Most of us don’t have a very high opinion of the lowly clam. However, the classic clambakes of fall offer the opportunity for a leisure get together that we can share with many close friends and family members. You don’t have to like clams to attend or even to get enough to eat. There are other courses, such as chicken, sweet potatoes, corn and sometimes steak that make it possible for anyone to come and have a good time and eat your fill.
While many people have experienced being served beer or pop with clams, the ideal beverage is wine. When making the wine choice, certain requirements should be kept in mind.
White and Sparkling wines are the preferred choice for clams. These wines should be softly dry and crisp in style, with firm acidity and preferably without oak or with just a hint of oak contact. Oak gives tannin and astringency to a white wine that clashes with the clam’s flavors. Red wines are aged in oak and ferment on their skins and seeds gaining large concentrations of tannin, the reason they don’t pair with clams.
That still leaves a large number of wines that you can find to enhance the event and pair perfectly with the clams. Following are some of my favorites in a variety of styles that are reasonably priced enough to encourage some enjoyable experimentation without breaking your budget:
St. Hilaire Brut, France $15 (Superior) – One of the world’s first sparklers, crisp and softly dry, a perfect foil for the bake and an ideal greeting wine.
Harpersfield Pinot Gris, Ohio $17 (Wines LLC) – A superb Ohio Pinot Gris with texture, crisp aromas and flavors and a long, lingering finish. Yum!
Huber “Hugo” Gruner-Veltliner, Austria, $13 (Cutting Edge) – Don’t try to pronounce this wine, just enjoy the crisp flavors with a hint of spice and white pepper, a delightful warm weather sipper that also enhances fall occasions.
Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, $10 (Vintage) – Crisp, floral, herbal-scented fruit and flavors to match, a very fine bargain in aromatic whites that is perfect for your event.
Razors Edge Unoaked Chardonnay, Australia, $14 (Cutting Edge) – A very pleasant, crisp and defined Chardonnay that is lighter in style than many that see oak contact, perfect to cleanse your palate between bites.
Louis Jadot Macon Villages, France, $14 (Glazer) – Classic Chardonnay that typically sees no oak, a lean white that enhances the flavor in any food due to its elegance and firm acidity.
As to quantities most event planners figure 2-6 ounce glasses (1/2 bottle of 750ml size) per person. Some will not drink anything, some more than 2 glasses, but this will get you in the range of determining what you need to stock. If you split it up between several wines of different grape varietals and styles, you will enhance the experience for your guests.
Now for those who prefer red wines. Here are a couple of choices you will really enjoy, and they will complement both chicken and red meats:
J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, $18 (Heidelburg) – This release always is full of ripe cherry/berry aromas and flavors with hints of vanilla. Simply a delightful Cabernet that is drinkable on release.
Crios Malbec, Argentina, $16 (Cutting Edge) – A flavorful yet elegant red with deep berry flavors, a hint of oak and a long finish that would be delightful to pair with baked or roasted chicken and red meats.
Celebrate the lowly clam and gather your friends and family for a spectacular, casual fall event. Cheers!
Gary Twining, C.W.E., S.W.E. is a certified wine educator and employee of Cutting Edge Selections, a wine wholesaler. The distributor of each wine he reviews appears in parenthesis. E-mail him at: