Whether steamed, boiled or broiled, crab legs are an excellent appetizer. For a simple, classic presentation, just melt some butter and dip the crab legs into it. You can also serve them with cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, vinaigrette or even salsa. Whatever recipe you choose, serve a high-acidity, dry white wine that contrasts with and complements the rich flavor of the crab legs.
The white wines of the Loire region, south of Paris, are perfect matches for crab legs. Wines from Sancerre have a flinty, mineral character that offsets the seafood’s richness. Pouilly-Fumés have the same mineral taste, but add a slight smoky taste — “fumé” means “smoked” in French. The Muscadet region of the Loire valley, which borders coastal Brittany, produces lightly acidic wines that can cut through rich, buttery dipping sauces. Wines from Vouvray also work well with crab legs.
The northern and northeastern regions of Italy make white wines that go well with crab legs. Pinot Grigios are well-known and widely available; their light, acidic character complements the richness of crab legs. The Soave region, which includes the city of Verona, makes dry, unaged white wines that go well with crab and any other seafood. Less-common Italian white wines that work with this dish include Verdicchio and Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
The United States wine industry is young but growing incredibly fast. West Coast American white wines are especially well-suited for drinking with crab legs. Look for Pinot Gris wines from Washington and Oregon; these light white wines pair well with crabs. California Chardonnays can also work with crab legs; avoid, however, Chardonnays that describe themselves as “oaky,” as this strong flavor can clash with the flavor of the crab and any sauce you’re serving with it. California also produces many Viogniers that complement crab legs well.
Crisp, floral German Riesling wines work well with crab legs, especially if you’re serving them with a spicy or Asian-inspired sauce. Try a Spanish white like Albariño — or the Portuguese Alvarinho — for simpler presentations. South African and South American Chenin Blancs also go well with crab legs, as do Australian Sauvignon Blancs.
References and ResourcesThe Cook's Thesauraus: White Wines
IntoWine; Best Wine to Pair with Crab Cakes; Paula Barker
"The Portland Press Herald"; You Had Me at “Vouvray”; Joe Appel; Sept. 2010
New World Review; Viognier: South America’s Next Great White Wine; Nicholas Gill; Aug. 2010
See Tuscany: Vernaccia di San Gimignano