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Popular opinion dictates that the perfect pairing of wine with salmon is always white wine. This is not necessarily true. What is important is the wine chosen heightens, brightens, and compliments the flavors of the dish, rather than dominating.
First, an important part of a successful wine with salmon pairing is to understand its culinary attributes.
Different fish have drastically varied flavors and textures. Both flavor, texture, and fat content factor into which wines will best compliment the dish. Additionally, salmon is a fatty, rich fish. It is flaky and buttery, yet holds its texture well. Importantly, the way the salmon is prepared, along with what seasonings, sauces, and cooking techniques are used with influence the wine with salmon pairing.
Pairing wine with food, especially salmon is easy if you know the basics!
Pairing Wine with Salmon: Smoked Dishes
Smoked salmon has a very strong, distinct taste. Because of this, smoked salmon is fairly straightforward to pair. It’s usually served with other food items. Its salty composition calls for a lot of acidity and flavor in a paired wine. Some of the best choices to serve with smoked salmon meals are:
- Viognier – this full-bodied white from the south of France has a very fruity aroma of peaches, honeysuckle, and tangerine. Often aged in oak, Viognier can also have smooth hints of vanilla and smokiness.
- Sparkling Rosé – These tend to be crisp and dry. However, they are enhanced by just the right amount of fizz. Furthermore, Sparkling rosés provide just the right amount of flavor and acidity to bring out the most in smoked salmon.
This dry white tends to have a nose with hints of tarragon, lemongrass, and green bell pepper. The flavors are a fruity mix, usually including some element of kiwi, lime, asian pear, and nectarine. You might also taste infusions of vanilla, dill, and nutmeg from oak-aged varieties.
Often considered “plain” salmon, slow-roasted salmon tends to be very soft and moist. In contrast, it can also be prepared a little “tougher” like steak. Great wine choices for slow-roasted salmon include:
- Falanghina – Originating in Italy, this white wine boasts candied fruits and bitter orange on the nose. It hits your tongue dry, with tropical, herbal, and floral notes containing high acidity.
- Sémillon – Full-bodied, with an assortment of fruit flavors (including mango, grapefruit, apple, and pear), Sémillon has medium acidity. It has an aroma of saffron, ginger, and fig.
There are a number of different variations of this type of dish, some of the more well known include teriyaki, sesame-soy, or ginger glazed. The glaze typically adds flavor and additional texture. Glazed salmon can be perfectly accompanied by a number or different wines depending on the taste of the glaze:
- Moscato – Sweet and light-bodied, this wine’s aroma has tinges of pear, orange blossom, and honeysuckle. On the palate it has pleasing light bubbles and tropical flavors.
- Gewürztraminer – A sweet, aromatic wine, Gewürztraminer contains flavors of lychee, pineapple, and grapefruit.
- Lambrusco – Lambrusco is a fruity red wine that pairs perfectly with rich glazed salmon dishes. It has a beautiful deep red color, and a floral, fruity aroma. Due to it’s ripe, full flavors; Lambrusco is a perfect match for this kind of salmon dish.
Roasted salmon can be served with some manner of cream sauce, such as dill and cucumber yogurt sauce, béarnaise, horseradish and caper sauce, and lemon and dill sauce. Regardless, in a rich creamy sauce, the most suitable wines to pair with these rich roasted salmon meals are those that enhance the herbal or lemony flavors of the cream sauce; lightening the dish. Some examples are:
- Sauvignon Blanc – This dry white tends to have a nose with hints of tarragon, lemongrass, and green bell pepper. The flavors are a fruity mix, usually including some element of kiwi, lime, asian pear, and nectarine. You might also taste infusions of vanilla, dill, and nutmeg from oak-aged varieties.
- Vermentino – Ranging from pale yellow to gold in the glass, this white wine typically has an aroma including grapefruit, almond, lime, and pineapple. Medium acidity, citrus flavors, and a bitter finish make it an exceptional pairing for roasted salmon.
The contradiction of the crispy skin exterior and the moist flakiness of the interior make this a popular salmon dish. Sometimes accompanied by grilled vegetables such as leeks, crispy salmon goes well with wines like:
- Beaujolais – Beaujolais is a beautiful light red well to serve with crispier salmon dishes. First, it is low in tannin and high in acidity, allowing it to cut across the fattiness of crispy salmon skin. Additionally, the wine ranges from purple to dark purple in the glass. The main flavors are cranberry, raspberry, and cherry. Ultimately, it’s best served chilled.
- Carignan – A medium-bodied red, Carignan wines tend to have rich, fruity flavors and medium-high acidity. Given that, on the palate, you’ll taste licorice, raspberry, baking spices, and dried cranberries.
Experiment and Compare
When looking for the perfect wine with salmon pairing, experimentation may be necessary. First, try sampling more than one of the wines recommended above with a specific salmon dish to see which you like best. Second, once the options have been narrowed down, pairing becomes easier for that dish future dishes. Lastly, having more than one bottle allows leeway based on individual tastes; allowing a growth in wine knowledge and experience. With more than one wine with salmon, choice is afforded to the chef; allowing for amazing results down the road.