As a lifetime New Englander, I basically grew up on everything you’d find at a traditional clam bake: a variety of steamed quahogs and littlenecks, mussels, boiled lobster, crab legs, corn on the cob drenched in melted butter, boiled red potatoes, clam chowder, potato, macaroni, and green salads… the list goes on and on. To me, this is the epitome of summertime dining in New England. Little did I know as a child, this culinary tradition would only get better once I was an adult and had a knowledge of wine to add even more enjoyment.
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Clams (quahogs, littlenecks, cherrystones) and mussels are absolutely delicious steamed and dipped in melted butter. Often times I’ll grab an oaked, buttery Chardonnay (such as DeLoach Private Collection Chalk Hill) for that melt-in-your-mouth experience, or I’ll grab a zesty and lively Sauvignon Blanc (such as Riversong Sauvignon Blanc), with a bit more crispness and acidity than a Chard. It’s really a matter of my particular mood and preference that day, but either one provides a home run pairing that is sure to please.
I recently posted an entire blog for Lobster Day, highlighting various lobster dishes and my favorite varietals. There are so many delicious choices for perfect pairing, although my absolute favorite is a dry sparkling wine, particularly Cremant de Loire (such as Abbesse Cremant de Loire), which provides the perfect note of salinity to compliment shellfish.
King crab legs are one of my faves, although a bit interactive. When I don’t mind getting my hands dirty and working for my food, I grab my nut and seafood cracker and get to crackin’ those spiny bad boys. Next to my plate of crab legs and pool of melted butter is a perfectly chilled glass of dry Riesling from Alsace, France, or a fruit forward, fuller bodied Pinot Gris (such as Hillersden Pinot Gris from Marlborough, New Zealand).
Clam chowder all year long… comfort food in the winter, beachy goodness in the summer. My suggested wine pairing is equally as versatile. Two of my favorites, Bees Knees Chenin Blanc/Viognier and Lobster Shack Chardonnay/Viognier, both from South Africa offer a beautiful balance of refreshing fruit and lively acidity with a weightier mouthfeel appropriate for both summertime and wintertime dining.
Corn-on-the-cob, boiled potatoes, salads of all sorts. Every wine mentioned above would pair beautifully with all of these sides. Have fun with the experimenting! No clam bake would be complete without a rosé , and I am absolutely digging Paris Street Rose from Romania. A few more notable suggested wines would include The Arch Pinot Noir, for all you die hard red wine lovers, and Sonnenstrahl Grüner Veltlinerfrom Austria. Happy pairing!
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About the Author
CSW, WSET3, FWS, BWSEd | Executive VP of Sales and Aquisitions at VINOvations
Missa holds various positions in the wine industry, each of which brings her incredible fulfillment. She is the EVP of Sales and Acquisitions at VINOvations in Sharon, MA. She also teaches students of all levels of experience and interest in wine classes, lifestyle experiences, and leads wine dinners all around Massachusetts.
She is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) with the Society of Wine Educators, a certified French Wine Scholar (FWS), certified with the Wine and Spirits Trust, Level 3 Advanced (WSET), and a certified educator with Boston Wine School (BWSEd). Her unique combination of talent allows her to translate the nuances of wine for the everyday wine drinker in an accessible and fun way. Demystifying wine and removing the intimidation is her passion when sharing wine with others.