Salmon. For many, it is the chicken of the fish world. A delicious ingredient that can be served in a combination of ways. Not only can it complement or even make a dish, but salmon also matches with a range of different wines.
Salmon is a rich fish often served with butter or cream. Therefore, it is a natural candidate for pairing with medium to full-bodied white wines such as chardonnay.
However, the refreshing and subtle taste of this fish is regularly served raw or grilled nowadays. This opens the door to many more wine pairings.
Today, we are going to guide you through the best wines to pair with this famous and much-loved fish. As a general rule, oily, rich fish such as salmon are best paired with full-bodied white wines like Viognier, White Rioja, White Pinot Noir, White Burgundy, and Marsanne.
But, the preparation method behind salmon and its sauce can determine what is the best pairing. On occasions, a rose or light-bodied, low tannin red wine may suit best.
Find out more in our helpful guide below and find the best wine pairing for your salmon dish.
Slow-roasted plain salmon is somewhat soft and delicate. Then there is the steak-like type that can be quite flaky and mealy. But most typically, when salmon is prepared properly, the grain should be quite soft and a little mushy.
If you have a plain and simple salmon, you should pair it with either an oak-aged white wine or a time-aged white wine. We recommend starting with strong Meyer lemon or nut notes. These will texture and spice the fish beautifully.
If you’re looking for something a little richer, we suggest trying a Sonoma Coast or a Californian Central Coast Chardonnay.
Other excellent choices include an aged white Rioja from Spain, a Viognier from Paso Robles, an Australian Chardonnay (Mornington Peninsula) coming from the state of Victoria, an oak-aged Chardonnay or Trebbiano from Sicily, or a Semillon from Hunter Valley.
All of the above wines will compliment your salmon perfectly and help create a richer, fuller taste overall.
If a truly rich flavor is not what you are going for, you may desire a more delicate pairing. Subtle green herbal notes to wine can add just enough flavor when paired with salmon.
Some delicious options include a Chardonnay from Burgundy known as Maconnai, a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, or a Vermentino from Sardegna (Sardinia).
Any of these wines help to contrast the richness of the salmon and are wonderful palate cleansers when paired with the fish.
A few red wines can be an excellent pairing with the rich steak-like fish salmon. However, not all red wines combine so well as the taste can become somewhat metallic. This can be avoided with a useful trick.
You should use a low-tannin red wine to prevent any metallic tastes. Some examples include Gamay, known as Beaujolais in France, a Valpolicella blend of the Corvina grape, the Italian bubbly red, Lambrusco, and the Spanish Prieto Picudo.
With a little research and a few taste tests, you will find the best wine pairing for your salmon whether it’s white or red.
Roasted salmon with cream sauce
A popular and classic preparation for salmon is to roast or poach it with the topping of a lemony and herbal cream. Some examples of this kind of sauce include bearnaise, dill, lemon dill cream sauce, cucumber yogurt, creamy horseradish, and caper sauce.
Some examples of wines that pair beautifully with the richness of a salmon and the zest of the cream include:
- Australian Semillon
- Oak-aged Chardonnay
- Oak-aged Vermentino from the hills of Tuscany
- A Trebbiano blend from the island of Sicily
- Gruner Veltliner (if you want a lighter and better herbal match)
- A warm climate Sauvignon Blanc (i.e Napa)
Rarely served on its own, smoked salmon has an intense flavor that still manages to remain fresh and exciting. You probably know this best as a breakfast treat.
Most often, smoked salmon is served with eggs, on toast (sometimes with avocado), or with bagels, cream cheese, and delicious salty capers.
Although a popular breakfast, you can still pair different wines with smoked salmon. We recommend finding a wine with enough acidity and a rush of flavor. Combined, this will complement the salmon’s salty, fishy notes. Some examples are:
- A sparkling wine (Freixenet)
- A bold rose (PS Petillant Rose)
Crispy skinned salmon
Anyone else hungry yet? Us too! Let’s move on to our next salmon dish.
