Shrimp Cocktail (and More) Wine Pairing Guide

You’re out with family and friends, and looking for a light appetizer to kick off your meal (or have it be your meal).

You land on the tangy, sinus-tickler, shrimp cocktail. The appetizer — typically a blend of ketchup, lemon, horseradish, and Worcestershire with a dash of hot sauce (or more, if you like it hot!) — is an interesting blend of sweet, savory, and heat, paired with cooked, shelled prawns.

With such an assortment of flavors, the question becomes: what wine will pair best with it?

Some prefer a sweeter, low alcohol, dry wine to counter some of the sauce’s steam, but not too sweet so you can still enjoy the mild, unique taste of the ocean shellfish. Others prefer a tarter, citrus blend with high acidity that adds a punch as it washes over your taste buds.

No matter which palate-pleasing camp you prefer, we have an extensive list of prawn possibilities to match.

Shrimp cocktail and a glass of wine - Wine pairings for shrimp cocktail

Shrimp Cocktail Paired With Prosecco

Depending on your preference of sweetness, this Italian sparkling or semi-sparkling wine has a range to choose from: Brut (with up to 12 grams of residual sugar per liter), Extra Dry (12-17 grams per liter), and Dry (17-32 grams per liter).

The dry bubbly with hints of apple, pear, apricot, and almond is low in alcohol and full of tingle, so it serves as a refreshing palette cleanser for some of the heat from the horseradish and hot sauce in the shrimp dip.

Shrimp Cocktail Paired with Grüner Veltliner

This dry white — grown almost exclusively in Austria — has a nutty, spicy taste with notes of lime, lemon, grapefruit, and nectarine, along with radish, ginger, honey, and white pepper.

Its signature punch of acidity erupts in your mouth with every sip, but just as quickly as it explodes, it tends to disappear.

Its pale green color and crisp finish make it a perfect pairing with richly-flavored foods and salty fish like haddock, sardines, anchovies, and shrimp.

Shrimp Cocktail Paired With Rosé Wines

The pink-hued vino is bursting with a fruity cornucopia of cherry, strawberry, and raspberry.

High in acid and low in tannins, rosés like Provençal or a sparkling variety may be just what the dish needs — enough complexity to complement the zip of the sauce, while light enough to take the edge off.

Shrimp Cocktail Paired With Frascati

Shrimp cocktail and white wine

This dry or semisweet white is made in its namesake historic hilltop town south of Rome. With scents of wildflowers and hay, Frascati has distinct flavors of blanched almonds and peaches, minerals, and lemon lime.

Its crisp blend marries well with the cocktail sauce, cutting through the spice and refreshing your palette in between bites.

Shrimp Cocktail Paired With Torrontés

With aromas of peach, green apple, lemon, flower blossoms, minerals, and apricot, this medium to full-bodied white is dry with high acidity.

The inexpensive wine provides a refreshing counter to the sauce’s spiciness, but leaves behind enough flavor that you can appreciate the intricate layers of the hors d’oeuvre and the subtle nuances of the vin ordinaire.

Shrimp Cocktail Paired With Riesling

Glass with Shrimp Cocktail and Sauce on Table

The beauty of Riesling is that it can be off-dry (with a bit of sweetness) or bone dry.

Some might find the drier side (especially, if the horseradish-ingredient dip has more than just a dash of hot sauce) will fight the flavor and have a sharper finish after. So, a less dry or one that leans more to the sugary side may soften some of the edges.

When searching for your favorite, look for best-selling varieties from Canada, France, Austria, Australia, and Chile that are perfumed with lime, minerals, green apple, peach, apricot, pear, and a touch of honey.

Shrimp Cocktail Paired With Muscadet

This French favorite from the Loire Valley is light and crisp, with a hint of salt … which makes it the perfect pair to the seafaring dish. Like the saline that rims the sides of a margarita glass, Muscadet also has that tart and sour freshness of lemon and green apple.

Its invigorating notes and “sea breezy” taste works well with shrimp dipped in cocktail sauce or the simplicity of the seafood alone, allowing the wine to sing its praises.

Wines That Pair With Other Shrimp Dishes

Cocktail sauce isn’t the only way to enjoy this crustacean with vino. Here are some other suggestions:

Wines That Pair With Shrimp Scampi

Wine pairing with shrimp scampi

Sauvignon Blanc and garlic have a love connection, but other whites like Fiano, Falanghina, Rioja, Godella, Rueda, or a Manzanilla will also pair nicely.

Wines That Pair With Curry Shrimp

Much like how the cocktail sauce is prepared determines the best vino to complement it, korma or dry tandoori curry shrimp would pair better with a Rosé.

But if it’s a Thai green, then you might want to pour a medium dry Riesling or Pinot Gris.

Wines That Pair With Shrimp Salad

Wine pairing with with shrimp salad

Just as prawns eaten alone would suggest a simpler selection, wines that work best in a salad are uncomplicated, unoaked whites like Pinot Grigio, Muscadet, Picpoul de Pinet, Sancerre, Albarino, or Vinho Verde.

