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Best Wines to Pair with Crab

Improper wine pairing can overwhelm the inherent sweetness of crab meat, which is why it is important to complement it with a low tannin wine, which will not only go well with it, but will also accentuate its flavors. Let's take a look at the different wines that pair well with crabs.
Best wines to pair with crab
Handy Tip!
Never get too worked up about food and wine pairings. Both wine and food are meant for pleasing your palate, so choose a pairing that satiates your taste buds.

Stone crabs, Dungeness crabs, soft-shelled crabs, hermit crabs, hairy crabs, etc., are all so sweet, delicious, and succulent. Crab meat is deliciously irresistible, irrespective of whether it's steamed, baked, or deep-fried. What would make things perfect is a refreshing glass of wine to go along with it.

Crab meat is sweet and delicate, and it needs a crispy, not too oaky wine to complement its flavor. Bold and high tannin wines will crush the delicate flavor of crab, which is why crabs are mostly paired with white wines. However, while pairing wine with crab, another factor has to be taken into consideration―the way it is prepared and the spices and sauces used. All these factors will dictate the choice of wine. Let's now take a look at some of the best wines to pair with crab, to make your meal a thoroughly enjoyable one.

Best Wines Pairings for Crabs

Buttery Chardonnay

A crisp, white Chardonnay has enough acidity to complement the sweetness of crab meat. If you're serving it with melted butter, then again, this wine is the perfect choice, because its bright acidity cuts through the fat. Moreover, this white wine varietal has its own buttery notes, which hide preparation errors, especially when the crab cakes come out slightly dry. Oaked Chardonnay usually overshadows the delicate flavors of the crab; thus, it's better to stick to the lightly oaked or unoaked versions.

Pairs Perfectly With:

• Dungeness crab
• Steamed crab
• Baked crab
• Crab cakes (baked)
• Soft-shelled crabs

Refreshing Riesling

Riesling is a seafood-friendly white wine that is loved for its versatility. If you are serving warm crab, a Riesling would be the ideal wine to pick. Moreover, the refreshing and citrusy notes of this off-dry varietal complements deep-fried crab cakes well because its acidity and freshness cuts through the grease and cleanses your palate. The residual sugar in a Riesling gives it the ability to handle spiced crab preparations, whereby, its sweetness balances out the heat in the food. Moreover, don't forget how its acidity also balances out all the flavors in perfect harmony. Just make sure your pick has lower alcohol content, so as to balance out the heat.

Pairs Perfectly With:

• Spicy crab cakes (deep-fried)
• Mayonnaise-dipped crab
• Spicy roast crab
• Spicy crab boil

Zesty Sauvignon Blanc

If you love deep-fried crab, then this citrusy-herbaceous wine should be your pick. Its bright acidity cuts through grease in the food, and accentuates the delicate goodness of this shellfish meat. Although many find this wine a little too herbaceous and spicy, this varietal brings out the sweetness even more. You can also try out the citrusy type to have with your crab. If you prefer to have your crab in a simpler fashion, stick to the unoaked versions of this varietal.

Pairs Perfectly With:

• Steamed crab
• Deep-fried crab cakes
• Crab salad
• Crab Louie
• Crab Risotto

Exotic Viognier

This food-friendly exotic white wine is highly aromatic with a strong, elegant, floral aroma, and opulent fruity notes of apricots, apples, orange blossoms, stone fruit, and acacia emanating from it. Its creamy body and sweet and spicy notes allow it to complement the sweetness of the crab well. Since it can handle the richness from the butter, cream, and cheese, crab preparation with these ingredients can be served with this varietal. Viognier from cooler regions are highly acidic, and depending on where it hails from, it can have mineral-like or steely characteristics. This is precisely why Viognier is not paired with highly acidic dishes, because the acidity in the food accentuates the minerality of the wine, making it very unpalatable.

Pairs Perfectly With:

• Crabmeat in white sauce
• Crab cakes
• Steamed crab with butter sauce

Aromatic Pinot Gris

Yet another interesting white wine variety, this wine is known for its delicately fragrant characteristics. With an aroma of ripe pears, peach, etc., and a rich mouth feel, it's a great wine to pair with your crab. Its citrusy notes simply complement the sweetness of crab meat beautifully, while its fresh acidity cuts through the grease in deep-fried crab cakes or crabs served with mayonnaise and other creamy sauces.

Pairs Perfectly With:

• Crab legs
• Thai crab cakes
• Cold crab
• Pan-fried crabs

Intense Savennières

Produced in the Loire Valley wine region of France, this not-so-widely-known dry white wine is also a good match for crab. Made from Chenin Blanc grapes, its citrusy and mineral-based tones complement the sweetness and richness of crab meat beautifully. These wines are high in acidic content, which is what helps this wine cut the fat and grease in deep-fried crab preparations. It also does well with crabs prepared in rich, creamy sauces.

Pairs Perfectly With:

• Crab cakes
• Deep-fried soft-shelled crabs
• Crab butter legs

Sparkling Wines

Sparkling wines have been stereotyped as aperitifs, and although these bubblies make great aperitifs, they also do well when paired with foods. Crabs, for one, do very well with a sparkler like Champagne. Thankfully, there are various affordable alternatives to Champagne, like Prosecco, Cava, etc., that also pair well with this crustacean. Sparklers pair excellently with any form of deep-fried crab.

Pairs Perfectly With:

• Deep-fried crab cakes
• Deep-fried soft-shelled crabs

Pinot Noir

Although white wine is traditionally served with seafood, sometimes you can break the rules, if the pairing goes well together. One such pairing is that of the light red wine―Pinot Noir and crab. It is light, fruity, and acidic, but unlike other high tannin red wines, this varietal contains a low tannin structure. A light- or medium-bodied Pinot does not overwhelm the flavors of the crab meat, while its vibrant acidity balances out the sweetness of the meat.

Pairs Perfectly With:

• Crab in black bean sauce
• Crab cakes

White Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, etc., also go well with crab. Don't let wine pairings intimidate you. Wine tasting is all about discovering and exploring, and even wine experts will tell you how they haven't stopped experimenting. So, make it your beloved endeavor to taste different wines with various crab preparations, and find out which you like. Be prepared to be enthralled by the results. All the best!
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Published: December 19, 2013
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