8 Wines That Go Best With Salmon

Kate Miller-Wilson
Reviewed by California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS) Karen Frazier
salmon and wine

If you're serving fish for a special dinner, you may be wondering which wines go best with salmon. While there are no longer many hard and fast rules about wine pairings, you'll find that certain bottles are more suited to salmon than others.

8 Wines That Pair Well With Salmon

Salmon is a darker-fleshed fish that makes it pair well with lighter red wines, rosé wines, dry whites, and sparkling wine.

Pinot Noir or Burgundy

One of the most classic pairings for salmon is Pinot Noir or red Burgundy wine. Pinot Noir and Burgundy are lighter bodied and aromatic red wines with subtle dark fruit and floral flavors and aromas that hold up well to the bold flavors of wild Pacific salmon and Copper River salmon. If you're looking for lighter flavors to pair with delicately flavored Atlantic or farmed salmon, then try a rosé of Pinot Noir, which will have slightly lighter flavors to complement the fish.

salmon and rosé wine

Grenache or Garnacha

If you're planning on enjoying smoked or grilled salmon, then Grenache and its Spanish counterpart, Garnacha, are good bets. Grenache is a medium-bodied red with earthy and smoky flavors that hold up well to the smoke in the salmon. Its medium acidity and tannins will also help to cut through the fattiness of the fish to provide a balanced and pleasurable dining experience. You'll also find Grenache as the key grape used in Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines from France's Southern Rhône region, so these wines will work as well.

Beaujolais or Beaujolais Nouveau

Made from the Gamay grape, Beaujolais and Beaujolais Nouveau are both moderate to high-acidity light-bodied reds with flavors of fruit and earth. The low tannins in the wines work well with the salmon, keeping the wine from overpowering the fish. This is a great pairing for oven baked salmon, or for salmon with a fruit sauce such as salmon with cherry sauce.

Chardonnay or White Burgundy

Chardonnay is a classic pairing with fish, particularly rich fish and shellfish such as salmon, lobster, or crab. A buttery oaked Chardonnay is especially delicious with a salmon with a cream or butter-based sauce such as a beurre blanc. Likewise, a white Burgundy from Côte de Beaune has vibrant flavors that balance the delicate flavors of the salmon.

Torrontés

This superstar white wine from Argentina has medium acidity and fruity flavors that work well with salmon, particularly spicier or raw preparations such as ceviche or salmon sushi. The acidity in the Torrontés cuts through the fattiness of the salmon while the fruit flavors balance spice beautifully.

Sauvignon Blanc

A crisp, herbal Sauvignon Blanc, particularly one from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, is the perfect pairing for a salmon prepared with herbs such as salmon with a dill butter sauce. The high acidity and grassy character of the wine bring balance to the fattiness of salmon and complement herbs used in its preparation.

Lemon herb salmon with Sauvignon Blanc

Dry Rosé

A dry rosé is the perfect companion for a simple summer salmon salad or baked or grilled salmon. Opt for a rosé made using the saignée method in which some wine is bled from a red wine batch in order to deepen the flavors of the red wine. Saignée is often bolder than other rosé wines made from different methods, so it's a great style of wine to pair with salmon.

Champagne

French Champagne of all types is a great pairing for salmon. Champagne is made from combinations of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier along with some other minor varietals, and it produces a bold flavored sparkling wine that balances the fattiness and flavors of the salmon.

About Salmon and Wine

Generally, the guidelines for choosing the right wine are fairly simple: fish and poultry go well with white wines, while beef and richer dishes go well with red wines. According to that logic, food and wine pairings shouldn't require a second thought, but of course, this isn't an exact science. Many things can affect your choice of wine, including side dishes, sauces, and variations in the main meal. The idea is to create a complementary balance of flavors, allowing both the food and wine to draw attention without overshadowing one another.

With salmon, this balance can be difficult. A versatile and popular main course in both homes and restaurants, salmon isn't like other fish. It has pink flesh and a richer flavor, and it can overpower a light-bodied wine. It's important to choose a bottle that has strong and complex flavors of its own.

Tips for Choosing Wine Based on Salmon Preparation

How are you preparing the salmon? Some cooking methods will change the flavor of the fish.

Salmon tartare with white wine

Grilled Salmon

Grilling commonly adds a smoky flavor to the salmon. Fuller bodied wine with notes of smoke and earth, such as Grenache or Syrah, will pair well with grilled salmon.

Salmon With Citrus Based Sauces

Salmon can be wonderful with yogurt and dill, but the tartness of the yogurt may be better complemented with a slightly sweeter wine such as Riesling, Lambrusco, or Moscato.

Sweet Glazed Salmon

If you use a sweet glaze, such as maple syrup or honey on your salmon, you may not want such a sweet wine choice. Instead, choose a wine with citrus notes or a mineral character to cut through the sweetness of the glaze such as Albariño or Sémillon.

Raw Salmon

Additionally, you may choose to serve uncooked salmon in the form of sashimi, gravlax, or another ethnic dish. Acidic and sparkling whites, such as Grüner Veltliner, Chablis, Sancerre, or Prosecco, work well with raw salmon

Pair a Wine You Love With Salmon

Wine pairings are also a matter of personal preference. While a certain white wine may be best suited to your meal, you may prefer to drink red wines. Your taste preferences are just as important as any other factor. There are several factors that can affect what wine goes best with salmon, but you can't go wrong if you choose a bottle that stands up to the strong flavor of the fish without overpowering it.

8 Wines That Go Best With Salmon