Wine seems to be a very complicated matter to most of us. And when it comes to pairing wine and food, it appears to become even more complicated and mysterious. But fear not – there are a few simple ways of choosing the right wine for smoked salmon, and failing that – just blame your sense of adventure! Trying out and experimenting is a great way of finding the right wines for your dinners, or just ask the staff in your trusted wine shop. Where smoked salmon is concerned, it is neither red-fleshed nor white, making it an exceptionally accommodating wine companion.
Having said that, it always depends on the way you eat the salmon – do you use lemon, a white sauce, horseradish or capers with it? This would of course change the taste of the meal, and hence the relationship between the smoked salmon, the wine and your taste buds.
As a rule of thumb, we can say that the texture and “weight” of the food should be similar to the texture and “weight” of the wine. A light fish like sole would go best with light wines like a Pinot Grigio from Italy, and heavier fish like salmon would love to swim in richer, fuller-bodied wines like an un-oaked Chardonnay.
The majority of wines that are suitable to drink with smoked salmon are white. An exception would be the light, red Beaujolais from the Burgundy region in France (we are talking about a generic Beaujolais, not a Cru du Beaujolais which would have a more complex body). Wines from the Beaujolais area are low in tannins, light and reasonably fruity.
The white wines to look out for when choosing one to go with smoked salmon would be dry and acidic, as they would bring a refreshing taste to the table (every pun intended) and make the rich salmon seem leaner. Here are some examples for suitable wines:
Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine (France), a dry Riesling (from Alsace or Germany), a Gewürztraminer from Alsace (France), wines from the Italian wine-growing region of Gavi, Bollinger Champagne (France), and Chablis (France).
Here a list of what not to drink with smoked salmon: sweet wines; oaky/woody wines that were aged in barrels or exposed to wood chips if New World wines; (red) wines with too many tannins which would make fish taste unpleasantly metallic. Very fruity wines are not the best choice either. They don’t clash with the taste of smoked salmon but they don’t add to the experience either.
So go out and experiment – and let us know what you found!