The Essential Guide to Wine Pairing with Salmon

You might be surprised at how few rules there are for wine pairing with salmon.

Baked in the oven, pan-fried, grilled or smoked—no matter how it’s prepared, salmon is always delicious. There’s only one thing that can take the best salmon dishes to the next level: a glass of wine!

Wine pairing with salmon is simple. Because this meaty, fatty fish is more robust than halibut or fillet of tilapia, salmon pairs well with a wider variety of wines. The key is to complement the preparation and seasoning of your fish.

Need to quick refresher on pairing? Check out our guide to pairing food and drinks.

What Type of Wine Goes Well with Salmon?

White wines are the first port of call for many when fish is on the menu. Something like a baked salmon seasoned with fresh herbs loves a crisp dry white wine like sauvignon blanc or gruner veltliner. If you’re dressing your salmon with butter or cream sauce, opt for a richer white wine like a lightly oaked chardonnay, a marsanne-roussanne blend from the Rhone or a white Rioja.

What about aromatic white wines? Does riesling go with salmon? As a matter of fact, it does. Both riesling and chenin blanc are stunning with salmon seasoned with spices, soy-based marinades and ginger. Stick with vibrant whites and fruity rosés for smoked salmon, although brut bubbly wouldn’t be out of place here, either.

See our picks for the best white wines under $20.

Think Pink, Too

Can’t settle on a white wine you love? Rosés are outstanding with salmon in all its preparations. Whether it’s smoked, grilled, baked or braised in a marinade, salmon makes an ideal partner for a glass of rosé. The bright red berry notes and mouthwatering acidity in the wine refresh your palate between bites while offering subtle flavors that complement rather than overwhelm the flavors of your food. You can go still or sparkling here. Pick based on the occasion.

Then Break the Rules

When it comes to salmon, feel free to scrap that old rule saying you should never pair fish and red wine. A fatty fish like salmon can hold its own against a wide range of wines, including reds. That said, plan to steer clear of high tannin wines. You won’t want to pour a cabernet sauvignon or shiraz with salmon.

Does pinot noir go with salmon? You bet it does! It’s a killer pairing with salmon whipped up in a cast-iron pan. Sticking to light-bodied reds like pinot, gamay and grenache is always a good idea when you want to serve a red with fish. These wines will also work well with other meaty fish like tuna and swordfish. If you’re firing up the grill, better still. The smoky flavors pair seamlessly with these lighter red wines.

Find the Right Salmon Recipe for Your Vino
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Camille Berry
Part of the third generation in a family of restaurateurs, Camille was born with a passion for cooking and food. She embarked on a career in hospitality where she excelled as a sommelier and wine director. This hospitality experience has given her a wealth of first-hand knowledge about how to pair all manner of drinks with food—plus some serious kitchen skills. These days, she's hung up her wine key in favor of a pen and covers all aspects of food and drink.