Why Does Chardonnay Pair Well with Buttery Lobster?
By Kevin Fagan
By Kevin Fagan
Lobster is a slice of expensive meat and one that is considered a luxury for many of us. For those times when we want to treat ourselves, it pays to do things right. What’s the point of splurging on lobster for dinner if you’re going to pair it with any cheap old wine? Some wines work better than others as a pairing for lobster. The best wines play on the strengths of the buttery sumptuousness of lobster and turn a good lobster dinner into a great lobster dinner. Read on to find out why we believe Chardonnay is a particularly fantastic wine pairing for buttery lobster.
It helps to understand a little first about why we pair certain wines with certain foods in the first place. The practice of pairing food and wine goes back centuries, with many of the suggestions simply being adages passed down over time, such as ‘white wine with fish and ‘red wine with meat.’
Now, thanks to advances in food science, we are beginning to understand precisely why these pairings work so well. Ultimately, the goal of wine and food pairings is to enhance the dining experience. To that end, pairings still come down to personal preference, but we can explain why specific pairings are more likely to work than others.
To understand why Chardonnay, particularly for a great wine pairing, we need to understand a little about Malolactic fermentation. Or, at least enough to know why it makes Chardonnay such a good pairing for buttery lobster. Malolactic fermentation gives Chardonnay a distinctly creamy, almost buttery taste that matches the lobster’s same flavors and textures. In addition, Chardonnay has a distinct weight to it in your mouth, a full-bodiedness that compliments lobster well.
Malolactic fermentation is what gives Chardonnay this weight and texture. It involves converting the tart, naturally occurring malic acid in the wine into the much creamier and softer lactic acid. This process reduces acidity, giving it a less sharp flavor. Interestingly, despite the name, this process isn’t fermentation at all – there’s no yeast involved. Instead, it’s due to a special kind of bacteria called Oenoccocus Oeni that eats malic acid and produces lactic acid.
The result of the malolactic fermentation process is a wine with a much creamier, and maybe even a little oil-like, texture. In addition, it pleasantly coats the tongue with a velvety texture, much like good buttery lobster does. This is why Chardonnay, in particular, works well with lobster – both foods are about reveling in mouth-coating, rich and creamy flavors.
We’ve got some Chardonnays in particular that we think stand out from the crowd. Our favorite picks include Meyer Family Cellars Donnelly Creek Chardonnay, Handley Cellars Chardonnay, and Copain DuPratt Chardonnay. If you’re going to splurge on a fancy treat like live Maine lobsters, then it deserves to be paired with a great Chardonnay, and you can’t go wrong with any of the above.
If you don’t like Chardonnay, then all is not lost. Another wine that works well with buttery lobster is a white Pinot Noir. The Pinot Noir grape is versatile and can create several different kinds of wine, such as red wine, Rosé, and sparkling wine. What makes Pinot Noir particularly interesting is that it can also make a bottle of fantastic white wine, despite being a red grape!
Producing a white Pinot Noir requires a winemaker to follow precise procedures, requiring the utmost care at all stages of the wine-making process. These details include only picking the grapes at night, ensuring the grapes remain cold on their way to the winery and hand-picking them to prevent any skins from tearing and spoiling the flavor.
This care and attention results in a much lighter color and a different flavor to most other Pinot Noirs. It still retains specific characteristics of red wine, such as a certain tartness, but the taste produced is very similar to Chardonnay. In addition, it’s full-bodied and well-rounded in a way that makes it another complementary wine for buttery lobster. Explore white Pinot from producers Maggy Hawk, Waits Mast, Lichen Estate, and Long Meadow Ranch.
The true connoisseur knows shellfish are best when they are in season. You can get lobster any time of year, but it’s truly at its best when it’s in season. If it’s not in season, you only want to buy from quality suppliers. Cheap, out-of-season lobster is better replaced with an alternative while the lobster is out of season.
Dungeness crab is a good shellfish choice for the first half of the year – from around November to June. However, shellfish lovers shouldn’t despair because when the Dungeness crab season closes on the Mendocino Coast, it is time to turn to Maine for the lobster season! Lobster season nearly perfectly covers the second half of the year, from June to December. So be sure to make the most of delicious, buttery lobster by pairing it with a fantastic Chardonnay (or Pinot Noir) for a truly exquisite dinner!