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Wine with citrus?

I just ate at Aqua in San Franciso where I ordered fish and a nice bottle of chardonnay. The fish was served with a grapefruit sauce that absolutely devastated the taste of the wine. So, my question is: what wine, if any, is good to have with a citrus sauce? Or would it be better to go with a beer or a sake?

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  1. One would need a high acid white in this situation. I would have reached for a Gruner Veltliner or something from Alsace (Pinot Gris, auxerrrois, Pinot Blanc).


    1. Or have your chardonnay with bubbles next time and order a Blanc de Blancs Champagne.

      1. I'd say a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, though any good Sauvignon Blanc would do the trick. The high acidity and natural citrus flavors of the wine make an easy pairing with any citrus sauce, particularly grapefruit. I've paired it with Halibut w/grapefruit buerre blanc with great success. Drylands and Whitehaven are two good, reasonably priced options from New Zealand, and I like the Matanzas Creek from California, also not too expensive. If you want to go for something different, a Spanish Albarino (Burgans is an inexpensive option we like a lot) would also work well.

        1. i'd do a Fume or Sauvignon Blanc.

          1. White Bordeaux is loaded with citrus, and often used in pairings with a citrus emulsion or citrus beurre blanc. Grapefruit, ruby grapefruit, lemon, meyer lemon, blood orange, tangerine, Seville orange and so forth. Chardonnay isn't a good choice. Try something like the Haut-Lafitte, loaded with lemon and Seville orange.

            1 Reply
            1. re: maria lorraine

              Ditto to that, my choice would be Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Gris. I had both of those before

            2. I wouldn't necessarily try and compliment a grapefruit sauce with my wine selection. First off the if the sauce actually uses grapefruit it's gonna be much more in your face than what you'd find in a wine that exhibits some grapefruit flavors. As the first post suggested I'd go with an Alsace just based upon its scale and not be overly concerned with trying to match flavors.


              6 Replies
              1. re: Chinon00

                A wine with grapefruit (or other citrus) works with a sauce that is grapefruit (or other citrus) not because they are of equal strength, but because there is commonality between the two, and this seamlessness of flavor -- where you cannot tell where the food flavors leave off and the wine flavors begin -- is very pleasing in the mouth.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  I understand but when the OP said that the sauce "devastated" a nice bottle of Chardonnay I assumed that the sauce was therefore was pretty profound. So I went for more weight with Alsace (versus say Sancerre). Funny, I went to the Aqua menu on their website and couldn't find a fish entree with a grapefruit sauce.

                  1. re: Chinon00

                    "Funny, I went to the Aqua menu on their website and couldn't find a fish entree with a grapefruit sauce"
                    there's a hamachi appetizer with grapefruit, but my guess is that it was an entree special.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      Just to give a few examples of how well a citrus sauce or food element can pair with a wine that also has citrus notes, here's a report of a divine dinner at Meadowood.

                      The white wine mentioned is the same I mentioned above, except above I neglected to add the word "Smith." Sorry.

                      Smith Haut Lafitte 2004 (Graves)– A tremendous white Bordeaux with definite flavors of peach, lemon, Seville orange, eucalyptus, and deep honey. Complex, beautiful, an amazing experience.

                      Scallop with scallop “tripe,”geoduck clam, periwinkles, in a “coquille” shell. Served with a sauce of fresh wasabi root, oven-roasted lemon, chives. Pastry dough on top resembled coquille shell. This was my favorite course. Fresh, bright flavors. Matched perfectly with the Smith Haut Lafitte.

                      Holland dover sole, with grapefruit emulsion (more like a beurre blanc), creamy artichokes, pinenuts. Excellent. Grapefruit sauce and the white Bordeaux together were ecstatically wonderful.

                      I think the reason the Chardonnay was lost was the combo of a very strong grapefruit sauce and a wine that wasn't complementary to that, like Chardonnay. Some Chardonnays *will* work, those with the lemon creme brulee, lemon sherbet type flavor notes, but most don't. And yes, overall, many wines will work. The bubbly rec is a good one, and I know some Alsatian wines would meld well as well.

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        I should have been clearer. The experience with citrus flavor was actually on two dishes. The first was and order of Beausoleil oysters, which were heavily flavored with lime foam. They were good and interesting, but the wine was wrong with them. The second dish was the aforementioned hamachi, around which was poured a sauce of grapefruit juice and basil. I couldn't taste the basil, only the grapefruit. I wished that the sauce had been in a separate dipping cup so that I could have avoided it.

                    2. re: maria lorraine

                      Totally agree, there are subtle flavors that compliment one another that just seem to melt. Like a good cabernet with a beef stew. to give a very simplified comparison.

                  2. If you are looking for a wine that tastes like citrus, nothing will beat

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: bclevy

                      I don't think of Muscadet as citrus-y, except for a very slight lime and lime zest quality. Instead, I'm struck by its wonderful minerality, its bracing acidity, its terrific cost, and its ability to pair so well with oysters and mussels.

                      For wines that could be characterized as citrus-y, there is the aforementioned White Bordeaux (with its white peach, lemon and Seville orange), Sancerre (with its sweet citrus, like tangerine, orange and orange blossom), Pinot Grigio (tart citrus, like lime and lemon), and a typical NZ Sauvignon Blanc (which you know).

                      Just my perceptions of citrus-y components...

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        I'm most struck by Muscadet's saline qualities. I think I've been spoiled to just assume wonderful minerality in all wines from the Loire.

                    2. sounds to me like the chardonnay you had was probably one that had stronger components of something more than acidity. new world chardonnay??? acid in wine and acid in food can complement well but flabby or oak laiden chard will not work

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: cockscomb

                        All of these posts have been very helpful. They inspire me to try some Alsace, Sauvignon Blancs, and White Bordeaux with some citrus sauces at home.

                        More importantly, they convince me to try something that others probably already do, but which had not occurred to me: research the menu in advance and try to select a wine type beforehand. Given my limited wine experience and the cost of a place like Aqua, it would be useful to have some ideas of what to drink in advance.