Picking a Wine for Smoked Salmon

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It’s red wine for red meat and white wine for white meat and fish. That’s the rule, isn’t it?

Well, it feels a little too convenient. And what if you don’t even like wine?

To be truthful, ,most people will tell you that the perfect drink to have with smoked salmon is champagne. And it is one of the best. But that doesn’t mean you need to crack open a bottle of bubbles every time you want to enjoy a lunch of smoked salmon on toast (actually a light malt whisky goes brilliantly with this light lunch).

To be honest many wines and a classic smoked salmon dish were just meant to be.

And is it true that you shouldn’t have red wine with fish? Well, it depends on how you eat your salmon. Reds go well with a spiced salmon, such as a teriyaki, but you really don’t want a heavy red. Keep it lighter and you’ll have a supreme meal.

And as a general rule with smoked dishes, when the smoke is lighter it’s better to pick a lighter wine to match.

Sparkling Wines

Many swear by a crisp English vintage wine or any sparkling wine made in a blanc de blancs style as a match for smoked salmon. Blanc de blancs is made only from white grapes, most typically a chardonnay grape. These are white champagnes.

The other sparkler that goes well with salmon is Rose. Rose is actually a great all-rounder and goes well with almost any meal.

The secret to getting a sparkling wine that goes with salmon is in the acidity. High acidity wines will bring out the salmon’s flavour perfectly.


Chablis is another wine made from the chardonnay grape, and it’s grown in the northernmost parts of the Burgundy area (and just a stone’s throw away from Champagne). Here the climate is cooler, producing wines with higher acidity than the chardonnays produced further south.

Unoaked, the crisp, fresh texture of Chablis will really deliver alongside a smoked salmon dish.

Sauvignon Blanc

Traditionally a french wine Sauvignon Blanc has a taste of minerals and a herbiness that goes amazingly with salmon.

Then there’s the new world Sauvignons too – that is those from the USA, Chile, Australia and New Zealand. While these newer counterparts are trying to create elegant alternatives to the old world of the french Loire and Bordeaux regions, the top Sauvignon Blanc wines from these countries make an excellent partner for salmon.

Riesling and Gewurztraminer

A good dry Riesling works well with smoked salmon, but be sure to choose one of the less sweeter options here. Those with apples and lime undertones are your best bet. It’s again the crispness combined with the acidity of Riesling that works wonders for salmon.

Gewurztraminer has a polarising effect as a wine in general. And when it comes to salmon it’s the same. Some swear there is no other wine that goes as deliciously with salmon as the mix of complex aromas that is Gewurztraminer. Others say it just doesn’t go with any food. So, it’s one to try.

Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir

Pinot Grigio is a powerful, full bodied wine, but where other fish get left behind, the strong taste of smoked salmon carries it off well. Pinot Noir is one of the lighter reds out there and it’s often too light for red meat but blends brilliantly with salmon.

But I Don’t Really Drink Wine

It’s all good. From beer to spirits, there are a host of other drinks that pair beautifully with smoked salmon.

If you enjoy very dry sherry, then try a glass with a smoked salmon dish. For some, dry sherry’s tang goes perfectly.

Chilled polish vodka, or even a lighter single malt whisky are both contenders too. Try a smoked salmon snack with a sip of either of these spirits for a refreshing light lunch.

But perhaps even more accessible as a match for smoked salmon is beer. And this isn’t just to please the lager drinkers. Grab a German or Czech pilsner (they’re a touch bitter in taste) and it will bring out all the taste colours of the rainbow of your salmon. Or try a white beer as an alternative to a pilsner.

Final Thoughts

Smoked salmon is a classic dish and actually goes with a number of refreshing drinks. Perhaps the hardest part is which tipple do you try first?


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