The 7 Best Wine Pairings for Salmon

The 7 Best Wine Pairings for Salmon

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The 7 Best Wine Pairings for Salmon

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Atlantic or Pacific, wild or farmed, salmon is one of the world’s most popular fish. Every country has devised its own favourite way to show off this beautifully pink, luxuriously fatty species. Whether cured, cooked or simply raw, here are the seven best wine pairing ideas for salmon.

1. Poached

This is such a gentle, healthy way to prepare salmon, showing off its tenderness and natural flavour. Don’t overwhelm the fish with too bold a wine. A cool, steely Chablis would sit beautifully alongside the purity of the salmon, while slicing smoothly through its unbeatable accompaniment of buttery new potatoes. If summer herbs or green asparagus come into play on the plate then consider the hedgerow freshness of Loire Sauvignon Blanc.

Poached salmon with spinach

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2. Grilled

You could keep things simple here, but meaty salmon tastes magnificent with bold flavours that caramelise deliciously over the heat of the grill. Honey, soy, ginger, miso or Cajun spice are all tried and tested salmon enhancers that require a wine with similar attitude.

This is a job for the richness and spice of Pinot Gris – Alsace and New Zealand have plenty of perfectly suited examples. Alternatively, don’t be afraid to open a light, lively red such as Beaujolais.


Grilled salmon with vegetables

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3. Baked

If you haven’t been fortunate enough to attend a salmon bake then add it to your bucket list. This speciality of the American Pacific North West, devised and enjoyed by generations of the local indigenous tribes, sees whole sides of deep coloured Pacific salmon tied to alder wood planks and roasted over a long fire pit.

There’s no finer, more appropriate match for this smoky, meaty rendition than Oregon Pinot Noir. Still unsure? Get yourself to the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville, Oregon, which always closes with a legendary salmon bake.


Baked salmon with honey-mustard sauce

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4. Gravadlax

With fatty, salty fish accompanied by a strong dill character and sweet mustard sauce, this Scandinavian delicacy poses a real challenge for wine. That’s probably why Nordic nations usually opt instead for ice cold aquavit.

If it must be wine then some advocate the aromatic flair and weight of Alsatian Gewurztraminer, although others find the combination too shouty for comfort. Whenever a dish seems to defeat wine, sherry almost always offers a solution. In this case a dry amontillado should hold its own against the bold flavours on your plate.



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5. Smoked salmon

Although similar to gravadlax, smoked salmon is a little more straightforward, at least when it comes to wine pairings. This method of preserving salmon accentuates its oily texture and, as the name suggests, adds a smoky layer of flavour. It’s a favourite canapé and an essential part of many Christmas menus, a scenario for which Champagne offers not just an excellent gastronomic match but fits the festive mood and aperitif moment.

If the smoked salmon is appearing as a starter once everyone’s at the table, then still wines can also work. Look for those that combine a zesty, citrus element with the roundness to balance this oily fish and perhaps a touch of oak influence to complement the smoky flavour. The Sauvignon/Semillon blends of Bordeaux or Margaret River handily tick all these boxes.


Smoked salmon with dill and lemon

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6. Tartar/sashimi

Surely the finest, purest way to show off fresh fish is to serve it raw. If you’ve gone down the sashimi route then try to hunt down a wine made from Japan’s Koshu grape. The unoaked styles in particular have a haunting purity and delicacy coupled with crisp acidity that sits perfectly with the cleanliness of this dish. That cool character and cut of acidity should also inform your choice for salmon tartar.

A lighter style of Grüner Veltliner, the mountain fresh purity of unoaked Friuli Pinot Bianco or – just over the border – Slovenia’s Ribolla Gialla, could all make suitably cleansing partners. If pickled cucumber, wakame seaweed or other green elements play a role then look for a wine with a grassy freshness: Loire Sauvignon Blanc such as Sancerre or a good example from Touraine would shine here. 


Salmon sashimi

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7. Ceviche

The fish may be almost raw, but the presence of a vibrant citrus marinade, as well as perhaps coriander, avocado or spring onions, call for a wine with a little more clout. The bold aromas of New World Sauvignon Blanc would work well, perhaps especially one of the classy, coastal examples from Leyda in Chile, a country where both salmon and ceviche are a menu staple.

For a less pungent solution, bone dry manzanilla is a natural choice for fish but would also cope well with those powerful flavours in the marinade.


Ceviche - Salmon

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Sandwich with smoked salmon 

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