When you think of summertime in Maine, you have to get the full picture of what it’s like to live and visit here. Imagine sitting at a family-style red picnic table overlooking the harbor, where hundreds of colorful buoys bob upon the waves on a warm, sunny afternoon. Before you are a steaming, boiled lobster and a chilled glass of wine.
Though the right pairing of wine with lobster may depend on the particular dish, the delicate, almost sweet flavor of Maine lobster tends to go better with mineral whites and French rosés rather than reds, whose tannins tend to overpower flavors.
Here are three summertime dishes that are staples of local Maine cuisine.
The Picnic Table-Style Shore Dinner with Chardonnay
Any lobster shack in the area surrounding Rockland is the ideal place to get your lobster fix for half the cost of a restaurant. The Maine Travel Maven has a list of her favorite lobster dives up and down the coast, many with BYOB options. Paired with a pound-and-a-half steamed lobster, corn on the cob and a mess of steamers, you absolutely cannot go wrong with the workhorse of wines— a crisp Chardonnay.
In fact, for their first two official state dinners, former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, brought in two executive chefs to entertain Chinese president Hu Jintao at the request of his delegation. What did they serve? An all-American menu featuring poached Maine lobster paired with DuMOL Chardonnay “Russian River” 2008 (California). Averaging $50 a bottle, that’s a bit pricy for a lobster shack, but a more affordable Chardonnay with the same buttery and complex, honeyed character from the same area with a high critic score is DeLoach Vineyards Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2015 (California) for $14-15.
A Lobster Roll with Chenin Blanc
First, decide how you will approach the classic Maine lobster roll. (We just happen to have five favorite ways to enjoy it.) Food & Wine calls Chenin Blanc the best pairing for lobster given how well the lightweight and sweet flavor of the wine complements the naturally tender, succulent tang of just-picked lobster meat. Recommending a Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2017 ($16) Food & Wine reports that your must-try list should include this “youthful 100 percent Chenin Blanc with quince and pear drop flavors. The freshness from an earlier picking shows on the palate with crunchy green apple and grapefruit flavors.” Read the full recommendation.
Chili Lobster with Vouvray
Oh là là, now you’re talking. Kicking up the traditional lobster dish with a fusion Asian chili sauce, Food & Wine, once again, unveils an imaginative dish for an elegant appetizer that presents a mound of warmed lobster meat on a platter, arranged on top of bok choy, garnished with red pepper strips and served with a Singapore-style chili sauce.
To pair with this heavy-hitter, your wine needs to have a fuller body than a Chenin Blanc and some sweet to cut the heat. What better choice than a Vouvray from Loire, France, a white wine made from the Chenin Blanc grape. Unfortunately, Food & Wine’s pairing, a Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups Vouvray Les Caburoches 2015, is not offered in the United States. Instead, opt for the similar and more affordable Sauvion Vouvray Chenin Blanc ($12). See full recipe.
Mark your calendar to attend Maine Lobster Festival’s annual Steins & Vines tasting event, featuring some amazing local vintners who can personally recommend their own favorite wine-lobster pairings.
For more delicious recipes, pairings and ideas, visit our blog.