6 Best Wines with Salmon: Top Recommendations [Pairings & Tips]
When it comes to wine and food pairings, it has always been common knowledge (and a bit of a false myth) that fish should always be matched with white wine.
Until recently, when a few "reckless" wine experts and sommeliers started suggesting that it is actually not only possible to drink red wine with fish but that it can be an even better match at times.
Well, salmon is a perfect example of one of these exceptions and the kind of versatile ingredient where we can really indulge with wine matching.
Indeed this rich and meaty fish can theoretically go with a full spectrum of wines.
Choosing the best wine for salmon will depend on the type of salmon and the specific dish being served.
There are a wide choice of wines that can match salmon no matter their color.
But unfortunately this doesn’t necessarily make things easier.
It actually makes pairing wine with salmon even more challenging.
So what wine goes with salmon?
I recommend six of my favorite pairings below.
The Best Wines to Pair with Salmon
If you're in a hurry you can see my recommendations summarized in the table below.
I explain my choices in more detail in the following section.
Domaines Ott Les Domaniers Cotes de Provence Rose 2013
Seared, poached or sashimi salmon
Elk Cove Pinot Gris 2013
Sojourn Russian River Pinot Noir 2012
Bouchard Pere & Fils Meursault Genevrieres 2010
Salmon with butter or cream sauce
Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla
Pieropan Soave Classico Calvarino 2011
Marinated or raw salmon
1. Domaines Ott Les Domaniers Cotes de Provence Rose 2013, France
The wine has a limpid pale pink with bright reflections. The nose is pleasant, with soft notes of vine peach and citrus.
In the mouth, it is well balanced; with a delicious harmony of roundness and freshness.
It finishes fresh and charming making it a worthy contender for the best wine with salmon.
About the producer: Domaines Ott was born in 1896 thanks to the young agricultural engineer Marcel Ott that decided to settle in Provence after a wine tour of France.
After the destruction caused by phylloxera, Marcel Ott made the choice to replant Domaines Ott with noble grape varieties.
It is this philosophy that led the qualitative Champagne Louis Roederer to acquire the Domaines Ott in 2004.
2. Elk Cove Pinot Gris 2013, Sacramento, California
About the wine: This Pinot Gris is hand-harvested from selected hillside vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley.
Here the climate is perfect for this delicate wine like this, making a good option for a white wine with salmon.
The grapes go through a whole-cluster press, and then the juice is fermented at very cool temperatures in small stainless steel tanks.
This gentle treatment protects the aromatic qualities and enhances the natural richness of this Pinot Gris that shows a mouth-coating viscosity and a lush lingering finish.
About the producer: This is a proudly family-owned winery that has reached a very respectable reputation in Oregon and around the world over its 40 years of activity especially for its refined Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.
3. Sojourn Russian River Pinot Noir 2012, California
About the wine: Elegant, floral, firm and with delicate earthy notes, this wine represents the best of Russian River Pinot Noirs.
Coming from two separate vineyards, Wohler and Riddle, on loamy soils, it shows the typical varietal fruitiness and silky texture.
About the producer: Sojourn Cellars is a producer highly committed to quality that puts particular attention to the soil and the vineyard location producing amazing examples of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
4. Bouchard Pere & Fils Meursault Genevrieres 2010, France
About the wine: The Genevrieres site, now classified 1er Cru, is located in the south of Meursault, on clay- calcareous soil very stony - and therefore well-drained - and rich in iron, with exposure to the south and east.
Bouchard Pere et Fils owns a parcel of 2.65 acres in the upper part. The vines are harvested by hand and sorted with great attention and the wine ages for 8 to 12 months in oak barrels.
The result is a voluptuous wine, refined, elegant, with dried fruit and good aging potential, frequently exceeding 10 years.
About the producer: Bouchard Pere et Fils is one of the oldest domaines in Burgundy, as it was founded in 1731 and retains a very traditional style.
They offer a good variety of amazing wines from very prestigious appellations.
5. Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla, Spain
About the wine: A great example of Manzanilla sherry coming from Sanlucar de Barrameda where the sea breeze gives a salty tang and a fresh crispness to this delightful wine characterized by chamomile notes and an incredibly long almond aftertaste.
