How to Choose the Best Wine for Surf and Turf

Surf and turf is a classic pairing. For some, the ultimate in decadence. The best seafood and beef on the same plate.

It’s a dish that calls for the perfect wine to complement all its layers of flavor. This list will take you through some of the best wines to go with your surf and turf dinner.

What is Surf and Turf?

Surf and turf is a dish that combines seafood and meat. The most common forms are lobster tail with filet mignon, surf clam with steak, crab cakes with chicken breast, shrimp scampi with pasta or steak, or swordfish with steak. It is served as an appetizer or a main course when paired with vegetables like asparagus or potatoes.

Surf and Turf Wine Pairings

Many people struggle to identify a good pairing for surf and turf. Observing the traditional red wine with beef and white wine with seafood doesn’t necessarily help here. This often leaves people to choose a random bottle on their wine list or ask the server for advice.

What Flavors are you pairing?

The best way to find a good pairing is to consider the components of each dish and how they interact with one another. For example, the lobster tail is served with drawn butter (a sauce made from butter, lemon juice, and herbs). This sauce has a lot of acidity from the lemon juice which will clash with wines that are also highly acidic such as Sauvignon Blancs or Pinot Grigios. In this case, a better option would be a light white wine such as Riesling or a Pinot Gris.

Red or White?

While a red wine would be an obvious choice to accompany a steak, it’s not necessarily the best choice for surf and turf. Instead, you should opt for a white wine that has enough acidity to cut through the fat in beef and enough fruitiness to balance out seafood.

Given this is the case, what white wines should you be looking for? I have chosen 5 of the best white wines that will work well with surf and turf. All of these wines have enough acidity to cut through the fat in beef, but also enough fruitiness to balance out seafood. This is the key to pairing with surf and turf.

Pinot Grigio

A versatile wine that is great on its own or paired with a wide variety of foods. It’s also one of the most popular white wines in the world, which means it won’t be hard to find Pinot Grigio at your local store. Pinot Grigio is also affordable and pairs well with both red meat and seafood dishes. This wine pairs well with most types of seafood, including shrimp, scallops, and salmon.

Recommendations for good examples: The 2006 Pinot Grigio from Fontanafredda is an excellent example of a classic, dry Pinot Grigio. It has refreshing acidity and aromas of peach and pear that are complemented by flavors of lemon zest and grapefruit. The wine finishes with a touch of minerality. If you’re looking for something more food-friendly, try the 2007 La Stoppa Pinot Grigio. This wine has plenty of fruit but also has some spice notes that go well with shrimp or scallops.

Try one of these excellent examples:

2021 St. Michael-Eppan San Michele Appiano Pinot Grigio Sudtirol – Alto Adige

This wine has grown in popularity and is appreciated for its freshness, nice acidity, and pleasant, lingering aftertaste. Well worth seeking out.

2021 Pradio Priara Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave

From the Pradio Italian family estate, this Pinot Grigio presents as pale yellow in color. Notes are blended wildflowers and ripe fruit (apple, pear, banana). This wine has a long finish that is fresh and lingering on the palate.

2021 Cantina Zaccagnini Terre di Chieti IGT Pinot Gris

The color is straw yellow with a very pleasant aroma. It has clear fruity notes of pear and green apple, as well as slight hints of aromatic herbs. The taste is dominated by freshness and savoriness; it’s light enough for crisp white fruit but still flavorful enough to appeal to those who prefer something on the sweeter side.

Chardonnay

There are many different styles of Chardonnays, so choose one that you’re going to enjoy drinking. Some people prefer wine with more oak and buttery flavors, while others like a lighter, fruitier style. If you’re looking for something on the drier side, try the 2009 Alta Moda Chardonnay from Napa Valley. This California white has aromas of ripe pear and lemon zest with flavors of apple and orange blossom.

I recommend one of the following:

Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay

This vineyard is located in California, and it’s a great place to start your search for a good Chardonnay with crab legs. This wine is made from grapes grown in the Sonoma Valley, where the climate is ideal for growing them. Fermented and aged in French and American oak barrels for richness, toastiness, and complexity.

J. Lohr Chardonnay

This California winery has been making award-winning wines for over 30 years, and this Chardonnay is no exception. They use grapes from their own vineyards in Monterey County, which means that you can be sure the quality is always high. This wine has a rich golden color with notes of citrus and vanilla on the nose.

Ladera Vineyards Chardonnay

This Chardonnay is made from grapes grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands, which is a cool climate area. It’s aged in French oak barrels for about 15 months before being bottled and has notes of vanilla and toasted hazelnuts on the nose.

