Tasty and versatile, salmon is a popular dish with home chefs and restaurants alike. A good fish deserves a good wine, and if you’re looking for something special to bring out the best in your salmon dish, take a look at our simple guide to find out which wines are salmon’s perfect partner.
Rules and tips for wine pairing
The basic idea behind wine pairing is that the dish and the wine should bring attention to one another without one overpowering the other. This means that both the food and the wine should be of similar ‘weight’ - a light meal should be paired with a light wine, and a heavy meal with a more full-bodied wine.
Most people already know that lighter white meats tend to be paired with white wine, while heavier red meat is paired with red wine, but with salmon, things can be a little more complicated. Salmon has a richer flavour than most fish, and can overpower some lighter whites. While it is traditionally paired with whites and rosés, it is important to choose something with a little more weight and complexity that can hold its own against stronger flavours. A lighter-bodied red wine can also be an excellent match for some salmon dishes.
Which wine you choose should also depend on how the salmon has been prepared, and what other ingredients have been used. One of the most important rules of wine pairing is to ‘pair with the sauce’, and this also applies to any other strong seasoning. If bolder flavours are added to the dish, the wine should have bolder flavours too.
When matching wine to food, you can choose a congruent pairing, or a complementary pairing. Congruent pairings have similar flavours. Pairing a rich dish with a rich wine will draw attention to the richness of each, for example. Complementary pairings have contrasting flavours, which might mean choosing a wine with high acidity to cut through the richness of the dish in the previous example.
Smoked salmon pairing
Smoked salmon has smoky, salty notes as well as the salmon’s natural fishy flavour, and needs a wine with enough of its own flavour to balance these elements out. Sauvignon Blanc works particularly well, as its crisp, dry flavour and acidity are able to cut through the smokiness of the fish. A bold, crisp rosé is also a good choice, as is a champagne or brut sparkling wine for special occasions.
Grilled salmon pairing
The smoky, charred flavour of grilled salmon calls for something heavier than most whites. Again, rosé works well here, but you can also try a fruity, light-bodied red like Pinot Noir or Beaujolais.
Sushi salmon pairing
Salmon sushi has greater acidity than other salmon dishes, thanks to the vinegar running through the rice. Opt for a clean, crisp white as a complementary pairing. A Gruner Veltliner or Sauvignon Blanc - especially a Sancerre - are both great choices, and a dry rosé would also work well.
Salmon ceviche pairing
The zesty citrus flavour of ceviche is enhanced by wines which also have citrus notes and moderate to high acidity. Try an Argentinian Torrontes, a mineral-rich Riesling, or even a Soave, which compensates for its lightness with a smooth, oily richness of flavour. A young red like Beaujolais is also a good choice, and rosés also tend to pair well with citrus.
Spicy salmon pairing
If you’re adding strong, spicy flavours to your salmon, a wine with a hint of sweetness provides a great complementary pairing. Viognier is an excellent match for spicy salmon. Full bodied and aromatic, it’s bold enough to stand up to big flavours, while its mellow fruitiness brings out the spices beautifully.
Sauvignon blanc has been the wine of choice for several of our salmon dishes, and it works particularly well if the fish is seasoned with fresh herbs and lemon. With bright herbal and citrus notes, a crisp, acidic Sauvignon Blanc is a good congruent pairing, and will really highlight these flavours in your salmon dish.
Does red wine pair with salmon?
Many people think that fish, as a white meat, can only be paired with white wine, but as we have seen, there are also some really great red wine pairings for salmon. Farmed Atlantic salmon tends to be fattier than wild caught, and this lends itself well to the bolder flavours of a red wine. As a general rule, the heartier and more steak-like the salmon dish, the better it will work with red wine.
When it comes to selecting your wine, lighter-bodied reds are best. Salmon may be richer than most fish, but it is still a white meat, and bold, full-bodied reds will overwhelm your dish. High-tannin wines should also be avoided for the same reason.
To find out more about one of the world’s favourite fish, why not take a look at some of the numbers behind salmon?