Victor Protasio

Scott Worcester opened the Maine wine store Sawyer's Specialties some 20 years ago. He knows wine, but more to the point—his family’s been on the Maine coast since the late 1600s—he also knows lobster. 

Ray Isle
June 15, 2018
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Every summer, I go up to Maine, where I take it upon myself as a solemn duty to devour as many lobsters as humanly possible. It only seems reasonable—if I were their size, and they were my size, they wouldn’t hesitate to devour me, either.

I also stop in every summer at Sawyer’s Specialties in Southwest Harbor, one of the best wine stores I know of anywhere, which is particularly surprising given that it’s in a town of only 1,700 or so people. Scott Worcester, a local resident, opened the store almost 20 years ago. He knows wine, but more to the point—his family’s been on the Maine coast since the late 1600s—he also knows lobster.

Ask him how many lobsters he’s eaten in his life, and he'll laugh. “Not enough! But north of 500, definitely. Usually when I sit down for lobster, it’s two or three of them.”

Ask him, then, what wine goes best with lobster, and he won't hesitate: “Chenin Blanc. Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, it’s absolutely the best choice. Lobster, particularly with drawn butter, is so sweet—with Sauvignon Blanc, the acidity bites too much; any wine in new oak, like most affordable Chardonnays, you get the same thing. With Chenin, the flavor plus the weight and sweetness you get from a tiny bit of residual sugar is just wonderful with lobster.”

Having taken Scott’s advice at length, I concur completely. So here are a few of his top Chenin Blancs to track down, plus a couple of my own.

Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2017 ($16) "A youthful 100 percent Chenin Blanc with quince and pear drop flavors. The freshness from an earlier picking shows on the palate with crunchy green apple and grapefruit flavors. Good mouthfeel with an appetizingly tangy finish," according to the winemaker's notes.

2016 Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc ($14) Tropical fruit notes and a tiny hint of oak (10 percent; not enough to mess up a lobster) give this South African white succulence and richness, despite its innately light bodied character.

2016 Leo Steen Saini Vineyard Chenin Blanc ($20) Finding old-vine Chenin in California is tough—most of it was pulled out years ago—but vintner Leo Steen tracked down some 33-year-old vines in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley for this impressively crisp, herb-scented wine.

2015 Pascal Janvier Jasnières ($20) The little-known Jasnierès appellation is home to some spectacular Chenins, as this aromatic, intense white proves. Scott essentially thrust this into my hands, telling me I had to try it with lobster, and he was absolutely right.

2016 Champalou Vouvray ($21) There are a lot of good, dry Vouvrays out there that are great with lobster; this is one of Scott’s favorites. No surprise: Champalou is one of the best producers around, and this citrus-and-honeysuckle-scented wine shows why.

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