Mussels steamed in white wine sauce is a classic French preparation of mussels, better known as moules mariniere, and is very simple to make! In under 25 minutes, you can have dinner for 4 – with a perfect wine pairing of course!
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 shallots, finely chopped
½ bottle of dry white wine
3 pounds medium-size mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 1 loaf crusty French bread (optional)
- Melt the butter in a heavy 6-quart saucepan. Add the shallots and saute over medium heat until they are tender but not brown.
- Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Add the mussels, cover and cook about 10 minutes, until the mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that do not open.
- Spoon the mussels into soup plates and spoon the broth over them. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with crusty bread.
Most recipes for wine and mussels call for a dry crisp white wine, for good reason. They are the most versatile style of wine with which to cook. Rich, oaky whites can become bitter during the cooking process, and sweeter whites may caramelize while cooking, or add unnecessary sweetness to a dish. If you need help figuring what style of wine to cook with, click here for our cooking wine guide. There are great value whites with a dry, crisp profile so you can drink your cooking wine with your meal.
Now, what about that wine pairing?
Gavi is a great go-to for mussels, and is a little off the beaten path, meaning you can also find them at a great value. Cortese, the grape used in producing Gavi, produces wines that are delicately floral, with stone fruit, citrus character, and a crisp, mineral-laden finish. Its fresh, and doesn’t have any oak to add flavors that would compete with, and overpower the dish.
Other options? Made of Melon de Bourgogne, Muscadet is a white wine that hails from the Loire Valley of Northwestern France. Muscadet pairs perfectly with this dish because it is aged sur lies, meaning the wine is aged on the lees, or with its skins and yeast cells. This practice leaches out flavors otherwise dormant in white wine; a flavor typically described as “mineraly” or even saline. The salinity echos the brininess of mussels, creating a classic pairing.
The Loire Valley also has some incredible Sauvignon Blancs that are well suited for mussels, specifically from the regions of Touraine, and Sancerre. When shopping for Sauvignon Blanc from other regions, steer clear of heavily oaked or fruity wines, because these could overpower the delicate flavor of the muscles. Keeping this in mind, an un-oaked Chardonnay could be a decent alternative, but make sure to ask for something a bit more refined.
—Pauline Fink, Staff