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Pairing Wine With Cioppino

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Cioppino is a fish stew originating in San Francisco, California with Italian influence. Mussels, shrimps, tomato paste, wine and a bunch of other stuff all go into making a good cioppino. To keep it simple with pairing wine, let’s look at the key flavor and texture components. Relatively high acid levels from the tomatoes combined with a “seafoody” flavor while being light on the palate. To pair with a dish like this, wines with acid would be key while picking a wine that allows the dish to remain the star. So we will be staying away from those bigger bolder wines like Syrah and Bordeaux as they are likely to overpower the dish.

Wine Characteristics To Pair With Cioppino

Characteristic Detail
Sweetness Dry
Acidity Medium+, High
Tannins Low
Body Medium
Notes Vegetal, Zesty, Citrus

Referring to the chart above, a sweeter style of wine is not going to work well with fish stew. We want something that is completely dry. Maybe a tiny bit of residual sugar would be fine and could help decrease the sensation of heat/spice on the palate if you have a spicier version of the dish.

High acid wines to match the acid levels of the dish. Acidity is your friend when it comes to food and wine pairing, and will clean up your palate after each sip, leaving you wanting more.

A light dish like Cioppino does not require a wine with a big tannic structure. Instead a light wine with refined tannins would be just perfect. Think Pinot Noir rather than Cabernet.

Same goes for the body of the wine. A light to medium bodied wine to go with a light to medium bodied dish. Texture and weight of the dish is what must be considered when matching the body of the wine.

Refreshing zesty and citrusy aromatics would complement the seafood flavors perfectly. White wines and rose wines would be preferred in this case. However, juicy bright fruit characteristics common in red wines such as pinot noir would work just as well.

Best Red Wine To Drink With Cioppino

Lighter red wines, white wines, and even Rosés are what we want to be looking at. A dish with quite diverse flavors, you just need to make sure you stay away from red wines that will overpower the dish.

Pinot Noir From France or USA

Pinot noir can be considered as one of the lightest red wines since it has thin skin, light tannins and is lightly coloured. The wine generally has medium to high levels of acidity, making it the perfect wine to go with cioppino. 

Aged Nebbiolo From Italy

Nebbiolo is a grape from Italy producing big, bold wines. However, when aged, they are light and mellow and give off some beautiful dry fruit characteristics. Make sure these wines are aged at least 10 years before drinking, otherwise like we mentioned earlier, the dish will be overpowered.

Best White Wine To Drink With Cioppino

Citrusy, zesty, aromatic white wines are perfect to go with a nice warm fish stew. A few examples are listed below:

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is quite fruity and refreshing making it a perfect pairing for cioppino. A French Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley would be a better pick for you, if you enjoy a little more minerality in your wine. 

French or German Riesling

Riesling is a great aromatic grape varietal with a clean refreshing finish on the palate. A very clean and crisp wine with flavors of candied lemon and honey. 


If you prefer something a little more full and round on the palate and less aromatic we would suggest a chardonnay. Such a versatile grape with a nice body and little “warmer” on the palate with great examples coming from California and Burgundy.

Wine With Different Cioppino Preparations

Cioppino is not exactly a classic recipe that gets followed to the T and can have many variations. In order to cover all types of preparations, let’s look at a broad classifications of dominant flavors.

Wine With Spicy Cioppino

When dishes are spicy, an “off-dry” wine which is a bit sweet can really help mellow down the heat on the palate and round out the flavors nicely. A Pinot Gris from Alsace, France would be a great pick as they tend to make slightly sweeter versions of white wine. Another option would be an off dry Riesling from Germany. Rose wine would be something nice to try, perhaps one from Provence, Southwest France..

Wine With “Flavorful/Aromatic” Cioppino

Cioppinos which are heavy in flavor, texture and have a lot of intensity need to be matched with wines which can also stand up to that level. In this case, look for a white wine from a warmer climate, like Spain or Rhone Valley, France. Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Chataneuf du Pape are all good choices.

Wine With Herbaceous Cioppino

If you find yourself with a cioppino with a lot of herbaceous aromas, look for a wine which can match these flavors. A Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand gives beautiful notes of green capsicum/peppers and grass would be a great way to take a step up further and make your wine pairing that much better.

Best Wine To Drink With Cioppino

As mentioned earlier in the article, we recommended a wine with enough acidity, body and aromatics to match up to that of the dish while still being able to complement the flavors present in the dish. Here are a few choices.

  • Chenin Blanc
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Riesling
  • Chardonnay
  • French Roses
  • Pinot Noir