Choosing the Best Wine for Salmon: A Connoisseur’s Advice

If you’re looking to pair salmon with wine, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, you need a wine that can stand up to the flavor of salmon without overpowering it.

The best wines for this purpose are those that have strong acidity levels, which will help cut through the fattiness of the fish.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the best wine for salmon will be different depending on what kind of salmon dish you’re serving.

For example, if you’re serving salmon cooked with a sweet sauce, then a dry white wine like Sauvignon blanc or Riesling would probably be best; if you’re serving it with lemon juice and capers or herbs, then perhaps an acidic Pinot Gris would work better.

So, what are the best wines for Salmon?

First off, it has to be white. White wine is often heralded as the best pairing for salmon dishes, and for good reason. Salmon is a rich, oily fish that requires a wine with high acidity to cut through its fatty texture, thereby creating a balanced dining experience. White wines, particularly those like Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, offer this much-needed acidity along with a range of flavors, ranging from citrus and green apple to tropical fruits that complement the inherent flavors of the fish. For example, a Sancerre or a crisp Chardonnay can bring out the freshness in a simple grilled salmon, while a richer, oaked Chardonnay could be an excellent match for a creamy salmon pasta dish.

Furthermore, the often lighter, more delicate nuances of white wines won’t overpower the fish, allowing for the flavors of your carefully prepared salmon to shine through. So, if you’re looking to elevate your salmon dish into a harmonious culinary experience, a well-chosen white wine is your best bet.

We have carefully considered and selected the following wines that we think work best with salmon. Here is some of the best white wine for salmon that you should try.

Sauvignon Blanc

My favorite for Salmon is Sauvignon Blanc. A white wine grape that’s native to the Loire Valley in France. It’s also grown in other parts of the world, including California and Chile. As a crisp, dry white wine, it pairs well with fish and seafood such as salmon or paella, but you will enjoy it with just about any light meal or snack.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Here are three of the best you can find:

Bread & Butter North Coast Sauvignon Blanc

This Sauvignon Blanc has bright aromas of lemon zest and hints of tropical fruit, lively flavors with citrus notes followed by a rich texture and a clean finish.

2021 Decoy California Sauvignon Blanc

Aromas of pineapple, lemon, and green apple lead the way for this crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Underneath those fresh scents is a layer of lime zest that adds another exciting dimension to what you taste, which lingers in your mouth long after each sip.

Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc 2017

This Sauvignon Blanc has aromas of ripe kiwi, lemon, and lime accented by hints of green apples. The palate is full and creamy with a rich mouthfeel that is balanced by crisp acidity.

Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio)

Pinot Gris is a dry white wine, usually of French origin. It’s light in both color and alcohol content, making it a great choice for pairing with salmon. It will add some flavor to your meal without overwhelming the delicate flavor of salmon.

I pair Pinot Gris with seafood and poultry. It pairs well with salmon, in particular, because the flavors complement each other very well. Pinot Gris has a crisp, clean taste that’s easy to drink; it also pairs well with lighter meals that don’t have too many ingredients or spices.

If you don’t have Pinot Gris on hand, try using another dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling instead.

I recommend you try one of these fine examples:

2021 St. Michael-Eppan San Michele Appiano Pinot Grigio Sudtirol – Alto Adige

This wine has grown in popularity and is appreciated for its freshness, nice acidity, and pleasant, lingering aftertaste. Well worth seeking out.

2021 Pradio Priara Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave

From the Pradio Italian family estate, this Pinot Grigio presents as pale yellow in color. Notes are blended wildflowers and ripe fruit (apple, pear, banana). This wine has a long finish that is fresh and lingering on the palate.

2021 Cantina Zaccagnini Terre di Chieti IGT Pinot Gris

The color is straw yellow with a very pleasant aroma. It has clear fruity notes of pear and green apple, as well as slight hints of aromatic herbs. The taste is dominated by freshness and savoriness; it’s light enough for crisp white fruit but still flavorful enough to appeal to those who prefer something on the sweeter side.

Chardonnay

Considered one of the most versatile wines, it pairs well with salmon, but it also works with a wide range of dishes, from seafood to chicken breasts to pork chops. It’s also great for people who aren’t typically fans of white wine. The bright acidity and fruit notes make this an ideal gateway drink for first-timers looking to explore beyond Pinot grigio or Chablis.

Try one of these if you possibly can:

Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay

This vineyard is located in California, and it’s a great place to start your search for a good Chardonnay with crab legs. This wine is made from grapes grown in the Sonoma Valley, where the climate is ideal for growing them. Fermented and aged in French and American oak barrels for richness, toastiness, and complexity.

J. Lohr Chardonnay

This California winery has been making award-winning wines for over 30 years, and this Chardonnay is no exception. They use grapes from their own vineyards in Monterey County, which means that you can be sure the quality is always high. This wine has a rich golden color with notes of citrus and vanilla on the nose.

Ladera Vineyards Chardonnay

This Chardonnay is made from grapes grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands, which is a cool climate area. It’s aged in French oak barrels for about 15 months before being bottled and has notes of vanilla and toasted hazelnuts on the nose.

