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Wines under $20 pair with seafood

Wines under $20 pair with seafood

Generally, this time of year my menu shifts from lighter foods (fresh vegetables, grilled chicken and fish) to robust comfort foods (pot roast, braises and chili), but I am learning more and more readers continue to seek out foolproof seafood and wine pairings, even as the weather cools.

I’ve scoured through my notes, revisited a few test pairings myself and hope these selections will make for an easy wine shopping list. Also, keeping with your requests, this week I recommended only values under $20.



The albarino grape could easily become your wine choice for any seafood and any preparation method. Paella generally has a mix of mussels, shrimp, clams, lobster and even meatier versions with chorizo. This grape, with its refreshing light-bodied crisp acidity, simply complements and does not overwhelm the seafood’s flavors as do many other wines.


  • 2016 La Cana Albarino, Spain (about $17 retail)



Lobster is often a splurge, but chardonnay, hands down, pairs superbly with this exceptional seafood. This match works because of the delicious simplicity in cooking preparations. Lobster is usually steamed or grilled and served with melted butter and a splash of lemon. It’s these flavors setting up chardonnay as its pairing companion. If we consider the palate profile of most chardonnays, whether from Burgundy, Australia or California they will have citrus notes. This can be lemon, lime and sometimes grapefruit. Adding to the pairing combination is many chardonnays spend some time in oak, bringing out a rich buttery note to the wine. This also is a component offering the ideal pairing of the buttery dipping or cream based sauces.


  • 2016 Imagery Winery Chardonnay, California (about $16 retail )



White wine may be the go-to for fish, but salmon and pinot noir share a divine food pairing relationship. I have attempted many pairings with salmon with different cooking variations. The ones matching best with pinot noir are those with a savory-sweet glaze, grilled and smoked. Lighter bodied pinot noir has just enough acidity to add a burst of flavor to complement the bold salty fishy notes. The only salmon preparation I have found in my notes with a minuscule conflict are those prepared with extreme spice and chile-heat.


  • 2016 A to Z Pinot Noir, Oregon (about $15 retail)



Dungeness crab has a succulent fresh sweetness and pairs best with higher acidity white wines. The key is not to overwhelm the rich delicate flavor of the meat. Whether the crab is steamed or roasted, sauvignon blanc doesn’t take over and matches perfectly.


  • 2015 American Thread Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $19 retail)