What Wines Pair Well With Your Raw Bar Dishes, Per NYC's Somms

Categories: Unscrewed

Max Flatow

Summer equals seafood. Fresh, raw, and unadulterated, nothing compares to scoring a seat at a glistening metal bar on a steamy NYC day, the slight damp from the swipe of a recent wipe down cooling your baked skin, while an oversized platter of chilled shellfish and crisp glass of wine appear before you as a magical tonic to the suffering outside.

With classic seafood offerings like shrimp cocktail and clams in mind, we polled the city's finest wine and shellfish aficionados for their favorite pairings. Here are eight suggestions to help you think beyond the tired but true Muscadet and oysters match the next time you slip into that raw bar stool.

Oysters: The oyster pairing has too long and lazily defaulted to Muscadet. Julia Travis, general manager at seafood hot spot Cull & Pistol in Chelsea Market (adjacent to and owned by the same folks as The Lobster Place), offers two alternatives.

First, from producer Caraccioli in the St. Lucia Highlands (from Monterey County, California), a sparkling rosé made in the traditional method, aged on the lees. "The current vintage is 2007; the wine has a nice fruit note, but is bone dry, and pairs across a range of different oyster types," she says.

Second, Travis proposes trying Txakoli, specifically from producer Aizpurua. Txakoli is made from grapes indigenous to, and only grown in, the northern Basque region of Spain. "This wine is also aged on the lees giving it a little roundness along with its bracing acidity, making it a great choice for oysters, especially creamy ones from the West Coast."

Scallops: Whether raw or lightly seared, plump dayboat or sweet little bay, Jaime Kaloustian, wine director at Dovetail, recommends white Rhône varieties for scallops, produced either in France or California, "as long as the wines show restraint." (Rhône varieties such as Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne are prone to high alcohol and too little acid when in less careful hands.) Out of Sonoma, California, Kaloustian likes Anaba Wine's Roussanne dominated blend; alternatively, from Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Southern Rhone of France, look for Château La Nerthe's white blend.

Shrimp Cocktail: This legendary dish that teeters between trendy and dated (and when executed perfectly, always hard to turn down) is composed of chilled shrimp perched above a pool of tomato-based sauce. Alexander LaPratt, MS, the beverage director and a partner at Atrium DUMBO, recommends pairing with it an Albariño from the region of Rias Baixas on the Atlantic coast of Spain. "Albariño, such as the Pazo de Señoráns, has relatively high acidity which goes well with the acid found in the sauce," he says. "The wine also has flavors of grapefruit and lemon, which complements the coldness of the shrimp as well as the lemon diners often squirt onto the prawns."

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