Paella is a much loved and complex dish with hundreds of possible wine pairings. It should come as no surprise that the wine that goes best with Paella depends on the type of Paella on the menu.
I’ve put together this definitive guide on the best wines to pair with the five main types of Paella: traditional, seafood, mixed, vegetarian, and black. Get your cookbooks and bottle openers ready and let’s go!
If you’re planning on cooking a traditional Paella Valenciana then look no further than a Garnacha wine. Paella Valenciana typically combines chicken or rabbit with pork, beans, sweet pepper, and saffron. A light Garnacha red will magnify a delicious savory Paella but keep the palate refreshed.
Bear in mind that Grenache is the name given to French wines; and Garnacha is the name given to Spanish wines, but they’re all the same grape variety.
Garnacha is one of the only mainstream grapes that produces both red and white varieties—but when it comes to a traditional Paella, you’ll want to stick with a light bodied red. Garnacha wines are aromatic, lush, and work well with lots of different types of dish.
Sonoma County Merlot
If a Garnacha is tricky to find, then look for a Sonoma County Merlot instead. The elegant tannins of this delicate and slightly spicy red wine blend perfectly with the flavors of a Paella Valenciana.
This Bordeaux-style red is grown and matured on the West Coast of California and is a great way to evoke the Spanish sunshine without breaking the bank.
Californian Pinot Noir
A final offering as a suitable wine pairing with Paella Valenciana is the ever-popular Californian Pinot Noir. Don’t be taken in by the gorgeous dark red coloring—this wine is bright and subtly fruity with soft vanilla qualities.
As traditional Paella Valenciana uses rabbit, the heady gamey flavor really deserves to be complemented and celebrated and this deep ruby wine is an excellent choice.
Now let’s talk about seafood Paella, aka Paella de Marisco. Steer clear of reds when cooking with seafood—the tannins make seafood taste metallic, which would put a dampener on anyone’s evening.
Instead, if you’re feeling fancy, opt for a high-quality Cava, a relatively under-appreciated wine that brings a vibrant freshness to the table, perfect for seafood.
Cava is very similar to champagne, but the grapes originate from Spain, rather than France. Look for top tier Cava labelled as either Reserva, Grand Reserva, or Paraje Calificado.
Cortese di Gavi
Gavi is an Italian white wine heralding from the Piedmont region and made exclusively from Cortese grapes. Gavi di Gavi wines are those that use grapes solely from vineyards in the town of Gavi itself.
This special white is perfect for Paella de Marisco thanks to its crisp, dry character and fresh, mineral acidity which flawlessly compliment seafood saltiness.
Sometimes, a Paella might not go to plan, but don’t worry! If you have a cold bottle of Gavi on hand then it goes beautifully with many other seafood dishes including risotto, pasta, and even crab legs.
Sometimes, white wine seems like an obvious choice to serve with seafood, so maybe you’d like to try a rosé instead? Rosé of Grenache by Napa Valley’s Clif Family was voted as one of the top California Rosés in 2019, and it’s easy to see why.
Try it well-chilled alongside a seafood Paella and enjoy the floral, zesty, sour watermelon notes of the wine in harmony with the saltiness of the seafood.
Other rosés that work well with Paella de Marisco are any with a crisp finish, soft citrus, and hibiscus or other floral aromas.
When it comes to Paella, why not stray from tradition and prepare a Paella mixta? This mixed Paella is one of the most popular types of Paella worldwide and features all the savory elements of a Valenciana with softer seafood flavors rounded off with saffron.
Wine pairings for Paella mixta are as varied as the paella itself, and it truly depends on the ingredients you use.
A good starting point is a Sauvignon Blanc for its crisp, slightly acidic profile of grapefruit, lime, melon, and even stone. If Paella is off the menu, then I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that Sauvignon Blanc works wonders when paired with any fresh and herb-forward dishes.
If you have a little more in the wine budget, then consider hunting down a Roussanne from the French Rhone Valley.
The mineral-forward flavor of this gorgeous wine balance deliciously with seafood, and the fullness of the Roussanne aroma supports the headier flavors of game making it perfect for Paella mixta.
Many wines that work well with Paella mixta also pair with Paella Valenciana, but Roussanne is the exception. The seafood of a Paella mixta is essential to help balance the full-bodied nature of this French wine.
This wouldn’t be a complete guide without some options for vegetarian Paella, or 'Paella de Verduras'!
Any good-quality lightly sparkling rosé will do wonders for lifting the flavors of a Paella de Verduras, but I would always recommend the Brut Rosé by Domaine Carneros. This lightly sparkling wine is a product of Napa Valley and adds flavors of raspberry and wild strawberry to a light vegetarian Paella.
Artichokes can be tricky to pair with a wine as they can make your wine taste sweet. So, if artichokes feature in your Paella de Verduras then it’s a good opportunity to pull out a special wine for the occasion.
Australian Verdelho is a bone-dry white wine with a pleasant tangy quality that offsets the cynarine found in artichokes. Verdelho also works wonderfully with paellas made from bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, or pumpkin so don't hesitate to give this wine a chance.
It’s not always easy to find a Verdelho, but trust me: it’s worth it!
Pinot Gris, or Pinot Grigio, is a light-bodied white wine that uses its dryness and refreshingly fruity flavors to balance the intensity of a Paella Negra: Paella colored with octopus or squid ink.
With Paella Negra, you want a wine that matches the richness of the octopus ink while also lending contrasting notes to the dish. Pinot Gris does this perfectly with its peppery, melon flavors mixed with a subtle hint of stone fruit.
You can find Pinot Gris wines produced pretty much everywhere, but Californian and Australian varieties are particularly popular.
The bottom line
There are so many wine options to choose from when pairing with Paella, it can be hard to know where to start.
You have to consider the style of Paella, the ingredients within it, and of course which wines happen to be available in your local area. That's why I have tried to suggest alternative options where possible.
So whether you're serving a Paella de Marisco, Valenciana, mixta, or de Verduras, I hope this guide will help you find the perfect wine to match!