Cioppino Wine Pairing: Red Vs White, Which Is Better?

If you are looking for a wine that will pair well with Cioppino, then your best choices would be a crisp white wine, such as a Chablis, a Sancerre, or an Albarino. Alternatively, you could choose an acidic red wine such as a Chianti or a Dolcetto. 

Cioppino Wine Pairing: Red Vs White, Which Is Better?

If you have a tomato-based Cioppino, then an acidic red wine is going to be the best choice, as the tomato flavors can be very dominating. 

However, if you are having a broth-based, spicy, or fishy Cioppino, then a crisp and clean white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc, or a Riesling would be ideal. If you are somewhere between the two, then a Rosé wine is going to be the best choice. 

Let’s look into this more for a better understanding of pairing wines with Cioppino.

Pairing Cioppino

Firstly, let’s understand what Cioppino is. It is a seafood stew that has its origins in San Francisco. The type of Cioppino you may find in a restaurant is a bit more of a fish and broth-based version of the dish, in this case, you should eat it with cutlery. 

The fish will feature seafood flavors such as cod, clams, scallops, crab, shrimp, and mussels. With this type of dish, it is best paired with white wine. 

However, Cioppino also contains vegetables and spices, including onion, garlic, tomatoes, herbs, fennel, and spicy pepper flakes. Together the seafood and vegetables are cooked in wine, which creates a beautiful sauce/stew base. 

When making this dish at home, you may find that Cioppino is traditionally made with a thick tomato sauce, which you are meant to eat with your hands. Although, you should be eating it with a side of crusty bread, as this can soak us a lot of the remaining tomato sauce. 

Do note, this is a messy meal, so you will want plenty of napkins or even newspapers to prevent any of your tableware from turning tomato red! When you make it at home, tomato is the domineering flavor, so it should be paired with an acidic red wine. 

You should avoid heavily tannin-based reds, as this can taste metallic when it is paired with tomatoes and seafood! 

What Wine Pairs Well With Cioppino 

BeverageVarietyHow We Rate It
White WineCotes Du Rhone4.5/5
White WineSancerre4.5/5
RoseCotes De Provence Rose4.5/5
Red WineDolcetto4.5/5
Red WineBeaujolais Villages4/5
Beer BrandAnchor Steam Beer4.5/5
Red wineChianti Classico4/5
White WineSoave Classico4/5
White WineChablis4/5

Let’s talk about some of these options with a Cioppino.

Considering Sancerre & Cioppino 

If you have a Cioppino in a light tomato broth, and you get potent flavors of seafood, such as mussels, prawns, scallops, clams, and so on, then you will want to enjoy this dish with a crisp white wine, such as Sancerre. 

This is a French white wine that is made with the Sauvignon Blanc grape with flavor notes such as gooseberry, citrus, grass, flint, and smoke. These flavors can complement the more saline flavors of fresh seafood. 

In the meantime, grassy notes can boost the fennel, garlic, and herbs of the dish. 

Sancerre wine is acidic, which means that it has a citrus and crisp taste. The citrus flavors can highlight mussels, crab, and other seafood, which all help to make the flavor stand out more. 

If you have a spicier Cioppino then this is probably not the correct wine to choose. This is because Sancerre is a dry white wine, and if you use chili flakes then it will add even more heat to the dish, which can make it a bit too hot.

For a hot Cioppino, consider a Riesling instead.

Considering Dolcetto & Cioppino

Dolcetto is a fruity, light Italian red wine, which features flavors of strawberry, cherry, and raspberry. You can also find flavors such as smoke, licorice, and even earthiness that will complement the vegetables and fennel in the sauce of your dish with this wine. 

It does pair very well with a heavier, more tomato-based Cioppino. Since this wine is fruity and light, it does not counter any of the seafood’s flavors, but it does not complement them either, instead this wine will complement the tomato sauce. 

Tomato sauce will class with a red wine that is heavy on tannins, which is why we recommend a Dolcetto. This wine is balanced and won’t overpower the sauce. Instead, it injects extra life into the dish, refreshing you with acidity.

Considering Chianti Classico & Cioppino 

Acidic Chiantis can pair well with Cioppino dishes that focus more on the tomato-based aspects of the dish. Chianti Classico can pair very nicely with tomatoes, however, if you get a Chianti from other regions then you risk there being more tannins in the wine. 

The more tannins that are in the wine then the more likely the wine is to clash with the tomato sauce, which can make the entire dish taste very metallic, or even bitter. 

This tends to happen with Chianti from other regions as they will blend their wines with Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon at much higher levels. 

So, if you want a Cioppino, heavy on the tomatoes, then a Chianti Classico is ideal, but if you have a Cioppino that is more focused on seafood flavors, consider something else as a Chianti Classico is sure to crush all the flavors from the seafood.

Considering Albarino & Cioppino

Albarino is a white wine, crisp and delicious, coming from Spain. It has aromatic lemony flavors, as well as hints of apple, pear, peach, and even melon.

It is highly acidic and tastes almost like you have squeezed a dash of lemon onto the seafood, enhancing the flavor. 

The other flavors impart on the seafood which adds new interest to the meal. 

This wine has a medium body, at best, however, most of the time you will find a lighter-bodied version, so the wine can be crushed by a Cioppino that is heavy in tomato. 

That being said, if the seafood is ruling the plate, then an Albarino can boost the flavors.

Cioppino & Rose Pairings

Rose should work great in theory, and it does well enough, but it is not going to give you outstanding results. Cioppino is rarely balanced, but rose is balanced, so it tends to fall short when the dish is more seafood-focused, and when it is more tomato focused. 

It can work, but generally, a tomato-based dish wants a tannin-light red, and a seafood-based dish wants an elegant white.

Our Thoughts

Cioppino is a dish that can go either way. It can be heavily seafood-based in its flavor, in which case a white wine is always best. However, it can also be heavily tomato-based in the sauce, and when this is the case, it benefits more from a tannin-light red wine. 

Whether seafood or tomato dominates the dish will indicate which type of wine you should pair it with.

Sarah Perez
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