Hagafen Cellars “Reserve” Napa Valley Chardonnay

Made from grapes grown in Napa Valley. It has a rich golden color with notes of citrus, vanilla, and toasted hazelnuts on the nose. It’s aged for about 18 months in French oak barrels before being bottled.

Riesling

If you’re looking for a crisp, refreshing white wine that’s not too sweet, look no further than Riesling.

This German grape variety is known for its high acidity and unique flavors, which range from floral notes to stone fruit or honeydew melon. It’s a great choice if you’re serving up dishes like salmon (or anything else) with a bunch of spices.

I have selected three of the best. You won’t go wrong with any of these with your salmon:

Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Riesling Kabinett 2017

This Kabinett is a fresh, crisp wine with lingering sweetness balanced by tart lemon-lime acidity. Delicate wisps of smoke and earth lend touches of complexity throughout, adding dimensions to its fruity character.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese

Spätlese Riesling is richer and more intense in flavor than Kabinett. It comes with a lively minerality that perfectly balances the bright white peach and lemon fruit you’ll find here. Worth seeking out.

Ransom Sunnyside Vineyard Riesling (Willamette Valley of Oregon)

From the vineyard themselves, “This single vineyard, old vine bottling from the South Salem Hills is a classic, terroir-revealing Riesling. Opening with fresh fruit aromas of key lime and pineapple, the palate offers vivid acidity and flavors of Meyer lemon zest and candied ginger wrapped around a mineral vein. The wine finishes fresh and bright, with a beguiling note of honeysuckle blossom. A delight to drink now, but also exceedingly age-worthy.” 

Sancerre

Sancerre is an excellent choice for salmon. It has the crispness and acidity you want in a wine to contrast with the rich flavor of salmon. Sancerre is made in the Loire Valley of France, which is known for its Sauvignon Blanc wines.

Sauvignon Blanc grapes grow well in cooler climates, so they make great wines that are good when paired with food or even just on their own as an aperitif or before-dinner drink.

Sancerre can be expensive, but it’s worth it because not only does it taste great with salmon, but also because it pairs well with other foods as well like cheese!

Here are three Sancerre whites that are highly recommended for pairing with salmon:

  • Domaine Vacheron Sancerre
    This Sancerre is highly regarded for its complexity and balance. With notes of citrus fruits, green apple, and often a mineral undertone, it’s a versatile wine that pairs wonderfully with salmon, especially if you’re serving it with a lemon or herb-based sauce.
  • Pascal Jolivet Sancerre
    Pascal Jolivet is known for producing some of the cleanest, most unadulterated expressions of Sauvignon Blanc. His Sancerre wines are often crisp with high acidity and display flavors of green apple, pear, and sometimes a touch of smoky minerality. It pairs well with grilled or baked salmon.
  • Francois Cotat Sancerre Les Monts Damnés
    This is a more complex, age-worthy Sancerre with flavors ranging from ripe citrus fruits to flinty, mineral notes. It is an excellent choice if you’re serving a more elaborate salmon dish, perhaps something with a rich, creamy sauce.

Sparkling Wine

Maybe not an obvious first choice but sparkling wine works well with salmon because it’s usually dry and relatively light in flavor. Sparkling wines can be white or pink, made from any type of grape, and come from almost any region or country.

Served cold (or “chilled,” which means the same thing) with a few exceptions:

  • Champagne —a special type of sparkling wine that comes from France’s Champagne region
  • Asti Spumante —a sparkling sweet Italian wine made with Moscato grapes
  • Cava—Spain’s version of Champagne, made with Chardonnay grapes

The best wines to pair with salmon are the ones that can stand up to its flavor, but don’t overpower it.

What do we mean by this? The best wines for salmon are those that complement its flavor rather than mask it.

The best way to describe this is by using the term “finesse.” A wine with finesse has enough flavor and complexity to stand up to a piece of salmon without overpowering it, but not so much that it makes the dish taste like two separate components rather than one cohesive whole.

A wine that is too strong or too sweet can overpower the delicate flavor of salmon, so it’s best to choose a wine that has the same or similar characteristics. When I serve salmon with dill sauce or capers, then a light-bodied white wine is my choice because it won’t compete with the complex flavors of these ingredients.

If you’re serving salmon with a light sauce like lemon juice and butter, then a medium-bodied white wine will pair well with it. Red wine would also be a good choice for this dish because its fuller body will stand up to the richness of the sauce without overpowering it.

In general, white wines are best to serve with seafood because they’re lighter and have a higher acidity that’s perfect for balancing the richness of fish. Red wine is usually served with beef and lamb because the bolder flavor stands up to the strong flavors of red meats without being overpowered.

Conclusion

There are so many different wines out there that it can be overwhelming to pick one. We hope this guide has helped you navigate the vast wine selection available to find a great pairing with salmon.

The key rule is to find a wine that you enjoy drinking that pairs well with the dish being served. If you’re still struggling to find a wine that works well with salmon, try looking for one that has a higher acidity level. This will help balance out the richness of the fish while also enhancing its flavor. For me, it has to be Sauvignon blanc.

Check out finedininglovers for more great rules and tips on pairing with salmon.