narrows slightly towards the rim to capture the wine’s bouquet and direct it towards your nose.
  • For Sparkling Wines (Brut Champagne):
    • Use a flute or tulip glass to maintain the effervescence.
    • A slender bowl helps preserve the bubbles, while the tulip shape allows for a broader base, enhancing the complex aromas.

Diverse Beverage Options

A table set with scallops, wine, and various beverages

When pairing scallops, your beverage choice should complement the dish’s delicate flavors. This can be achieved through a variety of wines and non-alcoholic options that each bring out different nuances of the seafood.

Alternative White Wines

If you’re venturing beyond the classic pairings, several white wines offer interesting alternative options.

Consider a bottle of Chenin Blanc with its versatile profile, balancing acidity with floral notes, or explore the minerality of a Vermentino which can add a zestful touch to your scallops.

An Albariño is also a suitable option, as its refreshing and slightly saline nature pairs beautifully with seafood.

Exploring Rosé and Red Varieties

While white wines are often the go-to for scallop pairings, do not overlook lighter reds and rosés.

A Beaujolais, with its fruity and low tannin profile, or a light-bodied Trousseau can complement bacon-wrapped scallops without overpowering their taste.

Grenache-based rosés are also a match worth considering, delivering a burst of berry flavors mingled with acidity.

Non-Alcoholic Pairings

For those preferring non-alcoholic beverages, choices abound.

Sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime can cleanse your palate between bites, while herbal teas, such as a chamomile or green tea, can subtly enhance the scallops’ natural sweetness.

Keep in mind that the key is to find a beverage that offers harmony without overwhelming the seafood’s mild taste.

Frequently Asked Questions

When pairing wines and beverages with scallops, the goal is to complement the delicate flavors of the seafood without overwhelming it.

What type of wine is best suited for seared scallops?

For seared scallops, a medium-bodied white wine such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc provides a balance of acidity and fruitiness that harmonizes with the caramelization of the sear.

Can I serve red wine with scallops, and if so, which one?

Yes, you can. Opt for light reds like an old Beaujolais, red Sancerre, or Austrian St-Laurent that are low in tannins, which can harmonize nicely with scallops without masking their flavor.

What white wines complement scallops in cream sauce effectively?

With a cream sauce, a white wine with good acidity and buttery notes, such as an oaked Chardonnay, would cut through the richness and elevate the taste of the scallops.

Which beverages pair well with a scallops and pasta dish?

Depending on the sauce with your pasta, a Pinot Grigio pairs well with lighter preparations, whereas a light-bodied, minerally white such as Albariño can go well with richer or seafood-based sauces.

Are there specific wines that enhance the flavor of scallops and risotto?

A crisp Pinot Gris or a zesty Vermentino will both add a delightful contrast to the creaminess of risotto while complementing the subtle flavors of scallops.

Beyond wine, what drinks pair nicely with a scallop entree?

Consider a Sparkling Wine to add vibrancy. For a non-alcoholic option, a crisp, chilled cucumber-infused water can be refreshing, especially with bacon-wrapped scallops.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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