Salmon is a rich and oily fish, that won’t exactly pair with any wine you throw at it. Full of flavour, Salmon isn’t strong enough to hold up to a hefty red wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon, or a Merlot. Furthermore, tannin in these powerful reds tends to make the Salmon taste metallic and downright unsavoury. Thus, with Salmon, you need acidic red wines to cut through the rich omega 3 fat content, such as a Pinot Noir, Burgundy, or Beaujolais or a bubbly Lambrusco (provided it’s low in tannin). Most white wines will pair with Salmon fine, but we find vibrant wines with a bit of body, such as Chardonnay, Sémillon, or Viognier work best.
A Young and Vibrant Oregon Pinot Noir Paired with Salmon
If you want to experience the ultimate Salmon and wine pairing, pair a young Oregon Pinot Noir with either Grilled or Pan Roasted Salmon. In fact, if you are ever in Oregon, trying their Northwest Salmon and an Oregon Pinot Noir is a must have meal. It might seem odd, as the typical pairing for fish tends to be white wine, however, Pinot Noir is a versatile red that is similar to a white wine with its high acidity and low alcohol content.
This pairing works as Salmon is a fatty fish, and a young Oregon Pinot Noir has lots of bright acidity to cut right through this richness. With lots of bright cherry and strawberry, on top of subtle earthy and smoky flavours, you’re well on your way towards imagining a lip-smacking delicious meal fit for a king or queen.
Pinot Noir from other regions will work out just fine, such as a Burgundy from France, or a lovely Pinot Noir from California, British Columbia or New Zealand.
A Buttery California Chardonnay and Salmon Pairing
When it comes to white wine, there is simply nothing better than a ‘buttery’ California Chardonnay with either a grilled or poached Salmon. These rich flavoured wines wrap themselves around each bite of Salmon, adding their signature tropical fruit flavours to each bite. It’s a perfect marriage of royalty and harmony. Full-bodied, Chardonnay complements the weight of Salmon, but the crisp and acidic tropical fruit flavours have no issue cutting through the rich healthy fats found in Salmon.
A buttery Chardonnay will also go well with Salmon prepared in a tropical or citrus fruit sauce, with coconut milk, in a cream sauce or for smoked Salmon dishes.
Viognier and Salmon Pairing
If you’re not a fan of oaky Chardonnay, and not everyone is, reach for a Viognier which mirrors Chardonnay’s full bodied appeal and tangy tropical fruit flavours. Viognier has the creamy and round texture of an oaked Chardonnay, but without the addition of oak aging. I like to think of it as a cross between a Riesling and Chardonnay, as it’s a full bodied wine, but with a balanced acidity that you’d expect from a Riesling.
Word of warning, if you are hosting a BBQ, skip out on the Viognier. Viognier doesn’t work too well with grilled Salmon as it makes the grilled flavours taste sharp to the point where it’s unappealing. If you are dining on grilled Salmon Burgers, we have some excellent Salmon Burger and Wine Pairing recommendations.
Sauvignon Blanc and Salmon Pairing
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most versatile wines out there. With its crisp acidity, and tangy citrus flavours, it makes a great pair with Salmon as it simply cuts through those healthy omega 3 oils drawing out the best flavours of the meat. Pair Sauvignon Blanc with Poached Salmon, Salmon with Dill, and Salmon TarTar.
For Smoked Salmon, we’d highly recommend a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc like Kim Crawford or Oyster Bay. These wines are explosive with refreshing flavours of grapefruit and gooseberry, which are a nice contrast against the smokey flavours of Smoked Salmon.
If you are looking for a more unusual white wine pairing, give a Sémillon a try. Sémillon is similar to Chardonnay in body, but has a similar profile to Sauvignon Blanc. We’d suggest a Sémillon with roasted Salmon in a Cream Sauce. The fuller body of Sémillon matches the weight of the Salmon and cream sauce quite nicely, while the zippy flavours cut through the fat content with ease. If your Sémillon is aged with oak, you might end up with a buttery dill flavour in the wine that would complement a creamy dill sauce.
Belgian Wheat Beer with Salmon
Ok, I know we’re cheating here by pairing beer with Salmon, but Wittier (Belgian Wheat Beer) is simply a star with Salmon. And let’s be honest, if you’re hosting a Summer BBQ with grilled Salmon on the menu, you’re going to have a lot of beer drinkers on hand.
Belgian Wheat Beers have a tart edge, clean finish, and full orange, lemon and spicy flavours. Witbier lifts all those oily flavours from the Salmon from the carbonation, with its balanced structure of hops and acidity. Try a Belgian Wheat Beer the next time you are at a brunch buffet with Salmon. It’ll be the best orange juice you’ve ever had with Salmon, whether it is smoked or poached. Our favourite would be Hoegaarden as it’s consistently amazing and generally easy to find on tap (plus the branded glass it comes in is legendary!).
If a Belgian Wheat Beer is not available, we’d recommend an India Pale Ale (IPA). If you’re brave, we’d highly recommend either Muskoka Brewery’s Mad Tom IPA or Flying Monkey’s Smashbomb IPA to go with your grilled Salmon. The hoppy and tangy bitterness of these beers will dance nicely with the charred nature of the fish whilst the citrus notes cut through the oils of the Salmon.
An IPA is a bold beer, and not fit for everyone, as the tart flavours have become quite extreme as of late. So another alternative is a Cream Ale, especially grilled Salmon. Cream ale can withstand this oily fish fat content while complementing the charred flesh with the beer’s malty notes.
Sparkling Rosé and Salmon Pairing
Is there anything that doesn’t pair well with Sparkling Wine? We haven’t found out the answer yet, but we’re sure having fun at the What To Pair tasting labs. Sparkling Rosé Wine is cheerful, lively and Salmon pink in colour, which just looks delightful when placed against a dish of Salmon.
These perky wines tend to have apple and berry notes, and high carbonation to once again ‘lift the Salmon oils’. Their crisp acidity and slight sweetness make it perfect for a light Brunch buffet where Salmon is featured. The ever so slight sweetness of a Sparkling Rosé blend in nicely with bacon, maple syrup and jams, while the acidity will cut through the greasiness of many of the brunch dishes.
If drinking pink isn’t your style, all manner of sparkling wines will work with Salmon. Even though they are not full-bodied, Sparkling Wines are crisp enough to cut through the oily flesh and keep your mouth refreshed.
Do you have a favourite Salmon and Wine Pairing? Let us know in the comments below!