There are few foods that hold a candle to the rich, delicate taste of crab cakes. Their flaky, buttery texture and warm seafood aromas make even the pickiest eaters hungry.
Like any special dish, picking the perfect wine to go with them is important and sometimes tricky. However, while different recipes call for different wines, the traditional crab cake deserves something special.
Should you Pair Red Wines With Crab Cakes?
While pairing white wines with seafood is always a safe bet, crab cakes have qualities that work well with some red wines. Depending on the recipe, crab cakes are savory and carry a lot of complex flavors.
A complex red wine with medium to high acidity and soft to developed tannins will complement the savory flavors and aromas of crab cakes.
Which Red Wines are Good for Pairing With Crab Cakes?
The two best red wines for pairing with crab cakes are pinot noir and aged Sangiovese. These dry reds can accompany crab cakes unexpectedly well because of their rich, rounded tannins, high acidity, and earthy aromas.
When aged, these wines will produce complex flavors. Their acidity will cut through the rich buttery texture of the crab cakes. What’s more, is that their complex earthy notes make the herbs from the crab cakes shine.
The best forms of these wines are aged Burgundies, Chianti Classicos, Chianti Reservas, or Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Some new world versions work incredibly well. For example, an aged Santa Barbara pinot noir is often served with local crab cakes at some of the city’s best restaurants.
Pinot Noir vs. Sangiovese—Which one is Better for Pairing With Crab Cakes?
Depending on the recipe, both Pinot Noir and Sangiovese will be perfect for pairing with crab cakes. Pinot noir is lighter in body and tannin. Sangiovese wines are bold and have high acidity, tannins, and body.
An aged Sangiovese will work best if your crab cakes are full of rich herbs or heavy on sauces.
However, a pinot noir will be perfect with lighter, fluffier crab cakes. Not only will its soft tannins and earthy flavors bring out the flavors of the crab, but its acidity will also balance out the soft buttery flavors in a way few white wines could do.
Do You Need To Watch For Tannin Levels When Pairing Red Wine with Crab Cakes?
When pairing red wines with crab cakes, it’s best to choose red wines that have complex tannins. For example, aged pinot noir and Sangiovese will have tannins that have matured.
These tannins will not overpower the flavors of the crabcakes as a young cabernet sauvignon would.
One way that high tannins overpower crab cakes is that they fill your mouth with puckering bitterness. With juicy red meat, this is an incredible feeling. With delicate crab cakes, not so much.
Which Red Wines Should You Avoid Drinking With Crab Cakes?
Avoid pairing fruit-forward red wines, high in tannin and low in acidity. Wines like syrah and cabernet sauvignon will probably overpower even the richest crab cakes. Likewise, deep dark fruity reds like Zinfandel will also be poor companions for crab cakes.
Sweet and jammy ports will also be poor compliments to your favorite crab cakes. This is because the high tannins, sweetness, and alcohol of port will completely drown out the buttery flavors crab cakes are known for.
Final Thoughts on Red Wine and Crab Cakes Pairing
Some red wines are great for pairing with crab cakes. Two of the best wines are aged pinot noir and Sangiovese. These dry red wines have high acidity, complex tannins, and earthy notes that round out the flavors of crab cakes.
If you’re serving light, fluffy crab cakes, go for the pinot noir. If rich and saucy crab cakes are on your menu, consider an aged Sangiovese like a Chianti Reserva or a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Avoid young, tannic red wines like cabernet sauvignon or deep dark fruity reds.