If the dressing that’s tossed with the greens has more of a fruity twist or leans more on the zesty side, than a Sauvignon or Semillon is a better choice.

Wines That Pair With Shrimp Paella

This Spanish favorite is usually enriched with chorizo, garlic, saffron, and pimento blended with rice, which make drier Rosados — like Rioja and Navarra — a suitable accompaniment.

Wines That Pair With Shrimp Linguine

Wine pairing with shrimp linguine

It’s not so much the pasta variety as the sauce that determines the best pairing.

If it’s creamy (like a garlic Parmesan or Alfredo), then typically a white that doesn’t overpower the flavors, but doesn’t get overpowered either, like a Chenin Blanc, Chablis, Gavi, or Soave fits the bill.

If the sauce has a tomato base, then a dry white or light Rosé or Bardolino will do the trick.

Wines That Pair With Grilled Shrimp

Barbecued shrimp has several connotations, depending on where you are in the country… or even the world.

If you’re in New Orleans, BBQ prawns are a spicy, buttery, oniony dish made with the catch of the day and Cajun flair. This style calls for a hearty Chardonnay or a Cabernet Sauvignon.

If your shrimp is fresh off the barbie (or hot off the coals), a lighter, delicate kiss of a Rosé is a great catch-all.

Even if your prawns are wrapped in bacon or served with a rich, Spanish romesco sauce or aioli, a more full-bodied Rosé is the perfection addition.

Wines That Pair With Shrimp Gumbo

Wine pairing with shrimp gumbo

Another favorite served fresh (and abundantly!) in the Big Easy is Shrimp Gumbo.

This traditional West African dish has a thick roux that’s loaded with chicken, sausage, shrimp, vegetables, garlic, and spicy seasonings served over a bed of rice.

If it’s heavy on the heat, a more mineral-forward choice like Viognier would help soothe the palette, while a Pinot Noir would complement a more “Northern” style (not very spicy) version of the beloved Southern recipe.

Wines That Pair With Poached or Boiled Shrimp

The uncomplicated, simply prepared poached or peel-and-eat shrimp matches best with Albariño, a high-quality white from the coastal regions in Spain and Portugal, where fresh-from-the-ocean food is plentiful.

Another possibility is a dry Semillon from Bordeaux, France. Your best bet is to look at the label. Descriptors like “crisp,” “light,” and “refreshing” are good indicators that it will pair well with the rich, complex flavors of the popular seafood.

Shrimp and Wine Frequently Asked Questions

If my shrimp cocktail is extra hot, which wine is best to pair with it?

The horseradish in the traditional recipe for cocktail sauce has an inherent kick, but it’s whether you add a dash or two (or three!) of hot sauce that distinguishes the spicy shrimp dip from typical to “some like it hot.”

The trick when picking a wine pairing for the fiery treat is finding one that’s low in alcohol (higher alcohol content wines tend to “burn” when matched with an equally-intense food option) and a touch of sweet (but not too sweet) to mitigate some of the heat.

Some choices to consider are Prosecco, Frascati, Rosé, or Riesling.

My husband likes the cocktail sauce, but I just like the shrimp. Is there a wine that we can both enjoy to with our individual versions of shrimp cocktail?

Absolutely! Muscadet is a good choice for several reasons.

One, it’s light and crisp, which helps cut through the spiciness of the sauce. But, it also has a hint of saline, which pairs well with the naturally salty, full-flavored seafood.

So whether you like dunking your prawns for an added burst of flavor or prefer it by itself, this French vino is one to try.

Is shrimp cocktail only good with white wines?

Although most would conclude that a dry white pairs best with the complex flavors of shrimp cocktail, fruity reds with moderate alcohol can also please the palette.

Pinot Noir or Chianti are often drunk with heat-filled specialties, and shrimp cocktail is no exception.

I love shrimp and Rosé. What are my best options?

You’re in luck! Rosé is one of the most versatile when it comes to shrimp cuisine.

Whether you like shrimp cocktail, curry shrimp, tomato-based sauces with shrimp and pasta, grilled, or in a Spanish romesco sauce, the pink-hued French favorite is sure to complement the multifaceted tastes of the ocean crustacean, no matter how it is prepared.

Which flavors of fruity wine is best with shrimp cocktail?

A cornucopia of fruity flavors can tame the sinus-clearing ingredients of shrimp cocktail, cleansing the palette and refreshing the taste buds. And there are plenty to choose from.

Prosecco is a sparkling wine with notes of pear, apricot, and apple, topped with almond that adds an effervescence and touch of sweetness.

Grüner Veltliner is a dry, spicy white that has grapefruit, nectarine, lime, and lemon (along with a blend of other unusual flavor combinations) that burst with every sip.

There’s also the cherry, strawberry, and raspberry notes of Rosé, the peaches and lemon-lime of Frascati, and the aromas of peach, green apple, lemon, and apricot in Torrontés.

Not to mention, the lime, green apple, peach, apricot, and pear aromas of Riesling, and Muscadet’s tart lemon and green apple.

Emma Miller