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Wine with salmon but no French or American

I've been given a wine challenge to pair wines with salmon but they cannot be French or American. No information on how it's being prepared but it'll probably be grilled. I need two bottles at up to $50 each.

Here are my thoughts and I welcome all input:


Germany and Alsace
Pinot Noir (I've heard there are good ones out there but need direction)
Full bodied Riesling
Alsatian (Tokay) Pinot Gris

Pinot gris

New Zeland
Sauvignon Blanc



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  1. Since you're casting a wide net you should include Austrian Grüner Veltliner. You don't know the prep method so it's a not really possible to foresee a perfect match.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Akitist

      Good advice. I learned about Gruner Vetliners a few years back as a great food-friendly white catch-all. I'm trying to get more info on how it'll be prepared.

    2. If you are already considering Spain, you might think wines made of the Mencia grape in the region of Bierzo.... lighter, fruity red wines with red berry flavors and an earthiness to them tend to work well with grilled salmon.

        1. Not knowing how it's prepared, but assuming grilled, roasted or poached, the first things that came to mind were a Reisling or maybe even champagne. If it is grilled with a bit of a char, maybe then go with something like a Pinot Noir (look for Australian/New Zealand varieties). You mentioned Sauvignon Blanc - have you tried Cloudy Bay. One of my favorites.

          1. If it's just simple grilled salmon, as you suggested, and you wanted to stay Italian, I'd go for Arneis or Falanghina. Both are big enough to stand up to a fatty fish like salmon and have plenty of acid.

            1. Oh man, do I feel like a broken record... Lopez de Heredia rioja! Blanco or rosado! (Rosado especially if there'll be any spiciness)

              The current release blanco is, I believe, 1991 (perhaps 92). Yes, that's right... the current release. It'll be around $45. The current release rosado is 2000 (1998 is also spectacular) and can be find for less than $30.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                +1 on LdH Reserva Blanco or rosado.

                1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                  OMG, we just opened one of our 1999 Heredia Rioja's the other night: unbelievable...excellent! We had it with paella. But re the above question: if you're already thinking of New Zealand, why not try a Pinot Noir from that country? They are making excellent PNs these days...very distinct of its own terroir, not like French, not like Calif., and not even like Oregon. I might also suggest a 2009 Beaujolais Cru, like a Morgon. Spectacular vintage.

                2. As a fish eater (exclusively) who really likes red wines, my vote would be for at least one of those bottles to be a Pinot Noir ... that's the red wine of choice for fish eaters (although I don't limit myself that strictly).

                  As Alsace is in France it technically doesn't meet your "no French" rule, so opt for an Italian Pinot Noir ... Castello Banfi makes a nice one.

                  1 Reply
                  1. There is also Pinot Nero from italy.. But I think doing Pinot Noir or Chardonnay from a different country is a challenge cop out (I'm guessing that's the intent behind the challenge). I'd probably lean toward Riesling (BTW, Alsace is France, so that's out). Maybe a dry one from Austria or Germany.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Brad Ballinger

                      Brad, I was hoping you'd chime in. When Ricardo recommended the rioja I thought, "Now we're on track to something interesting."

                      I'd like a white and a red and a German/Austrian Riesling should do well with the fatty salmon. And thanks to you and Coco for the geography lesson.

                      How is Pinot Nero different than a Pinot Noir other than being produced in Italy?

                      The wine group I'm part of tilts heavily toward big French and American reds with Australian shiraz coming in third. Some of those with deeper cellars regularly bring 95 - 100 point Parker and WS wines, which are a treasured and rare treat for me. We like the challenges that lead us away from the "regulars" and we've been raising the bar on the food we select and prepare.

                      I welcome specific recommendations such as the LdH.

                      1. re: george2

                        Pinot Nero = Pinot Noir. No difference in grape.

                        For reds that run counter to what your group usually opens, and that have some nice acidity to be good food wines, I'm on board with the Bierzo recommendation. You may also want to consider a red other than Pinot Noir from German or Austria (where it is called spatburgunder). The Austiran red Zweigelt is a good option. Also consider a Cannonau di Sardegna.

                        1. re: Brad Ballinger

                          I love Zweigelt with salmon--other good options from Austria include St. Laurent or Blaufrankisch. A good Hungarian Kekfrankos would also work, though the quality is very uneven (unlike Austrian reds). Anyone else like Dolcetto with salmon...?

                    2. Finally received an answer. The salmon will be the first course and will be prepared En Croute with spinach mousse and a champagne chive butter sauce.

                      That pretty much eliminates reds, I figure. I like the idea of a Riesling and am thinking of a non French or American sparkler, either cava, Prosecco or a German Sekt.

                      Any recommendations for excellent bottles of any of those?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: george2

                        Riesling from Germany or Austria. I'd probably do a dry one, meaning Austria or one labeled trocken or halbtrocken from the Pfalz.

                      2. Your restrictions make it tough for the whites, I don't particularly like Rieslings with salmon and most of the whites I'd recommend are French or American.

                        For reds, a nice Pinot Noir from New Zealand, I'd suggest something from Amisfield or Brancott. If you can't get those, Kim Crawford is always reliable and inexpensive too.

                        I'd also suggest a good Rioja, something from Bogedas Beriona or Vina Merminia.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: dinwiddie

                          Hmmm... I positively L-U-V salmon with riesling. But I love riesling with just about anything.

                        2. For me, the Italian "Fish Wine" is Gavi. Although in this case, it depends upon how you are flavoring your salmon, and the cooking method you employ.

                          Various Gavis that are available in US range in price from around $12 to $30.

                          1. Hamilton Russel PN from So Africa

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: ibstatguy

                              +1 on the Hamilton Russell from the person who likes red with fish ...

                              ... but I have to add that the OP indicated the salmon would be served with a champagne chive sauce, so I'd probably go with a white in this instance, probably a sparkling

                              1. re: CocoTO

                                I stand admonished for not reading the whole post! I might offer up a Txakolina white then and since they have a bit of effervesence to them maybe it satisfies your thought on a sparkler.

                            2. I know the OP has narrowed it down to a white, but just wondering if the prep were different would a garnacha work OK?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: PolarBear

                                Or a German Zweigelt...even tho' the OP is going white.

                              2. Don't forget other Italian whites, esp. those from Friuli. A top drawer pinot bianco would work, but perhaps better the blends here (of chardonnay, tocai, sauvignon blanc, pinot bianco, etc) that can deliciously join fruit and minerality. Bastianich's Vespa Biano, Felluga's Terre Alto are 2 excellent examples. An estate Soave from Pieropan, say, or a first rate Fiano di Avellino from Campania (Colli di Lapio, Mastroberardino), would also offer wonderful layers of fruit, flower, and stone.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: bob96

                                  You know, the Mastroberardino would work nicely with the explained preparation (En Croute with spinach mousse and a champagne chive butter sauce). How can I get invited to dinner? *grin*

                                  That's one of my favorite Italian white blends and I'm glad to see there are others out there who like Mastroberardino.

                                  And how about a follow up on the dinner from the OP??? *pretty please*

                                  1. re: Dee S

                                    Here's a #2 for Fiano di Avellino, especially Mastroberardino's.

                                    Gavi is another Italian white variety that goes SO well with fish, and would be tasty with this salmon preparation.

                                    I would NOT choose a Riesling -- especially not a German Riesling -- with this dish.

                                2. Try Muga Rose from Rioja