About the producer: Hidalgo is one of the historical bodegas of Sanlucar and the last remaining as a family business that has now reached the 6th generation.
Its Manzanilla is one of the most popular Sherries all around the world.
6. Pieropan Soave Classico Calvarino 2011, Italy
About the wine: This wine gets its name from the steepness of the slope where the vineyard is located and the difficulty this presents in working it (Calvarino meaning `little calvary`).
Here the typical basalt soil of this part of Soave gives a crispy minerality to the wine. The blend is made of Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave; the former gives structure and acidity to the wines, the latter perfume, and richness of flavor.
About the producer: The Pieropan family has been producing wines in Soave since the 1860s. It is still family-owned and now managed by the two brothers Andrea and Dario respectively taking care of the viticultural and winemaking part
What if I Want to Find My Own Salmon and Wine Pairing?
If you're game for a bit of experimentation then I thoroughly recommend testing out your own wine pairings with salmon.
Here's what to keep an eye out for in the quest for the perfect wine and salmon combination
1. Consider How Your Dish is Cooked. Are There Sauces or Dressings?
Firstly, you need to start consider not only your main ingredient but how it is cooked, and also the presence of any sauce or dressing.
Matching wines with salmon depends on how the fish is cooked.
There are many different types of preparations: raw in a marinade or as sashimi, smoked, grilled, seared, or poached or served with a buttery sauce and each one should be matched with a different wine.
Quick Tip: Generally food and wine matching is based on the criteria of concordance and contrast that should lead to a harmonious balance of aromas and flavors: each dish has a predominant feature that, once identified, will let you choose and match the right wine.
2. Consider the Structure of Your Dish. Flavor Persistence, and Sweetness.
You also have to look at the structure of your dish. This must go hand in hand with the weight and body of your wine.
You don’t want to choose a wine that’s too light or too heavy and could disappear or overwhelm your food.
The same applies to the flavor persistence or the amount of spices that need to be as important as the intensity of the wine that you are drinking.
Another thing to consider is the sensation of sweetness: a sweet food must of course be combined with a sweet wine, but even in savory preparations, some ingredients can sometimes have a sort of hidden sweetness and this must be also taken into account when matching wine.
3. Look for Contrasts
Contrasts are key in pairing wine with salmon dishes. Look to balance out dominant features in the dish with contrasting components of the wine.
For example, a richness in a sauce or fattiness of a food can be balanced with a wine that has more tannin content. The sharpness and acidity of tannins contrast oiliness in food beautifully.
How to Pair Different Salmon Dishes
Salmon tastes remarkably different depending on how it is cooked or prepared.
These are the main types of salmon dishes and the types of wines they pair best with.
1. Seared or Poached Salmon, or Sashimi
If the salmon is seared or poached or even if you are having some sashimi, the fish will have a delicate, fresh, subtle character but its natural richness remains.
So the rule here is pink on pink! The best option would be a mineral rosé wine with a food-friendly acidity that can cut the fish oiliness without overpowering it.
But if rosé is really not your cup of tea a Pinot Gris with its gentle zesty acidity can be an interesting alternative.
2. Grilled Salmon
If you are having grilled salmon, its flavor will be strongly influenced by the cooking style.
However, there will certainly be some smoky notes. That means an elegant Pinot Noir with an earthy and savory touch and balanced structure, will be the only wine able to stand up to it.
3. Salmon with a Rich Butter or Cream Sauce
When you serve salmon with a rich butter or cream sauce then you need something fuller and smoother like a Chardonnay.
This is the perfect chance to splurge and treat yourself to a white Burgundy. Its fine elegance and voluptuous roundness will give the mouthfeel sensation this kind of dish absolutely requires.
4. Smoked Salmon
Smoked salmon is often paired with bubbles, and this absolutely works. However, I personally prefer something slightly more unusual. The crispiness of a light mineral Manzanilla sherry enhances the salmon fish taste beautifully.
5. Raw Salmon in Marinade
When you are having raw salmon in a marinade such as ceviche, then finding a match can be tricky.
But, for me, the fresh fruitiness of a well-produced Soave is the only way to go here.
Do you have a favorite wine for salmon dishes that you want to share with other readers? I'd love to hear about your favorite pairing in the comments section!