When it comes to wine and food pairing, it has always been common knowledge (and a bit of a false myth) that fish should be matched with white wine. Until recently, when a few `reckless` wine experts and sommeliers have started suggesting that it is actually not only possible to drink red wine with it but that it can be even a better match at times.
Well, salmon is a perfect example of one of these exceptions and the kind of versatile ingredient where we can really indulge with wine matching. Indeed this rich and meaty fish can theoretically go with a full spectrum of wines. Choosing the best wine with salmon will depend on the type of salmon and the specific food preparation you are serving. There is a wide choice of wines that can match it no matter the color.
But trust me; this doesn’t make necessarily make things easier. It doesn’t mean that you can drink whatever you want with it. Actually this makes your choice even more challenging and exciting as there are only few wines with whom the match is made in heaven. So how to pick your wine and create the perfect combination hence the perfect meal? Here is a list of suggestions that I will discuss in detail below
The Best Wines with Salmon
|Domaines Ott Les Domaniers Cotes de Provence Rose 2013||Provence, France||$$||Seared, poached or sashimi salmon|
|Elk Cove Pinot Gris 2013||Oregon, US||$$||Sashimi|
|Sojourn Russian River Pinot Noir 2012||California, US||$$$||Grilled salmon|
|Bouchard Pere & Fils Meursault Genevrieres 2010||Burgundy, France||$$$$$||Salmon with butter or cream sauce|
|Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla||Jerez, Spain||$$||Smoked salmon|
|Pieropan Soave Classico Calvarino 2011||Veneto, Italy||$$$||Marinated raw salmon|
What Are the Basic Rules to Food and Wine Matching?
Let’s start from scratch, in order to understand how to match food and wine and then apply this to salmon.
1. Don’t Choose Randomly
The first basic and most important rule is: never choose randomly! But, if you are reading this you have obviously done enough research to get here so that shouldn’t be the case.
2. Consider How Your Dish is Cooked and the Presence of Sauce or Dressing
Secondly, you need to start considering not only your main ingredient but how it is cooked and the presence of any sauce or dressing. The best wine for salmon will often depend on how its cooked. There are many different types of preparations: raw in marinade or as a sashimi, smoked, grilled, seared or poached or served with a buttery sauce and each one should be matched with a different wine.
3. Consider the Structure of Your Dish, Flavor Persistence, and Its Sweetness
You also have to look at the structure of your dish that must go hand in hand with the weight and body of your wine. You don’t want to choose a wine that’s too light or too heavy and could disappear or overwhelm your food. Same applies to the flavor persistence or the amount of spices that need to be as important as the intensity of the wine that you are drinking. Another thing to consider is the sensation of sweetness: a sweet food must of course be combined with a sweet wine, but even in savory preparations, some ingredients can have sometimes a sort of hidden sweetness and this must be also taken into account when matching wine.
4. Use “Contrasting” for Other Factors
In all other cases we speak instead of contrasting; for example the fatness of the food is going to be balanced by the tannins or the alcohol of a wine, while the oiliness by the acidity or the effervescence.
How Do I Apply this to Salmon?
1. Seared or Poached Salmon, or Sashimi
Now, talking more specifically about salmon, if this is seared or poached or even if you are having some sashimi, the fish will show a delicate, fresh and subtle character still keeping its natural richness. So the rule here is pink on pink! The best option would be a mineral rosé wine with a food friendly acidity that can cut the fish oiliness without overpowering it. But if rosé is really not your cup of tea (or if are you still convinced rosé wine is just a women thing) a Pinot Gris with its gentle zesty acidity can be an interesting alternative.
2. Grilled Salmon
If you are having grilled salmon, its flavor will be strongly influenced by the cooking style that will certainly give some smoky notes so that an elegant Pinot Noir with an earthy and savory touch will be the only wine able to stand up to it with a balanced structure.
3. Salmon with a Rich Butter or Cream Sauce
When you serve salmon with a rich butter or cream sauce then you need something fuller and smoother like a Chardonnay. And probably this is the perfect chance to splurge and treat yourself to a white Burgundy. Its fine elegance and voluptuous roundness will give the mouth feel sensation this kind of dish absolutely requires.
4. Smoked Salmon
Smoked salmon is often paired with bubbles, and there’s nothing wrong about it, but I personally prefer something slightly more unusual such as crispiness of a light mineral Manzanilla sherry that can enhance the fish taste.