The flakiness and steak-like texture of salmon is wonderfully evident in this preparation method. This process sees the salmon skin squeezed dry. The fish is then prepared on a layer of vegetable oil inside a hot skillet, skin side down.
Cooking the salmon in this way will make it meatier and help create an ideal flaky texture. Some wines that work as wonderful pairings with crispy-skinned salmon are:
- Beaujolais (made with Gamay Grapes)
- Garnacha/Grenache Rose such as Tavel
- Carignan from Spain
- A Valpolicella blend
- Lambrusco such as Rose
You can prepare many variations of glazed salmon but they all share one thing in common. Each glazed salmon dish uses something sweet such as brown sugar, agave, honey, or pineapple juice to give the exterior of the fish a savory-sweet-like glaze.
The effect is a very rich, steak-like salmon with a tinge of sweetness in the meat. Some examples of glazed salmon recipes include tangy teriyaki or ginger-soy glazed salmon.
When it comes to wine pairings, we suggest trying any of the following:
- Muscat Blanc such as Moscato
- Lambrusco (off-dry or Amabile)
- Dry Riesling
- Bold Rose Wines (Grenache Rose, Sangiovese Rose)
- Gewurztraminer (an aromatic wine grape variety from Germany, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Alsace, Switzerland, North-Eastern Italy, South Australia)
- Torrontes from Argentina
- White Pinot Noir (it does exist, honestly!)
Salmon stew is a delicious dish, perfect for any time of the year. Brazilian fish stew is a key inspiration for some of the best salmon stew recipes. This uses tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro, and a dash of coconut milk to create a rich, brightly flavored dish.
For salmon stews, we suggest pairing with:
- Sercial Madeira
- Dry Sherry (Fino, Palo Cortado Sherry)
- Orange Wine (These are natural, oxidative white wines that have nutty flavors)
Salmon chowder differs from clam chowder as it requires extra spices to give it more of a kick. Spices that can be used include smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, or turmeric. Adding these to the dish will help the soup base reach the same level of richness that salmon is known for.
The best pairing for salmon chowder tends to be sparkling wines such as:
- Cava and Espumoso from Spain
- Cap Classique from South Africa
- Espumante from Portugal and Argentina
- Sekt from Germany and Austria
The zesty marinade is just as brightly tasting as the fish itself with this dish. If you decide to create this meal, we highly recommend pairing it with Torrontes from Argentina.
But if you want to be a little wild, try the unusual matching of Soave from Italy. This dry white wine is light-bodied with fresh and fruity flavors that complement salmon with perfection.
Because salmon sushi is usually more of a snack than a hearty meal, we recommend a crispy and citrusy wine. Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc are superb pairings.
Sauvignon from ‘Sancerre is a great choice. It balances perfectly with the salmon’s acidity but also has enough strength to match the bolder notes of the sushi rice.
Other types of alcohol that pair well with salmon
Pairing any seafood with liquor, beer, wine, or any other drink should be seen as an art.
Some work while others complete the fish dish. We believe that seafood, especially salmon, goes hand in hand with liquor. A tasty piece of fish with a cocktail. What more could you want?
Some other alcoholic beverages that work well with salmon include:
- Tequila – Blanco/silver tequilas work well with Salmon Ceviche. A Hot Mama cocktail (Patron Silver, Cilantro, jalapeno, cucumber, agave nectar, and lime juice) is a perfect pairing.
- Whiskey – If you like a drop of whiskey, you may like it with your salmon or other seafood dishes. This isn’t for everyone but trust us! A glass of rye whiskey is an ideal pairing with your grilled salmon.
Combined further with horseradish hollandaise, steamed spinach, and parsley potatoes make this pairing one of the tastiest out there. Why does whiskey work so well? Its typical cinnamon, black pepper, and ginger notes help to accentuate the simple yet elegant flavors of fish such as salmon.
- Rum – There is no surprise that the drink of sailors pairs well with seafood. We suggest trying a glass of dark rum with your salmon. The combination of rum and salmon brings out certain flavors in the dish. Try adding a slice of pineapple on the rim of your glass of rum too. The entree’s flavors will be utterly divine.