Hagafen Cellars “Reserve” Napa Valley Chardonnay

Made from grapes grown in Napa Valley. It has a rich golden color with notes of citrus, vanilla, and toasted hazelnuts on the nose. It’s aged for about 18 months in French oak barrels before being bottled.

Viognier

The wine is light and fruity, with notes of white peach and apricot. It’s a great choice for those who prefer dry wines, but it also has enough sweetness to please those who like sweet whites. If you’re looking for something on the drier side, try the 2010 Domaine de la Solitude Viognier from Condrieu. This French wine has aromas of citrus blossom and peach with flavors of honeydew melon and cantaloupe.

Domaine Georges Vernay Condrieu Coteau de Vernon

Critic tasting note: (2002 vintage) “An exotic, perfumed wine, with aromas of violets and rosewater. To taste, this exoticism goes through to ripe, but elegant fruit. Along with all this, there is a freshness and fruitiness which makes the wine light, fragrant and vibrant.” – 92/100Wine Enthusiast

E. Guigal Condrieu La Doriane

Critic tasting note: (2017 vintage) “Classic in style, this exuberant, perfumed Viognier fills the air with aromas of orange blossom, peach and honey. While weighty and textured, it’s lifted by a vein of tangerine acidity and lingering notes of bitter nut skins and vanilla. This lovely wine should drink well through 2027. Anna Lee C. Iijima” – 94/100Wine Enthusiast

Francois Villard Condrieu Villa Pontciana

Critic tasting note: (2016 vintage) “The nose of this wine is delicate but perfumed, wafting of orange blossom, apricot and honeycomb. Full bodied and glycerol on the palate, it offers layers of tangerine and stone-fruit flavors edged by a pleasant ring of bitters. This powerful yet pretty wine will be best enjoyed now through 2026. Anna Lee C. Iijima” – 94/100Wine Enthusiast

Sauvignon Blanc

The classic and most obvious pairing with seafood but this is also a solid choice to pair with surf and turf. Sauvignon Blanc is light and refreshing, with flavors of lime zest and green apple. If you’re looking for a wine that’s on the drier side, try the 2010 Bodegas Roda Sauvignon Blanc from Rueda. This Spanish wine has aromas of citrus blossom and peach with hints of white pepper and green grass. It’s a great option for those who prefer dry wines but still want something flavorful.

You should look out for one of these fine Sauvignon Blanc:

Bread & Butter North Coast Sauvignon Blanc

This Sauvignon Blanc has bright aromas of lemon zest and hints of tropical fruit, lively flavors with citrus notes followed by a rich texture and a clean finish.

2021 Decoy California Sauvignon Blanc

Aromas of pineapple, lemon, and green apple lead the way for this crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Underneath those fresh scents is a layer of lime zest that adds another exciting dimension to what you taste, which lingers in your mouth long after each sip.

Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc 2017

This Sauvignon Blanc has aromas of ripe kiwi, lemon, and lime accented by hints of green apples. The palate is full and creamy with a rich mouthfeel that is balanced by crisp acidity.

Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc is a great choice for those who want to try something different.

Klein Constantia produces a Chenin Blanc that is popular in South Africa, where it is made into a sparkling wine called “Cape sparkler.” This variety has a very subtle flavor and is often described as “floral” or “peach-colored.”

This wine has aromas of yellow plum and orange blossom with flavors of apple, peach, and fresh herbs.

If you want a safe choice, try one of these:

Aperture Chenin Blanc 2021

This Chenin Blanc has a floral aroma, with notes of cherry blossom and melon. This is a highly-rated Californian wine with hints of pear and lemon.

Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard, 2020 Chenin Blanc

The 2020 Foxen Chenin Blanc begins with hints of honeysuckle and acacia blossoms. This unapologetically fruity nose leads to ripe golden apples, peaches, honey, and plenty more sweet notes.

Lang & Reed 2018 Chenin Blanc (Napa Valley)

The 2018 Lang & Reed Chenin Blanc begins with aromas of ripe peaches, honeysuckle, and a hint of green apple. The palate is full and round, with notes of nectarine and green apple.

Conclusion

While pairing wine with surf and turf may seem daunting, the truth is that it’s actually pretty simple. The key is to find a white wine that has enough acidity to cut through the fat in the beef and enough fruitiness to balance out seafood.

My personal recommendation is to find a nice Pinot Grigio. This works well with both elements of the surf and turf and will stand up to the beef.

If you are looking for a reliable recipe to make your own surf and turf at home, I recommend you try one of Lobster Anywhere‘s recipes.

If you enjoyed this post, check out my other posts on the Best Wines for Crab Legs.