5. Raw Salmon in Marinade
Last, but not least, when you are having raw salmon in marinade such as a ceviche, then finding a match may be tricky, but, you know, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, so this is when I’d play the card the fresh fruitiness of a well produced Soave.
A Look at the Best Wines with Salmon in More Detail
Domaines Ott Les Domaniers Cotes de Provence Rose 2013, France
About the wine: Les Domaniers comes from a careful selection of old vines and grape varieties (Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault), and it is developed using traditional winemaking practices. The wine has a limpid pale pink with bright reflections. The nose is pleasant, with soft notes of vine peach and citrus. In the mouth, it is well balanced; with a delicious harmony of roundness and freshness. It finishes fresh and charming making it a worthy contender for the best wine with salmon.
About the producer: Domaines Ott was born in 1896 thanks to the young agricultural engineer Marcel Ott that decided to settle in Provence after a wine tour of France. After the destruction caused by phylloxera, Marcel Ott made the choice to replant Domaines Ott with noble grape varieties. It is this philosophy that led the qualitative Champagne Louis Roederer to acquire the Domaines Ott in 2004.
Elk Cove Pinot Gris 2013, Sacramento, California
About the wine: This Pinot Gris is hand-harvested from selected hillside vineyards in the northern Willamete Valley. Here the climate is perfect for this delicate wine like this, making a good option for a white wine with salmon. The grapes go through a whole-cluster press, and then the juice is fermented at very cool temperatures in small stainless steel tanks. This gentle treatment protects the aromatic qualities and enhances the natural richness of this Pinot Gris that shows a mouth-coating viscosity and a lush lingering finish.
About the producer: This is a proudly family owned winery that has reached a very respectable reputation in Oregon and around the world over its 40 years of activity especially for its refined Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.
Sojourn Russian River Pinot Noir 2012, California
About the wine: Elegant, floral, firm and with delicate earthy notes, this wine represents the best of Russian River Pinot Noirs. Coming from two separate vineyards, Wohler and Riddle, on loamy soils, it shows the typical varietal fruitiness and silky texture.
About the producer: Sojourn Cellars is a producer highly committed to quality that puts particular attention to the soil and the vineyard location producing amazing examples of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon
Bouchard Pere & Fils Meursault Genevrieres 2010, France
About the wine: The Genevrieres site, now classified 1er Cru, is located in the south of Meursault, on clay- calcareous soil very stony – and therefore well-drained – and rich in iron, with exposure to the south and east. Bouchard Pere et Fils owns a parcel of 2.65 acres in the upper part. The vines are harvested by hand and sorted with great attention and the wine ages for 8 to 12 months in oak barrels. The result is a voluptuous wine, refined, elegant, with dried fruit and a good aging potential, frequently exceeding 10 years.
About the producer: Bouchard Pere et Fils is one of the oldest domaine in Burgundy, as it was founded in 1731 and retains a very traditional style. They offer a good variety of amazing wines from very prestigious appellations.
Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla, Spain
About the wine: A great example of Manzanilla sherry coming from Sanlucar de Barrameda where the sea breeze gives a salty tang and a fresh crispness to this delightful wine characterized by chamomile notes and a incredibly long almond aftertaste.
About the producer: Hidalgo is one of the historical bodegas of Sanlucar and the last remaining as a family business that has now reached the 6th generation. Its Manzanilla is one of the most popular Sherries all around the world.
Pieropan Soave Classico Calvarino 2011, Italy
About the wine: This wine get its name from the steepness of the slope where the vineyard is located and the difficulty this presents in working it (Calvarino meaning `little calvary`). Here the typical basalt soil of this part of Soave gives a crispy minerality to the wine. The blend is made of Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave; the former gives structure and acidity to the wines, the latter perfume and richness of flavor.
About the producer: The Pieropan family has been producing wines in Soave since the 1860s. It is still family owned and now managed by the two brothers Andrea and Dario respectively taking care of the viticultural and winemaking part
Time for dinner…
Ok, at this point, after having reached the end of this article, you should surely be hungry and thirsty enough to start preparing your dinner, hopefully putting this info into practice. Now, you should have some idea what is the best wine with salmon – of course depending on exactly how you will be preparing it. So bon appétit and cheers!
I’d love to hear from you about your experiences, or if you have any suggestions for good wines to pair with salmon that I haven’t mentioned.