For Steamed Mussels, crisp and steely wines like Muscadet, Chablis, Vermentino, or Sauvignon Blanc pair up best as the neutral flavours of these wines will not overpower the subtly sweet and salty mussel flavours. Meanwhile, for Mussels dishes where butter is swirled into the broth, or for a creamy chowder, Viognier and Chardonnay make for an excellent pairing.
With Mussels in a broth, stew, soup, or pasta, you can get a lot more creative with your wine choices, such as a light and fruity red wine such as Pinot Noir, Rosé, or Beaujolais.
Best Wine Pairings with Mussels
Muscadet and Steamed Mussels Pairing
There is nothing more satisfying then sitting down to a big bowl of steamed Mussels sitting in their own briny broth. It’s a meal I crave weekly and living in Nova Scotia, it’s a meal I eat frequently. If it weren’t for the glass of white wine sitting next to me as I honker over my Mussels, I’d most likely resemble a raccoon searching for dinner during low tide. And a glass of Muscadet is often the white wine I reach for the most with Steamed Mussels.
Muscadet is a light-bodied white wine from the Loire Valley of France. It features notes of lemon, crisp apple, yeast, minerals and a hint of sea salt. It’s the hint of sea salt that appeals to me the most with this pairing as it mirrors the subtle sea breeze flavours of steamed Mussels. Meanwhile, the lemon, grapefruit, pear and green apple flavours add a touch of refreshment to this pairing, especially if you are soaking up the delicious Mussel broth with a piece of crusty French Bread or Sourdough. In this instance, the bread takes on the mild sea flavours of the Mussels, creating for a heavenly mouth-watering experience. The high carbohydrate content of bread can tire out your taste buds quickly, but with a quick sip of Muscadet, your taste buds are re-energized and ready for your next delicious bite.
Best White Wine to Steam Mussels In
For cooking Mussels at home, the best white wine to steam Mussels in is Italian Pinot Grigio. Pinot Grigio is a dry and crisp white wine that has a hint of smoke, minerality, and neutral flavours of apple, pear and peach. What makes Italian Pinot Grigio great for steaming Mussels is that it is consistently good no matter what the vintage (once you find a producer you like, there should never be any surprises) and easy to find on store shelves, and relatively inexpensive.
In France, French cooks often use white wine to steam their Mussels, usually a Chablis, Sancerre or Muscadet. While these are amazing wines to steam your Mussels in, they are either pricier than Pinot Grigio or more challenging to find. If you absolutely love Mussels, I’d highly suggest steaming your Mussels in Muscadet, Chablis (unoaked Chardonnay) or Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc). However, if you are a casual cook and new to wine, Pinot Grigio will get the job done and taste wonderful while doing it.
Meanwhile, in Italy, wine isn’t used as much to steam Mussels, and instead, Mussels are often steamed in a blend of olive oils and tomatoes. Whereas in Nova Scotia, we often use beer to steam Mussels when at the pub.
If you are simply steaming the Mussels to get the shells open, and then removing the Mussels to deep-fry, grill or serve in pasta and salads, save that broth! The briny and sweet broth can be easily frozen and added to fish based soups, chowders or sauces later.
See my blog for additional cooking wine suggestions.
Steamed Mussels & Chablis Pairing
A perfect informal patio meal is a glass of Steamed Mussels and a glass of Chablis. With Steamed Mussels, you’re going to get your hands dirty as you scoop up the shells of Mussels and gabble down the delicious meat. When served with crusty bread, you’re also going to get crumbs all over your pants and the table. Fortunately, an elegant glass of Chablis will help add a touch of class to the situation.
Chablis is an unoaked Chardonnay from France that has a chalky minerality combined with a crisp green apple bite. The minerality of Chablis complements the briny flavours of your Steamed Mussels, while the flavours of apple and citrus provide a refreshing contrast against the meat and the crusty bread. While flavourful, Chablis falls below or at the cusp of medium-bodied, so it will never interfere or crush any of the delicate Mussel flavours.
