This summer, residents of Connecticut are enjoying fresh lobster to its finest–with the best wine pairings, too. The farm-to-table outdoor dinner series is a way for locals, or even tourists, to connect with the wonderful options grown and caught right near their own backyards. Lobster, along with other freshly caught seafood, is offered alongside appetizers, and even international cuisine like Morrocan and Korean food.
The highlight for seafood lovers? In addition to an oyster festival in early August, their series also includes the already annual Lobster Festival. Touted as one of the best seafood festivals in New England, the event, which kicks off instead at the end of September, is, in fact, one of many lobster festivals in bordering states, all acclaimed for about the freshest and succulent lobster you can possibly get.
What do the festivals in Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire have in common? For many of them, the ability to deliver excellent lobster–and alongside wine pairings that enhance flavor and make for the best dining experience possible.
Today, we’ll give you some tips on how to find the best lobster with wine pairings on your own–and some information about lobster, too, so you’re set up for the best dining experience possible.
Are there different types of lobster?
Unless you live somewhere you can get local lobster, chances are you might not be aware that not all lobster is the same. Generally speaking, lobster is grouped into one of two categories: cold water lobster and warm water lobster. Cold and warm water lobster have most basic characteristics in common: they are crustaceans and omnivores, as well as scavengers if necessary. They also molt and go through phases of harder or softer shells. However, warm water lobster, as opposed to cold water lobster, actually do not have claws and have a long antenna that cold water lobster don’t have.
Where does lobster generally come from?
In terms of selecting cold vs warm water, there are a couple of factors to keep in mind and one of those important factors is the lobster origin.
- For one, you may want to consider which of the two is more local to you. As the name implies, warm water lobster comes from warmer regions and is most commonly found in the Caribbean Sea, Mediterranean Sea and off of the coast of Asia. In the United States, you can enjoy warm water lobster fresh in Florida and Southern California.
- Cold Water lobster, meanwhile, comes from the North Atlantic Ocean and be found along the East Coast and many New England states.
- The more local the lobster is, the fresher it will taste. Try to look for lobster that is sourced as close to you as possible. If you’re mostly equidistant, then there are also other factors to consider.
Is there a difference in terms of taste between cold water and hot water lobster?
In terms of eating cold vs warm water lobster, there are some key differences when it comes to appearance, texture, and even taste:
- Texture: Cold water lobster tends to be firmer, while warm water lobster is known to be soft. Warm water lobster must be prepared with care, because otherwise, it may not firm up properly; cold water lobster tends to be described as more firm.
- Color: Cold water lobster tends to be more white in hue, as opposed to the pinkish tint to warm water lobster meat.
- Taste: Cold water lobster has been described as a ‘cleaner’ and sweeter taste, while warm water lobster has a slightly more fishy flavor.
Overall, cold water lobster is preferred by chefs, especially if it’s local. Cold water meat tends to be easier to prepare well and tends to produce a more succulent choice, without fishy notes getting in the way of cleaner flavors. However, for someone living in Florida, it still might be appealing to have fresh and local warm water lobster as opposed to far away from cold water lobster. As far as high-quality seafood, most chefs prefer cold water over warm water lobster.
What parts of the lobster can you eat?
There’s little doubt you’ve heard about the lobster tail, and for good reason. For one, the lobster tail is the only part of the lobster you’ll eat with a warm water lobster. For another, the lobster tail has the most meat. But there are other parts you can eat too on cold water lobster:
- Claws: Lobster claws tends to have softer meat that is also considered sweeter than lobster tail meat.
- Head and Body: Though not as heavily favored, the body of lobster produces decent if less meat than the tail. Most people eat the lobster body if they are ordering a lobster whole.
You can eat other parts of the lobster as well, such as lobster roe, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll stick with lobster claw, tail and body meat.
What different ways can lobster be prepared?
Whether you’re preparing lobster yourself or eating out, how lobster is prepared with an impact not only the taste and texture but also quite possible what wine pairings are best with it. Typically, lobster meat, of any kind, is prepared one of seven ways:
- Boiling and Steaming: Boiling and steaming are the preferred methods not only for serving whole lobster but also as one of the most simple and quickest ways to prepare lobster. Water is lightly salted and boiled; with steaming, the lobster meat more easily slips out of the shell but also takes a little longer to cook. Boiling is also preferred for lobster meat that requires cleaning.
