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Pairing Wine with Salmon


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.

Salmon is a rich, oily and flaky fish. The best wine with salmon greatly depends on how the salmon is prepared or what dressing (sauce or seasoning) is used in the dish. First we’ll discuss the nature of pairing a wine directly with a very basic salmon and then offer a few variation options of pairings depending on the sauce and preparation method.

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, flaky and dry but, for the most part, when it’s prepared properly 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 be congruent 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.

Congruent wine pairings

  • Oak-aged Chardonnay (perhaps try one from California, Washington, Argentina, Chile or Australia)
  • Viognier
  • 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

Complimentary 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

There are some red wines that 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 Beaujolaisin 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 yoghurt 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)
  • Vermentino

Crispy Skin Salmon

The rich steak-like texture and flakiness of salmon really 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
  • Carignan
  • Lambrusco (especially rosé)

Smoked Salmon


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 with wine is having a wine with enough acidity and a burst of flavor to complement the bold 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
  • Torrontés
  • Gewürztraminer
  • White Pinot Noir (there is such a thing!)

Salmon Stew

One of the best renditions of salmon stew is based on a Brazilian fish stew that 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)

Salmon Chowder

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.


  • Sparkling Wines


By Justin Hammack
When I’m not drinking wine, I’m also… a rails developer, vegetarian foodie, coffee addict, casual gamer, lover of cult movies, driver of insane turbo-2.0L … in Seattle.

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