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Wine Pairing with Crab

by Joy Sterling | Published February 20, 2023

Dungeness crab is one of life’s great delicacies and winter ushers in the height of sweet, succulent crab season. You should see the anticipation in my mother’s face as she is about to dig in. So it’s prime time for trying the myriad delicious wine pairings with crab… including Pinot Noir.

I naturally veer to bubbles and my hand automatically reaches for our 2018 vintage of Winter’s Cuvée. I like my crab “neat” – just on its own because when the crab is this good, it doesn’t require much embellishment. I allow the wine be the “special sauce”.

Different preparations deserve different cuvées: Our Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs is a natural with a fresh crab roll. The lemony character of this wine makes the crab flavors pop. Our new vintage of Brut X is a sure bet with brioche toast piled with a generous layer of sweet crab salad lightly dressed with crème fraîche, lemon and aioli, or the same crab salad on butter lettuce. I would serve Classic Vintage Brut with black pepper crab, tossed with curry leaves, butter, chili, garlic and, of course, tons of black pepper.

The Best Wine Pairings with Crab

Dungeness crab always feels so luxurious. It’s perfect for special occasions like Lunar New Year celebrations, Valentine’s Day, and Super Bowl parties. Pan-fried crab cakes and Wedding Cuvée make a delicious and romantic pairing for Valentine’s Day. Asian dishes like ginger and scallion crab stir fry, classic Chinese salt and pepper style, and crab rangoons – fried wontons filled with crab meat and a touch of chevre — are especially tasty with our Year of the Rabbit. Crab nachos with Brut Rosé would be a bold play for big game day.

Sauces in general make the wine pairing with crab work. For example, tartar sauce with capers shallots and fresh parsley goes with Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs; or diablo sauce – a tomato based dipping sauce with serrano peppers and chili powder — with Classic Vintage Brut.

Chardonnay is a traditional pairing with crab. I love our UnOaked Chardonnay for crab melts, with a very melty cheese like Taleggio.

For Crab Louie, crab cocktails, and cracked crab with a crunchy lettuce salad tossed with a lemony vinaigrette, my preference is for barrel-fermented Audrey Chardonnay. A big buttery chardonnay (which we don’t make, but for the sake of discussion) would match a big buttery crab dish.

Pinot Noir? Yes, please! Especially with a rich, tomato-based cioppino, served with garlic bread, or wood-fired whole crab with a garlic and herb sauce.

I am a complete chauvinist about Dungeness from our own California coast. They are the largest of the commercially harvested crabs in the world. Ours are tender, meaty, sweet, and delicate, with a particularly delicious flavor because of the fat in the shell. Dungeness also happened to be Julia Child’s favorite. Just sayin’.

When you can pick up Dungeness crab, straight out of the Pacific, and have a bottle of Iron Horse in hand, you’re in heaven.