- Steamed and boiled lobster tends to be tender and moist, but also less flavorful; the texture will be ideal for many but flavors lost somewhat.
- Broiling or Baking: Broiling and baking lobster is also considered fairly simple, and is preferred for the best appearance. Normally, meat is mostly cut out from the shell for expedited cooking.
- If you want a sweet taste to your lobster and one of the easiest preparation methods, baking is a good choice. However, the lobster will also be less juicy and moist, since this is a dry heat cooking method.
- Grilling: Grilled lobster is a little less common but another delicious to prepare it, usually accompanied with some sort of butter or herb butter.
- Grilled lobster makes the lobster taste a bit smokier and works well for small lobsters or lobster parts if prepared correctly, but risks making larger lobsters tough.
- Pan Searing: Pan seared lobster is accomplished by either leaving the meat in the shell until the shell browns or for some recipes, searing the meat outside of the shell. This too is a dry heat method, leading to the lobster that is not as moist; this will also take on flavors depending on what the lobster is seared with.
- Poached: Poached lobster is usually poached with butter to develop a succulent and rich flavor.
The lobster that is poached cooks more slowly, leading to more tender meat than boiling. Depending on what it is poached in, lobster tends to develop those flavors; lobster poached in butter tastes rich and indulgent, though you may lose some of the ‘clean’ flavors.
What sauces is lobster served with?
While lobster in of itself is delicious, just like salmon, it is prepared alongside accompaniments to complement and enhance flavors. The most common accompaniment is butter, for a rich and classically indulgent taste; herbed butter is also popular. Other dipping sauces include chili pesto sauce, lemon aiolis, and even sauces with a little heat, like a curried butter or spicy Thai dipping sauce.
Do you have any suggestions for sides?
While, for the purpose of trying to find the best wine pairings, we won’t worry about sides too much, serving lobster with a baked potato, corn on the cob, salad (Caesar, pasta) and soups are all good options. Of course, lobster in of itself can be incorporated into bisques and even macaroni and cheese.
But one of the most highly recommended pairings with lobster? Wine.
What kind of wine pairings are best with lobster?
Now that we know the different types and preparation methods for lobster, we’re ready to jump into what makes for the best wine pairings. Wine pairings, in general, are meant to enhance flavors and create the best dining experience possible.
- Should my wine be acidic? Yes and no. As with other wine pairings with lighter meat seafood, you’re better off with what is described as crisp wines–and when we say crisp, we are typically referring to the level of acidity. Acidity in wine produces the fresh, tart notes you get as you drink. While a crisp wine complements seafood in general, however, lobster actually has an especially delicate flavor. Your best bet? A wine that is moderate in acidity–enough to taste fresh but also not too sharp, like Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay.
- Should my wine have a high or low level of tannins? Tannins, which naturally occur in plants, are found in all types of wine in varying degrees and produce a bitter taste akin to plain black tea. Look for wines with low levels of tannins; too high levels will overpower the fresh and delicate flavor notes of lobster.
- Should I go for red wine, white wine or something else? Unless you truly dislike white wine, white wine is very much preferred over red wine. Generally speaking, white wines tend to be lower in tannins and can also produce that moderate crispness that is well suited for fresh lobster. White wines often also contain more citrus notes and less robust, darker stone fruits which overpower lobster. However, dry and light red wines do work–Gamay and Cinsault both fit the bill, especially with low levels of tannin and pleasant acidity.
- Does body matter? The body of a wine refers to the mouthful feel you get as you sip; that is, the more full-bodied the wine, the richer and heavier it will feel in your mouth. When aiming for the best wine pairings with lobster, we recommend light over full-body white wines. Light bodied white wines will highlight to the fresh, clean taste of lobster without competing with it. If you prefer something with a little heavier, you can go for a medium body white wine, or in some cases, even a gentle rose, depending on how the lobster is being served, but steer away from heavier bodied choices if you’re eating claw meat, which is the most delicate meat on a lobster.
