Something fishy: the wines to pair with salmon

Something fishy: the wines to pair with salmon

April 27, 2018

As salmon has such a rich, strong flavour, you might be surprised to learn that it pairs well with a huge range of wines. It’s oily and it’s flaky, too, so all things considered, it really is a little unusual that it pairs with so many wines. Which one of these types of wine to put with it, though, greatly depends on how your salmon is prepared: what flavours, dressings or sauces are used in the dish...

Plain salmon
If your piece of fish is cooked slow-roasted or even pan-fried style, the resulting dish is likely to be soft and delicate. This generally means that (when it’s prepared properly), it will be a bit more ‘mushy’ than steak-like. If this dish is your wish for the fish, pair it with something that complements its delicate texture and softer flavour, such as an oak-aged white wine, preferably with notes of citrus. Try an oaked Chardonnay, a Viognier, or an Australian Sémillon. These wines are in their own way, rich, and work with the salmon to create a ‘fuller’ or more complete overall taste.

Alternatively, you could go with a more delicate or subtle pairing, something with herbal notes. Try a local Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc; it’ll contrast with the richness of the salmon - something more like a palate-cleanser.

Red wine pairing
This is an interesting one… some red wines - but only some - can pair with the richness of salmon. The trick is to find a low-tannin red wine, because big and bold flavours will make the dish taste metallic. Try Gamay (also called Beaujolais in France), or a bubbly Italian red called Lambrusco.

Creamy sauces
Salmon often roasted or poached and then topped with something creamy, herby and lemony. Sauces in this style include béarnaise, lemon cream sauce, dill and cucumber yoghurt sauce, or anything with horseradish. With these dishes, try an oaked Chardonnay, Australian Sémillon or even a Grüner Veltliner - lighter and more herbal, and becoming more popular amongst NZ vineyards.

Crispy skin salmon
Widely popular in modern restaurants, the piece is dried well before the salmon is cooked skin side down. For those who like salmon this way, try Grenache Rosé, Beaujolais (a light-red made with Gamay grape), or Lambrusco.

Smoked Salmon
An intensely flavoured style of salmon that’s a favourite of brunchers all over the world, it’s usually featured alongside eggs, avocado and cream cheese. The trick to pairing smoked salmon is wine with enough acidity and a burst of flavor to complement the bold salty-fishy notes. Try having it with a bold rosé or sparkling wine - even a sparkling rosé. Yum!

Glazed Salmon
There are many different ways you can glaze salmon, but essentially it’s whenever you use sweetness of some kind - usually brown sugar, fruit juice, agave or honey - to coat the outside of the salmon, to complement its savoury flavours. A few style we like here at Bottle Service include teriyaki and ginger-soy glazed salmon. Try pairing glazed salmon with a dry Reisling, Torrontés (an Argentinian white), a bold rosé or even Gewürztraminer - a German style becoming popular in the Australasian wine market.

Poached or steamed salmon
Often salmon is poached or steamed, most often this is accompanied with roasted potatoes, a bit of dill, tomato and/or rocket. Try a rosé again with this style, an orange wine (a type of unusual wine which is gaining in popularity), or even a dry Sherry.

Fish pie or salmon chowder
Pies and chowder typically use additional spices not found in other seafood dishes, including turmeric, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper, which complements the richness and stronger flavours of the salmon. Recipes could include things like corn and fennel, which would add to and also perfectly match the salmon’s flavour profile. Try these creamier, more hearty dishes with sparkling wines.


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