Pairing wines with food is a delicate balancing act between congruent and contrasting flavors. For many armchair connoisseurs, wine pairing can be boiled down to one rule: red wines with red meats and white wines with white meats. So where would that leave salmon, a rich, fatty fish with a signature bright pink hue?
By the logic of our universal wine truth, pink meats should be paired with pink wines. While rosés are a great candidate for a salmon pairing, they’re certainly not the only option. Salmon is a wildly versatile dish that can be prepared in a multitude of ways, from light and delicate to bright and herbal to robust and spicy.
That versatility extends to the wines with which salmon can be paired. Rosés are a reasonable starting point, but to assume salmon could never be enjoyed with a glass of robust red would be doing your tastebuds a pretty major disservice.
With that in mind, we’ve gathered 12 of the best wines available under 20 dollars to pair with roasted, pan-seared, glazed, herb-crusted, smoked, grilled, and even raw salmon.
Rosés’ ability to mimic the best aspects of red and white wines make them a perfect contender for salmon pairings. The light, bubbly blend of raspberry, cherry, watermelon, and lime cut through the rich fattiness of baked salmon with no extra frills. Try this North Coast Brut Rosé with this Easy Baked Salmon Recipe.
If you prefer your bubbly to be crispier than it is juicy, try this delicately dry Eponina Brut. Made from grapes sourced from cool-climate corners of California, this well-balanced sparkling white is brimming with bright fruit flavors that complement the buttery, fatty flavors of this delicious rosemary and lemon-infused Garlic Butter Salmon in Foil.
Drink like a native Italian without spending a fortune with this swanky and refreshing Zibibbo blend by Stefano di Blasi. This wine is made from white grapes grown in Sicily's volcanic hills, where the warm climate helped create the wine's bright, fruit-forward flavor. Its bright citrus finish and refreshing pop complement a delicate Roasted Dill Salmon filet beautifully.
French winemaker Patrice Grasset sourced grapes along the banks of the Loire River to create a bright, crisp, and clean Sauvignon Blanc with no bitter aftertaste. Its subtle fruity notes bring out the delicate flavors of slow-roasted salmon in creamy dill or lemon sauces. Try this Sauvignon with a Creamy Garlic Tuscan Salmon.
The maker of this wine harvested grapes in the Californian Lodi valley at night to ensure every last drop of juicy flavor was preserved in this fruity and floral Pinot Grigio. The bright flavor cuts through the salty and smoky flavors of this Smoked Salmon Dip. Serve with crackers, bagel chips, or pita bread. (Good luck making this mouthwatering combo last longer than one night!)
Another Californian show-stopper, this Evangelos Chardonnay is bursting with tropical fruit flavors that slowly taper off into a smooth, buttery finish. High-end grapes from the Lodi region were used to create this refreshingly smooth chard that pairs wonderfully with cream and butter-based salmon dishes, like this Creamy Coconut Salmon recipe.
Winemaker Daryl Groom harvested grapes from three different valleys in Sonoma County before aging the well-balanced white in French Oak. The result is a buttery finish that’s heavy on the oak and irresistibly creamy. Bring out the best flavors of this River Valley Chardonnay with a decadent filet of Baked Salmon in Parmesan Sauce.
This complex, oak-aged Chardonnay from Washington state’s Columbia Valley is overflowing with notes of apple, pear, warm spices, and a hint of tobacco. The grapes used for this wine were harvested from an esteemed vineyard nestled in Columbia Valley, but you’d never know it looking at the price tag. Use the buttery finish of this wine to balance the sweet flavors of Moroccan-inspired Pomegranate Salmon.
Scott Kelley has crammed the best ingredients Oregon has to offer into one affordable and easily-sippable Pinot Noir. Grapes from Oregon’s oldest wine regions and fresh fruit sourced from nearby Willamette Valley create a jammy blend of black cherry, dark berries, vanilla, and spices. Pair with a Crispy Skin Salmon Filet cooked in a cast-iron skillet. It only takes six minutes, which is the perfect amount of time for a pre-meal glass of red.
We came for the cute cat bottle, we stayed for the delicious blend of black cherry, plum, lavender, and brown sugar. Made from Monterey vineyard grapes picked at ideal ripeness and aged for nine months in French Oak, this Cattoo Pinot Noir’s dry, light-bodied finish pairs beautifully with Herb and Caper Crusted Salmon.
Grapes from Napa Valley were cold-soaked before fermentation to create an elegant, balanced flavor of red cherries and jammy berries. This merlot’s mellow mouthfeel and modest tannins work best with robust and spicy salmon dishes; anything more delicate could become overpowered by this flavorful red. For a salmon dish that can hold its own in the flavor department, try this Cajun Honey Butter Salmon recipe.
Winemaker F. Stephen Miller scouted the coolest pockets of Lodi Valley Zinfandel vineyards to source grapes for this Old Vine Zinfandel. Cool weather allowed the grapes to ripen slowly, creating an intensely fruity concoction of dark berries and baking spices. Robust without being overbearing, this Old Vin highlights the spicy, flavorful heat of Blackened Salmon.