BASICS TO PAIRING WINE WITH SALMON
Full-Bodied White Wines – As a general rule, rich oily fish like Salmon pair wonderfully with full-bodied white wines like oak-aged Chardonnay, Viognier, Marsanne, White Rioja, White Burgundy, and White Pinot Noir. However, depending on the preparation method and sauce, you can easily pair Salmon with rosé or light-bodied, low-tannin red wines.
First, we’ll discuss the nature of pairing a wine directly with a very basic salmon and then offer a few options of pairings depending on the sauce and preparation method. Let’s do this!
Pairing Wine with Salmon
Pairing With Plain Salmon
Plain slow-roasted Salmon ends up being quite soft and delicate. The more steak-like version can be a bit more mealy and flaky, but for the most part, when appropriately prepared, expect the grain to be softer and somewhat mushy. Here is a good example of how to prepare Salmon.
Pair a plain and simple Salmon with an oak-aged white wine or time-aged white wine, something with more robust Meyer lemon, nut, or brûlée notes that will spice and texture the fish. On the richer side, try a Sonoma Coast or Central Coast Chardonnay from California, a Viognier from Paso Robles, an aged white Rioja from Spain, an oak-aged Trebbiano/Chardonnay from Sicily, or an Australian Chardonnay from Victoria (maybe Mornington Peninsula) or a Sémillon from Hunter Valley. These wines will align in richness and combine with the Salmon and create a fuller overall taste.
If you are looking for a more delicate pairing with more subtle green herbal notes to the wine, a few great choices include a Vermentino from Sardegna, a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley or a Chardonnay (Mâconnais) from Burgundy. These wines will contrast the richness of the Salmon and act more as a palate cleanser.
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- Oak-aged Chardonnay (perhaps try one from California, Washington, Argentina, Chile or Australia)
- Sémillon (a richer style, perhaps from Australia)
- Trebbiano/Chardonnay blend from Italy (particularly Sicily)
- Falanghina from Italy
- Fine White Burgundy or oak-aged Chardonnay from the Jura
Complementary wine pairings
- Mâconnais from Burgundy (a lighter more floral style of Chardonnay)
- Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, New Zealand, Chile or Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy
- Vermentino from Sardegna, Italy
- Gros Manseng and other white wines from South-West France
Salmon with Red Wine
Some red wines can pair with rich, steak-like fish such as Salmon. Here’s the trick: find a low-tannin red wine to keep the pairing from tasting metallic. A few examples of this include the Valpolicella blend (a blend of primarily the Corvina grape), Gamay (called Beaujolais in France), Prieto Picudo (from Spain), and Lambrusco (a bubbly red from Italy).
Pairing With Preparation Method and Sauce
Roasted Salmon with Cream Sauce
A very classic preparation of Salmon is one that is perfectly roasted or poached and topped with something creamy, lemony and herbal. Sauces for this style include béarnaise, lemon dill cream sauce, dill, and cucumber yogurt sauce or creamy horseradish and caper sauce.
- Oak-aged Chardonnay
- Australian Sémillon
- Trebbiano blend from Sicily
- Warm climate Sauvignon Blanc (such as Napa)
- Grüner Veltliner (lighter, more herbal match)
- Oak-aged Vermentino from Tuscany
Crispy Skin Salmon
The steak-like texture and flakiness of Salmon shines with this preparation. In this method, the skin is squeegeed dry, and then the Salmon is prepared on a hot skillet with vegetable oil skin side down. It will be meaty and have that perfect flaky texture. We found a delicious recipe for a crispy-skin Salmon with bacon and leeks if you’d like to see how to prepare it this way.
- Garnacha/Grenache Rosé (Tavel is a good example)
- Beaujolais (a light-red made with Gamay grape)
- Valpolicella blend
- Lambrusco (especially rosé)
An intense style of Salmon that’s rarely just served on its own and loved at breakfast (fancy-eggs?), upon toasts (maybe with avocado), or served with bagels, cream cheese, and salty capers. The trick to pairing this preparation method is a wine with enough acidity and a burst of flavor to complement the salty-fishy notes. You’ll love it with a bold rosé or sparkling wine.
- Sparkling Rosé Wine
- Bolder Rosé Wines
Glazed Salmon (Teriyaki)
There are many different variations of this style, but the theme that ties them all together is the use of sweetness (be it brown sugar, pineapple juice, agave or honey) that causes the exterior to have a savory-sweet glaze. The result is a rich steak-like salmon with a hint of sweetness to the meat. A few recipes we liked included tangy teriyaki and ginger-soy glaze.
- Lambrusco (Amabile or off-dry)
- Bolder Rosé Wines
- Muscat Blanc (aka Moscato)
- dry Riesling
- White Pinot Noir (there is such a thing!)
Brazilian fish stew is the inspiration for one of the best renditions of Salmon stew. This recipe employs the use of tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, and a touch of coconut milk.
- Dry Sherry (such as a Fino or Palo Cortado Sherry)
- Sercial Madeira
- Orange Wine (natural, skin-contact, oxidative white wine with nutty flavors)
Unlike clam chowder, Salmon chowder needs extra “umph” from spices including turmeric, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper to bring the soup base to the level of richness that Salmon has. While on the search for examples, we found a decent recipe that has the perfect combination of ingredients, including corn and fennel, that make a great flavor profile with Salmon.
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