- What flavor notes complement lobster? Lobster, as a tender, succulent and delicate meat, pairs best with bright citrus notes, such as lemon, lime, grapefruit, and oranges. Citrus notes lift and brighten the best flavors in lobster. Richer notes, like cocoa, as well as earthy notes, are not the best pairing. Some fruit notes work well enough, for darker or deeper fruit flavors, such as plum or other stone fruits will be overpowering. Aged wine adds a heavier flavor; oaked aging can add vanilla notes, which also are not the best match. Peach and tangerine is a nice combination–common in a wine like Viognier.
- Should I go for a dry or sweet wine? Though lobster meat itself can range from mild to sweet, the best wine pairings work with dry to semi-dry wines. Dry wines produce the more crisp notes, pair well with citrus flavors, and let the clean fresh taste of lobster meat shine through.
- Does the method of preparation matter for the best wine pairings with lobster? In fact, the way lobster is both prepared and served may also have an impact on what wine pairings are best.
- Grilled: Grilled lobster tails tend to taste smokier and a little less succulent than wet heat methods. A smoother white wine with Chardonnay, especially with more buttery notes helps balance out the smokiness and textures, as does a citrus based Muscadet. But if you want a smoky sweet finish that feels less heavy, you can even get by with Prosecco.
- Baked or Broiled: Baked and broiled lobster tends to be on the sweeter side, so here you can get by with a semi-sweet wine if you prefer, like a prosecco.
- Steamed or Boiled: Steamed or boiled lobster tends to be succulent but also more mild in flavor. Sauvignon Blanc and dry Riesling both are great options because they provide fresher and brighter acidity–perfect to match the moist and gentle flavors.
Can you quickly summarize what wine pairings are best with lobster?
The best wine pairings with lobster are generally dry to semi-dry wines with medium but bright levels of acidity, with medium to light body. Most often, these wine contain citrus notes that lift, without overwhelming, delicate and tender lobster meat. For sweeter lobster meat, sparkling wine may be a nice option.
Can you suggest any specific wine pairings with lobster?
Now that we’ve established some basic rules when it comes to finding the best wine pairings with lobster, let’s take a look at some specific examples. As always, your own personal preferences will come into play, as will not only method of preparation, but also what the lobster is being served with, or alongside.
- For a light, slightly sweet flavor, a Prosecco like Santa Margherita Superiore works. This Prosecco, from Italy, is a pleasant, non-vintage sparkling wine featuring crisp but light pear notes. Touches of lemon make for a refreshing drink; it’s versatile enough to be served alongside grilled tail or sweet baked claws.
- For a clean finish, try a Chardonnay like Gundlach Bundschu, 2016. This Chardonnay comes from California and will help emphasize the clean, fresh flavors of lobster that has been steamed or boiled. Bright acidity is paired with delightful lemon, citrus zest, nectarines, and even a touch of creaminess, meaning it can hold up to a grilled lobster tail.
- If you like Riesling, consider Dr. Heidemann’s Dry Riesling. This dry Riesling has most citrus and mineral notes and pairs well with steamed and boiled lobster. Tangerine and lemon are the main flavor notes, and there’s a finish that’s both lasting and vibrant.
- If Sauvignon Blanc is more to your liking, try Gamble Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, 2014. This Sauvignon Blanc showcases a complex but not overpowering array of citrus and fruity flavors, including lemon, lime, tangerine, and guava. Fresh acidity is providing through hints of pear, orange, and ginger, while honeysuckle provides a touch of sweetness. The more full body would be suited for a grilled lobster or a less tender lobster body.
- For Muscadet, Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papin is a nice option. This Muscadet wine is crisp, with pithy lemon notes and flavors emblematic of the region, with just a bit of green and flinty notes for a more complex finish, great especially for grilled lobster but a nice option overall.
- For a wine that pairs well with most lobster, opt for a Chenin Blanc that features citrus notes, like Lieu Dit Winery’s 2015. The affordable but pleasing wine actually comes from California and is fresh, crisp and wonderfully balanced, making it also a versatile option, with ripe citrus notes and a faintly savory finish.