Finally! Spring is here and summer is on its way! Soon we’ll all be enjoying delicious seafood relaxing on our yachts and sipping crisp white wines…or maybe that’s just my dream. Either way, the rush of light seafood dishes and white wines is coming.
What Is Shrimp Scampi?
Delicately fried shrimp in a garlicky, buttery sauce…ring a bell? Not so fast. Scampi is an Italian word that actually refers to a type of shellfish. And it can be cooked any way you like.
Here in America, we swapped out shrimp for scampi, kept the name, and did what we usually do – added yummy garlic and butter!
Shrimp Scampi has no specific recipe. Some call for tomatoes and lemon, others for parsley and tarragon. You can serve it over pasta or as an entrée all on its own.
Really, it’s up to you, dear cooks.
But in most American kitchens and most American restaurants, there are some common ingredients. These include olive oil, butter, garlic, and…you guessed it…wine!
So what wine should I put IN shrimp scampi?
If you’ve decided to add wine to your scampi recipe (and let’s be honest, would you be on this site if you hadn’t?), there are a few rules to follow.
- First, don’t use your cheap “cooking wine” for this dish. Shrimp scampi doesn’t cook for a long time. The wine should only be on the stove for about 3 minutes, just long enough to blend in with the other ingredients and share its flavor.
- If you put cheap alcohol in, your scampi will taste like cheap alcohol.
- That said, rule number two, you don’t have to break the bank either. You can find excellent options in the $10-15 range.
- Third, your wine should be a dry white. Using an overly sweet wine, like Zinfandel, might caramelize and clash with the savory flavors in your sauce. Using one weighed down with buttery flavors, like some Chardonnays, will weigh down your shrimp too. (And putting a red in a scampi recipe? Just don’t.)
The wines below are very good cooking options. And, they’re delicious enough you can finish the rest of the bottle while you cook!
A bone-dry wine full of acidity to add a perfect mineral touch to your dish. Pepper, lemon, and apples provide a lively bright feeling. This wine goes perfectly with seafood!
- Color: Bright Gold
- Nose: Lemon and Apples
- Palate: Acid Lemon, Full Apples and Pears, A Bite of Pepper
- Finish: Bright and Crisp with lingering lemon
New Zealand is known for creating remarkably crisp and tangy Sauvignon Blancs and this is no exception. The nose is full of delightful minerality and grassy vegetation that brings to mind sunny meadows. Oyster Bay is a delicious wine to sip while making dinner and adds a perfect crisp herbal flavor to a sauce that can become overrun with garlic and butter.
- Color: Pale Straw with hints of green
- Nose: White Flowers, Minerals, Grass
- Palate: Hint of Floral, Snap Pea, Ripe Nectarine, Hint of Lime, Grassy Background
- Finish: Short, Light, Crisp, Tangy
A Riesling paired with scampi must be dry, and fortunately, this excellent bottle from upstate New York fits the bill! Keuka Lake wines have a defining minerality. This vintage retains that minerality, but it is smoothed out by apricot notes.
- Color: Dark Gold
- Nose: Lime, White Flowers
- Palate: Lime, Ginger, and Apricot
- Finish: A strong mineral finish with faint spice
Let’s face it, Spanish wines are sexy – a perfect drink for warm sunny days. Full of spritz and acidity it pairs excellently with some of the more delicate flavors in seafood, but can still stand up to garlic.
- Color: Pale Yellow
- Nose: Peach, Citrus, Lemon Zest, White Flowers
- Palate: Grapefruit, Pineapple, Lemon
- Finish: Dry and refreshing finish
Crispy and fresh, this perfect bright wine is excellently balanced. The bright citrus notes add in the acidity you need to cut through all that butter!
- Color: Gold
- Nose: White Florals, Grapefruit
- Palate: Honeydew Melon, Tart Grapefruit
- Finish: Clean and crisp mid-range finish
What wine pairs best WITH shrimp scampi?
Any wine you drink with shrimp scampi should ideally stand up to the heavy garlic and butter flavors, but also add some acidity to cut through all that fat.
Imagine adding a lemon wedge or a sprig of rosemary to your dish.
That’s what your wine should do!
Most reds are too heavy for shrimp. They overpower it with fruit flavor. Most oaked Chardonnays are similarly overpowering and clash with garlic.
The darkest wine that is normally paired with shrimp is rosé. But in general, stick to light, crisp whites or sparkling prosecco. This time of year, that’s likely what you’ll be drinking anyway!
Price Range: $15 to 20
For playing it safe: La Marca Prosecco Superior DOCG, Valdobbiadene, Prosecco, Italy
Everyone knows prosecco goes with oysters. But it can be paired with any seafood at all, especially one as light and crisp as La Marca. The lemon notes are robust enough to stand up to the garlic while still complementing the shrimp and butter.
- Color: Pale Straw
- Nose: Citrus and Honey, Soft White Flowers
- Palate: Lemon, Green Apple, Toasted Wheat
- Finish: Short, Light, Refreshing, Crisp
For pushing the limits: 2017 Aphros Loureiro Vinho Verde, Vinho Verde Portugal
Wine from the Vinho Verde region of Portugal is notoriously tart and poppy, and Aphros is a perfect example. Just a single sip can transport you to the breezy seashore. (Which is where we’re all headed soon, right?!)