Sauvignon Blanc & Steamed Mussels Pairing
Sauvignon Blanc is a steely crisp white wine loaded with notes of lemon, lime and grapefruit With Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll also find grassy herbal aromas and flavours. Due to its high acidity, Sauvignon Blanc is wonderful with delicate foods as it amplifies the flavours of the food bringing them forward. This allows you to taste the crisp citrus flavours of Sauvignon Blanc on the finish, along with the sea kissed flavours of the briny Mussel meat.
For the ultimate Sauvignon Blanc pairing with Steamed Mussels, I’d go with a Sancerre. Sancerre is a French Sauvignon Blanc adored for its flavours of gunflint, smoke, and steely flavours, along with additional notes of peach and gooseberries. The gunflint flavours of the wine mesh beautifully with the briny nature of the Mussels and the broth.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is also exceptional with Steamed Mussels. While not as flinty as a Sancerre, you’ll find bitter-sweet notes of grapefruit along with a stronger aroma of green herbs with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. This herbal quality makes New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc ideal with Mussels served in a cold salad, or perhaps a soup or pasta dish with herbs sprinkled on it such as oregano, rosemary or parsley.
Excellent Sauvignon Blanc is produced worldwide and is consistently delicious. Thus, if there’s a Sauvignon Blanc you love from Australia, South Africa or Canada, stick with that for your Steamed Mussels and enjoy the ride.
Vermentino and Fried Mussels Pairing
Vermentino is a light-bodied white wine with pear, peach, lime, grapefruit, and crushed gravel aromas and flavours. The crushed gravel flavours enhance the fried Mussels’ gentle salty-sea flavour, while the fruit flavours enliven the mild briny flavours of your Mussels.
There are two main styles of Vermentino, the first being a floral and zesty style. The second style of Vermentino is creamy and buttery on the tongue. Both styles of Vermentino are exceptional with Fried Mussels and offer individual advantages. The zestier version of Vermentino offers a refreshing contrast against the fried flavours. Meanwhile, the buttery Vermentino style complements the fried flavours of your Mussels.
Pinot Noir & Mussels in a Tomato Broth
As much as I love Mussels steamed and served with a light broth, chefs and people are continually dreaming up new ways to serve up Mussels. For example, Mussels can be tossed in a tomato-based seafood chowder, creole jambalaya, stew, or creole gumbo. Whenever you come across a dish that is tomato dish, always think of lighter to medium-bodied red wines that are high in acidity, like Pinot Noir.
Heavier reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz, would instantly crush the subtle flavours of Mussels. Heavier reds are also high in tannin, which clashes with the acidity in the tomatoes. Thus everything ends up tasting flat and metallic. With Pinot Noir, the high acidity of the wine ensures that it won’t flood out the briny flavours your Mussels, nor will it clash with the tomatoes in your broth, stew, soup or casserole.
Pinot Noir is a light and fruity red wine the is lip-smackingly delicious with notes of cherries, strawberries and raspberries. While not sweet, the fruity flavours of Pinot Noir complement the sweeter notes that tomatoes bring to this dish. High in acidity, Pinot Noir also brings out the best flavours in your Mussels, allowing the briny flavours to come out of hiding from whatever other ingredients might inhabit your dish.
Pinot Noir also has a hint of earthiness that many describe as forest floor, truffles or barnyard. While this earthiness won’t complement your Mussels, it will go fantastic with any potatoes, root vegetables or mushrooms that might be included in your tomato broth.
Good Pinot Noir is expensive, and I recommend you never buy anything under $30 unless you are already familiar with it. If budget is an issue, seek out a Beaujolais Villages to pair up with your Mussels in a Tomato Broth. While not as elegant as a Pinot Noir (unless you dip into the Beaujolais Crus), Beaujolais Villages offers all the advantages of Pinot Noir, making it for a great pairing with Mussels and Tomatoes at a fairly reasonable price.