Pairing wine with salmon: What to choose

Salmon can arrive on your plate in many guises, so your wine options may range from Sauvignon Blanc to Pinot Noir via sparkling wines and Riesling.

Styles to look for when pairing wine with salmon:

Style of salmon

Wine style

Seared salmon

Chilled Pinot Noir, Chardonnay

Smoked salmon

Blanc de blancs Champagne, English sparkling wine, Riesling, manzanilla Sherry

Herbs and citrus

Sauvignon Blanc

Sweet spice (ginger) or Miso

Pinot Gris, Riesling

Sushi

Sauvignon Blanc, especially Sancerre


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What the sommeliers say

Salmon is a fairly versatile fish, so it’s going to depend on the type of salmon you’ve bought and what you do with it.

‘The wine pairing depends heavily on how the salmon is prepared and the accompanying side dishes,’ said Jolanta Dinnadge, head sommelier at Corrigan’s Mayfair.

Wild vs farmed salmon

High consumer demand means that farmed Atlantic salmon has become much more prevalent on dinner tables, and farmed varieties also tend to have a fattier texture than their wild cousins.

For seared salmon, and particularly farmed varieties, ‘the obvious choice is a chilled Pinot Noir’, said food and wine expert Fiona Beckett in a previous article for Decanter.

Pinot ‘picks up perfectly on the richness of the fish and the caramelised crust’, said Beckett, adding that Chardonnay is also worth considering.

Bold reds will ‘kill the flavours’

While it’s a myth that red wine never matches with fish, it helps not to go too big.

‘An absolute no is to pair a full bodied red wine with salmon as this will kill both the wine and the fish’s flavours,’ said Dinnadge.

Salmon with herbs and cream sauces

‘Taste is a personal sensation and unique to each individual,’ said Wilfried Rique, beverage manager at Nobu Shoreditch. ‘However, I would say that there are a few essentials that are good to know.’

‘The minerality and herbaceous notes of a classic Sauvignon Blanc will match well with a salmon cooked with fine herbs and citrus,’ he said.

‘If the salmon is accompanied with butter and cream, you should go more for a Chardonnay with a bit of oak to highlight the fish.’

Spices 

Nobu is known for its seafood and also its Japanese flavours, such as wasabi and teriyaki sauces, as well as spice combinations involving ginger and garlic, plus also South American influences, such as jalapeno.

‘We like to choose a Riesling from Germany or a Pinot Gris from Alsace to enhance the flavours of salmon cooked with some spices, and sweetness from the miso sauce, for example,’ said Rique.

Smoked salmon

From Christmas morning tradition to classic canapés and light summer lunches, quality smoked salmon has a timeless appeal.

‘For a classic smoked salmon dish with onion, capers and a slice of lemon, a Riesling will be great,’ said Dinnadge, who picked out Trimbach’s Cuvée Frédéric Émile 2011 vintage from the Corigan’s Mayfair wine list.

Others prefer sparkling wines, and particularly those made with Chardonnay in a blanc de blancs style.

Matthieu Longuère MS, of Le Cordon Bleu London, suggested a vintage English sparkling wine with smoked salmon canapés when writing on the subject for Decanter.com.

‘Thanks to its high acidity, it should also handle the saltiness of smoked salmon,’ he said.

‘For Chardonnay Champagne, smoked salmon on toast is best, with crème fraiche,’ said Thomas Laculle-Moutard, of Laculle and Moutard Champagne houses, speaking on the sidelines of Decanter’s Sparkling Exploration event in 2017.

Writing in Decanter in 2007, Fiona Beckett recommended manzanilla Sherry with smoked salmon.

[It’s] not the most usual combination with smoked salmon but the most reliably consistent one,’ she said. ‘It goes without saying that the Sherry should be served chilled from a freshly opened bottle.’

Salmon Sushi

‘For sushi, as it is a small bite, I would recommend a crispy and citrusy wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay,’ said Rique.

Sauvignon from ‘Sancerre is a good go-to as It balances well with the acidity of the salmon but has enough strength to match with the bold note of the rice’.


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