- Color: Pale Yellow, Hints of Amber
- Nose: Wet Stone, White Flowers, Sea Breeze, Citrus
- Palate: Golden Apples, Sea Brine, Sea Vegetables
- Finish: Light acidic finish
For the Pasta Lover: 2018 Argiolas Vermentino “Costamolino,” Sardinia, Italy
The typical evergreen aromas of Vermentino combine with the fullness of peaches to create a textured wine. Rich in lemony acidity, it will perfectly accompany your shrimp, but it is also heavy enough to pair with carbs or veggies. Choose this wine if you are serving your scampi over pasta or with a side of fava beans.
- Color: Pale Gold
- Nose: Evergreen, Pine, Mint, Peaches and Nectarines, Hint of Lemon
- Palate: Lemon, Stonefruits
- Finish: Lingering Lemon
Price Range: $20 to 30
For playing it safe: 2017 Lucien Crochet Sancerre Blanc
Sancerre is a classic pairing with seafood. This is a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc, one of the best in the world according to many circles. Crochet’s Sancerre carries enough richness to complement shrimp with acidity but not overwhelm it.
- Color: Pale Lemon
- Nose: Lemon, Lemongrass, Green Apples, Minerals
- Palate: Citrus, Grass, Green Apple, Elderflower
- Finish: Long, elegant acidic finish
For pushing the limits: 2017 Sokol Blosser Cuvée Rosé of Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills)
Rosé is about as dark as you can go with shrimp scampi. This particular rosé is perfect since the focus is on a lighter body and less power.
- Color: Pale Pink Roses
- Nose: Strawberries, Grapefruit
- Palate: Citrus like Grapefruit and Blood Orange, Strawberry
- Finish: Pepper and Lemon on the finish
For the pasta lover: 2017 Luneau-Papin “Terre de Pierre” Muscadet, Loire, France
Muscadet is increasing in popularity and “Terre de Pierre” is an excellent example of why! Aged in lees for an extended time, there is a lush and rich texture to this wine that pairs well with pasta and garlic.
- Color: Pale Pink Roses
- Nose: Minerals with Orange Hints
- Palate: Orange, Quince, White Pepper
- Finish: Strong Mineral finish
Price Range: $30 and up
For playing it safe: 2017 Doro Princic Pinot Grigio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
Pino Grigio classically fits seafood and the Doro Princic is a head above the rest! The Friuli region lies in the north of Italy where the cooler climate increases the acidity of the wine.
- Color: Yellow, Pale Green Hints
- Nose: Peach, Sage, Lemon, Honey
- Palate: Green Herbs, Wet Stone, Peach, Lemon
- Finish: Lemony and Fully Acidic Finish
For pushing the limits: 2017 Marthin Muthenthaler Grüner Veltliner, Wachau, Austria
Grüner can an adventurous choice to pair with a delicate dish. However, it pairs nicely with the garlic and butter in shrimp scampi and adds the necessary spice and acidity. Overall a creamy wine with spicy hints to jazz things up!
- Color: Lemon Gold with Hints of Green
- Nose: Creamy Pear, Green Apple, Fresh Radishes and White Pepper
- Palate: Lime Peel and Grapefruit in the foreground, Creamy White Peaches rush in
- Finish: Mid-length Mineral Finish
For the Pasta Lover: 2017 Lady of the Sunshine Coquelicot Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley, CA
Sauvignon Blanc is always a great choice to pair with seafood. This particular vintage also pairs excellently with heavy breads, if you’re serving your scampi over angel hair pasta!
- Color: Pale Yellow
- Nose: Wet Stone, Rocks and Gravel, Fresh Cut Grass
- Palate: Strong Minerality, Citrus Peel, especially Lime and Grapefruit, Hint of Creamy Peach
- Finish: Mid-length Mineral and acidic finish
My Personal Recipe and Wine Choice:
I absolutely love seafood. As a child, it was a “treat dinner” for me. Now that I have my own kitchen, seafood is my favorite cuisine to cook and my favorite cuisine to eat.
Shrimp scampi is a particularly rich dish, so I really do consider it a treat. And if you’re going to have a treat, might as well go all out!
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is everything I dreamed a wine should be. They are crisp and light and refreshing and full of fruit flavors cut by acidity.
And Greyrock is one of the best. Double fermented, it has a slightly oaky supporting flavor. But you hardly notice as it deepens the tropical fruit notes.
- Color: Yellow, Pale Green Hints
- Nose: Lime, Honeysuckle, White Peach
- Palate: Lime, Grapefruit, Peach, Pineapple, Grass
- Finish: Acidic with a strong Citrus finish, Medium-Body
There really is nothing that goes better with seafood.
My particular favorite recipe is below. It’s a mixture of the classic New York Times recipe with my own touches thrown in. I do use Greyrock in it as well. (It’s really just an excuse to open the bottle early.)
Frequently Asked Questions
Shrimp scampi is very complex on its own, and easily the star, so a good green salad with some bitter notes such as kale or arugula can be a great side dish.
If your shrimp scampi sauce is too liquid, you can thicken it a little bit by adding butter before serving it. Make sure to add the butter while the shrimp scampi sauce is still warm so that the butter melts.
The butter and garlic version of Shrimp Scampi is originated from Italy, but the pasta version is Italian-American.
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