Scallops are plump, meaty and already come shucked, making for a popular seafood treat. While you can sear, grill, poach and sauté Scallops, the meaty flavour is mild, slightly sweet and faintly salty. Thus, you may also find Scallops served in a wide range of sauces such as butter, garlic-lemon, tomato-basil, cream, ginger, and mustard, and it’s the sauce that will dictate your wine pairing. Bacon-wrapped Scallops are another popular favourite, especially as an appetizer.
In North America, you’re likely to encounter three kinds of scallops: Sea Scallops, Bay Scallops, and Calico Scallops, which are all found in the Atlantic coast. Bay Scallops are the most delicate and sweetest out of the three, while Calico Scallops tend to be less meaty and less flavourful. Sea Scallops are the most common and meatiness but may sit on a boat for up to 10 days after being caught and shucked. To further help preserve them, Sea Scallops might be soaked in a solution called sodium tripolyphosphate, which plumps up the Scallops with water.
If you want the freshest tasting Scallops, purchase them still live in the shell, or opt for quick frozen scallops which have been frozen immediately after being caught and shucked.
Best Wine with Scallops
Seared Scallops in Butter paired with Chardonnay
An oaked and buttery Chardonnay will complement the buttery flavours in this pairing, while the toasty and vanilla flavours will complement the carnalized flesh of the seared scallops. The true challenge is to find a Chardonnay that shows some restraint with the buttery flavours. In recent years, certain producers have cheated and added chemicals (like they would to a buttered popcorn jelly bean) or wood chips to their casks to save money while adding flavour. The result sometimes makes for a Chardonnay that is too explosive in its flavour, and to me, it often ends up tasting like rancid buttered popcorn.
With Scallops, stick to elegant Chardonnay from well-know producers who produced balanced Chardonnays. Bogle Vineyards, Eden Road, Stag’s Leap and Cakebread Cellars all make excellent buttery Chardonnays that taste amazing. Eden Road’s – The Long Road Chardonnay, out of Australia, for example balances butter with notes of flinty minerality, thus you you get the buttery notes complementing the seared buttery scallops along with the flinty minerality complementing the sea-breeze flavours of your seared Scallops.
White Burgundy is another exceptional pairing with Sea Scallops, as Burgundy provides a thoughtful balance of oak ageing for a striking contrast of vanilla and fruit flavours. While Burgundy is well worth seeking out, it often comes with a higher price and should be sought out after you are more experienced with wine to understand why White Burgundy is so beautiful.
Blanc de Blanc Champagne & Grilled Scallops Pairing
A dry and bubbly Blanc de Blanc Champagne is the ultimate pairing when it comes to pairing wine with Scallops. When you grill scallops, the grilling process brings out the sweetness of the scallop with the caramelized flesh. Grilling also adds a lovely smoky flavour.
Because Scallops can easily fall through the cracks of your grill, Grilled Scallops are often served as a Shish kebab where they are threaded on a skewer, so they don’t fall through cracks. This is perfect for a outdoor event or backyard party as you can have a glass of Champagne in one hand and your tasty Shish kebab in another.
A Blanc de Blanc Champagne is made entirely from Chardonnay grapes. Thus, you’ll also get wonderful flavours of toast, vanilla, caramel and smoke that complement the sweet and smoky flavours of your grilled scallops. Notes of mineral and chalk also kick in to synergize with the sea-kissed flavours of sea scallops. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll find contrasting citrus, honey, lemon, peach, and pear flavours that serve up delicious refreshment.
Sauvignon Blanc & Sautéed Sea Scallops
Scallops that have been soaked in tripolyphosphate solution often end up simmering in their own juices instead of browning. This is because a lot of the water they are retaining runs out as soon as they get hot. To add extra flavour to the natural scallop juices, you might want to add additional ingredients to create a sauce, such as lemon, herbs, butter, garlic, shallots, white wine or pesto.
Sauvignon Blanc is a dry white wine that is vibrant with citrus, grapefruit and lemon flavours. The acidic nature of Sauvignon Blanc teases out the delicate flavours of the sea scallops, helping them stand out amongst any sauce you have added. Sauvignon Blanc also has grassy flavours of herbs, which make it excellent with any sauces containing herbs, garlic, pesto or shallots.
Albariño and Raw Scallops Served with Ponzu Sauce
A Spanish Albariño has the fresh grapefruit, lemon and lime flavours of a Sauvignon Blanc, and the peachy apricot flavours of a Riesling which all support the sweeter but mild flavours of Raw Scallops. Albariño is also rife with minerality which gives it a saline characteristic that marries perfectly with the briny sea flavours of raw Sea Scallops.
Scallops are safe to serve raw, provided the live scallops are shucked within an hour of serving them. The easiest way to serve them raw is to slice them into thin disks and arrange on chilled plates. From there, you can squeeze a little lemon on them or season with a dash of salt. For that sushi experience at home, you can also dip your raw scallops into soy sauce mixed with wasabi or, even better, a Ponzu sauce. I find traditional soy sauce and wasabi dipping sauces are too strong for the delicate flavours of Scallops and much prefer the lighter Ponzu sauce, which is a kumquat or lime juice-based sauce.
Albariño is also amazing with Scallop Ceviche!
Rosé & Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops Pairing
One of the greatest Surf and Turf marriages is the sweet and buttery flavours of scallops merged with the smoky and salty flavours of bacon. Rosé is a pink-coloured wine that fresh raspberry, strawberry, and watermelon flavours, along with a tart smack of lime and cranberry.
The berry flavours of Rosé offer a wonderful refreshing contrast against the salty flavours of the bacon, while the citrus notes brings out the smokiness of the bacon, along with the sweet caramelized flesh flavours of the Sea Scallops. I also enjoy how Rosé’s light texture contrasts the fleshy and meaty texture of bacon-wrapped Sea Scallops.
Rosé is not popular in North America, as many men feel emasculated at drinking something pink. Thus, if you want to offer an alternative at a banquet, I’d go for a glass of sparkling wine if the scallops are served as an hors d’oeuvre.
If your Bacon Wrapped Scallops are plated, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Beaujolais and Pinot Noir all make for suitable pairings. The smoky but light fruity embrace of Pinot Noir complements the bacon well, making it a fantastic choice.
Good Pinot Noir is expensive and might not be suitable for your budget at a large banquet. Thus, if you are going the Pinot Noir route, crack open a bottle among your closest friends when enjoying with Bacon Wrapped Scallops. If your Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops are an Hors d’oeuvres at a large function, and your last name isn’t Rockefeller, select a Beaujolais Villages as your red wine pairing.