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 recipes 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 tilapia, salmon pairs well with a wider variety of wines. The key is to complement the preparation and seasoning of your fish.

For a quick refresher, check out our guides on food and drink pairing and food and wine pairing.

What Type of Wine Pairs Well with Salmon?

The good news is that many different wines pair well with salmon, including many reds, whites, rosé and even sparkling wine or Champagne. One general rule is that a richer fish like salmon goes better with full-bodied white wines. However, depending on the preparation—grilled, smoked—and the seasonings and sauces, you can stretch beyond whites and sip rosé or light-bodied, low-tannin red wines.

White Wines That Go with Salmon

sliced and smoked salmon salada with white wineahirao_photo/Getty Images

White wines are the first port of call for many when any fish is on the menu. There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the right wine for the right fish. Here are some delicious pairing options when you’re looking to sip a white wine with salmon.

Sauvignon blanc

Similar to pairing a crisp, dry sauvignon blanc with green salad, it’s a great wine to drink alongside many baked salmon recipes (especially those prepared with fresh herbs). It’s great with baked salmon seasoned with lemon and tarragon, salmon en papillote (baked in paper) or a simple herb-roasted salmon. Another good white wine pairing here is gruner veltliner, which has bright, citrusy acidity that goes well with herby salmon dishes.

Chardonnay

If you’re serving your salmon with butter or richer cream sauce, like this salmon with dill butter, opt for a richer white wine like a lightly oaked chardonnay. Other wine pairing options for salmon with a cream sauce include a marsanne-roussanne blend from the Rhone or a white Rioja.

Riesling

When it comes to salmon seasoned with spices, soy-based marinades and ginger, reach for a vibrant and dry riesling. If the dish is a bit spicy, like Jamaican salmon with coconut cream sauce or sesame salmon with wasabi mayo, opt for an off-dry riesling. The slightly sweeter wine (yet still dry) is better with Asian and Caribbean spices and heat.

Pinot gris/pinot grigio

Domestic pinot gris, like those from Oregon, go particularly well with salmon (both come from the Pacific Northwest, after all). Consider sipping pinot gris with something like this zippy sweet mustard salmon. Italian pinot grigio goes well with poached salmon and other lighter, citrusy preparations.

Rosé

Can’t settle on a white wine you love? Rosé wine is 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. Think: a simple grilled salmon fillet or salmon burgers. 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.

Sparkling wine

For smoked salmon, sparkling wines like Champagne, cava or Prosecco make the best sipping partner. That’s why the pairing is great for picnics and brunch dishes, like these smoked salmon bites. Sparkling wine also goes great with raw salmon, especially sushi rolls or bowls. If you need to keep within a budget, here are our best cheap Champagne picks.

Red Wines That Go with Salmon

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. Sticking to light-bodied reds like pinot noir, gamay and grenache is always a good idea when you want to serve a red with fish. That said, plan to steer clear of high tannin wines. You won’t want to pour a cabernet sauvignon or shiraz with salmon.

Pinot noir

Does pinot noir go with salmon? You bet it does! Known for acidity and fruit flavors, it’s a perfect complement to buttery rich salmon. It’s a killer pairing with cast-iron salmon. If you’re firing up the grill, even better. The smoky flavors pair seamlessly with a lighter red like pinot noir.

Beaujolais or gamay

Whether it’s Beaujolais Nouveau from France or a gamay noir from Oregon, the wine is similar to pinot noir in many ways. It’s a lighter style red with good acidity and lots of fruity notes. It goes just as well with salmon dishes, particularly oven-baked dishes with a fruit sauce. Enjoy this with miso salmon

Grenache

Grenache or its Spanish cousin grenacha are great fruit-forward, food-friendly wines. Medium-bodied grenache can be a bit earthy and smoky, making it a shoo-in to serve with grilled salmon recipes.

Find the Right Salmon Recipe for Your Vino
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Camille Berry
With nearly a decade of freelancing under her belt (six with Taste of Home), Camille regularly taps into her background to write about about all things food and drink. 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 keyboard and covers all aspects of food and drink.
Lesley Balla
As an associate food editor for Taste of Home, Lesley writes and edits recipes, works closely with freelancers, and tracks cooking and food trends. After working in hospitality for a decade, Lesley went on to report on the food industry for national, regional and local print and digital publications. Throughout her career, she’s highlighted both famous and unsung culinary heroes, featured up-and-coming wine and spirits destinations, and closely followed the food scenes and chefs in many cities. Her own cooking style has been influenced by the places she's lived: Ohio, Key West, Massachusetts, Oregon, and a long stint in Southern California, where she still visits as often as possible, if only for the citrus and avocados. When not at her desk, you’ll find Lesley taking photos of everything, hitting farmers markets, baking something delicious at home and road-tripping around the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their bottled-chaos pup, Pucci, shucking oysters and cracking crabs along the way.