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Wine with salmon: Ideas for great pairings

From crisp Sauvignon Blanc to juicy Pinot Noir and delicious Champagnes, there are plenty of options for salmon's different guises. See top tips below, plus newly added wine reviews by Decanter experts.

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


Wine with salmon: What the experts 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, speaking to Decanter as head sommelier at Corrigan’s Mayfair in 2019.

Can you drink red wine with salmon? 

While it’s a myth that red wine never matches with fish, it’s generally better to avoid bolder styles brimming with tannins.

‘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, who is now group beverage manager of the Corrigan Collection.

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.

What to drink with salmon with herbs and cream sauces

‘Taste is a personal sensation and unique to each individual,’ said Wilfried Rique, speaking to Decanter.com in 2019 as beverage director 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 

Pairing wine with spicy food doesn’t have to be tricky.

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.

Drinking wine with 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 at the time.

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 back 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’.

This article has been updated in May 2021, including with new wine reviews. It was originally published in 2019. 


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