The best wines to pair with Salmon are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc and Beaujolais Cru. It may seem odd pairing a red wine with fish, however, Salmon is a meaty fish with lots of fat and flavour, making it a delicious pairing acidic and lighter red wines. White wines with amplified flavours are also incredibly delicious with Salmon.
Salmon is a versatile fish that is delicious no matter how you cook it. Well, except for deep frying it. Otherwise, you can steam, grill, smoke, poach, cure and braise Salmon. I’ve even seen people microwave Salmon, and while that method works, the times I’ve seen it done make a bit of a mess due to the fat content of Salmon.
Speaking of fat content, the species of Salmon vary by fat content. Chum and Pink Salmon are the lowest in fat, while Atlantic, Coho and Sockeye have moderate fat. Meanwhile, Chinook or King Salmon is the fattiest.
In North America, we mostly eat Atlantic Salmon, which is farmed. While Atlantic Salmon is delicious, it can get boring if you eat it daily as there is no variation in it. Pacific Salmon includes Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink and Sockeye fish, which offers some variation as the fat content differs. Pacific Salomon is also usually only available at certain times of the year as it is caught in the wild. (Unless, of course, you buy it canned or it is farmed.)
The ultimate wine pairing with grilled or pan-roasted Salmon is a young Pinot Noir from Oregon. If you are ever in Oregon, this is a must-have meal.
Chinook is the fattiest and largest Salmon, and typically weighs somewhere between 15 and 40 pounds and is available fresh in the summer. Farmed Chinook does exist, so you might also see it on the menu during other seasons. What’s more important, however, is to have a young Chinook, as mature Chinook Salmon are not as flavourful and rich as young Salmon.
What makes Oregon Pinot Noir so delicious with Grilled Salmon is how the silky texture of the wine embraces the delicate and supple flesh of the Salmon meat. With Oregon Pinot Noir, you have a lot of fresh and refreshing blackberry, plum and cherry flavours that enhance the taste of the Salmon. You’ll also find earthier notes of mushroom, black tea, mocha and truffle that are amazing with the grilled flavours of your Salmon.
If you want a meal you’ll never forget and find yourself in Oregon, this is a must-try pairing. And fear not, if you’re not in Oregon and you’re unsure of your species of Salmon, a Pinot Noir from any country is certain to be delicious.
Chardonnay & Grilled Salmon Pairing
A moderately oaked Chardonnay is amazing with either Poached or Grilled Salmon. Chardonnay is a full-bodied white wine that can stand up to Salmon’s rich and fatty flavours. An oaked Chardonnay will be round, whereas an unoaked Chardonnay will taste lean. Oak introduces flavours of smoke and vanilla, which complement the grilled flavours of your Salmon. You’ll also find lovely flavours of apple, peach, pear and citrus that contrast the meaty flavours of your Salmon.
Meanwhile, Poached Salmon, while rich in flavour, is still a bit plain. The creamy and smooth flavours that Chardonnay introduces, such as mango, pear, pineapple, apricot and peach, introduce a little excitement to each bite without distracting you from the delicious flavours of the Salmon.
Oaked Chardonnay will also go great with smoked Salmon, Salmon that is prepared with a tropical chutney or citrus fruit sauce, Salmon in a cream sauce, or Salmon prepared with coconut milk.
Roasted Salmon with Cream Sauce & Chardonnay Pairing
Here I go with Chardonnay again, however, Chardonnay is one of the best white wines with Salmon in nearly any form.
For this pairing, I’m thinking of Salmon tossed with Pasta in a Cream sauce. Here you’ll find that the Chardonnay’s buttery notes and toasty oak undertones perfectly complement the rich texture of the Salmon, while its crisp acidity balances the creamy sauce’s decadence. As you take a sip, the wine’s citrus, apple, pear and peach flavours dance on your palate, enhancing the subtle sweetness of the Salmon, and the wine’s buttery finish mirrors the luscious creaminess of the sauce.
If your Salmon is in a creamy lemon dill sauce, pair it up with a Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc is bursting with notes of lemon, lime, and grapefruit, which complement the lemon in the sauce and brighten up the rich Salmon flavours. On top of all of this, you’ll find green herbal notes and grass, which will go great with the dill flavours of your cream sauce.
Rosé & Salmon Pairing
Rosé Wine is a tart and cheerful wine that is Salmon pink in colour and looks delightful when placed against a dish of Salmon. Crisp and smooth, Rosé features lots of acidity to lift and whisk away the fat content of the Salmon, ensuring each bite tastes fresh.
Rosé features bright flavours of cherry, strawberry, raspberry and herbs, making it incredibly refreshing. Crisp, clean, and inexpensive, Rosé is best enjoyed on a sunny patio, during brunch or on a picnic with Salmon sandwiches, Salmon Kebabs, smoked Salmon and poached Salmon.
Sauvignon Blanc & Poached Salmon Pairing
Sauvignon Blanc is a versatile wine that features notes of lemon, lime, and grapefruit which mesh well with rich flavours of poached Salmon. Even when poached, Salmon is full of flavour, thus, the loud flavours of a crisp Sauvignon Blanc offer a refreshing interlude.
Aside from citrus flavours, Sauvignon Blanc is famous for being herbal or grassy, making it a fantastic pair with Salmon accompanied by a Dill Sauce, Salmon Burgers and Salmon Tartare. Sancerre, which is a French Sauvignon Blanc, features amazing notes of smoke, gunflint and mineral that make it a great choice with Smoke Salmon.
No matter how you prepare your Salmon, any Sauvignon Blanc is bound to work and should taste great!
Beaujolais Cru & Salmon Pairing
Beaujolais Cru is a red wine that is similar to Pinot Noir as it is light, fruity, and features a kiss of earthiness. There are ten types of Beaujolais Cru, and they all vary by style, but I wouldn’t get too hung up on these details as all of them will pair well with nearly any Salmon dish you decide upon.
The availability of Beaujolais Cru is often short-lived as well, as North America only imports a limited amount, and the bottles fly off the shelves as these wines offer a bargain price for the quality. If you cannot find a Beaujolais Cru, select a Beaujolais Villages, which is a step down in quality but is still an excellent red wine.
With Beaujolais, expect velvety flavours of raspberry, strawberry, cherry, plum and cranberry. You’ll also discover aromatic notes of spice, black pepper, earth and violet. The refreshing flavours and high acidity of Beaujolais sweep any fatty flavours of Salmon that might cling to your taste buds away, ensuring every bite of your meal is rich and flavourful.