IT’S is the season for smoked salmon, whether as a classic starter, canapés, part of a seafood platter or even used in scrambled egg for breakfast.

Another way to serve it is cooked in cheesy potatoes as a wet-day warmer. It works fabulously as an easy, one pot dish when out sailing if you have a galley.

These days, wild Atlantic smoked salmon is as rare as hen’s teeth but if you are lucky enough to find some, then it should be celebrated with the best possible wine, preferably a glorious white Burgundy such as Chablis,  Meursault or Puligny-Montrachet. The more everyday, organic or farmed salmon does not need quite such a luxury wine match.

 

Occasionally, especially when teamed with shellfish like crab or prawns in a platter, a young, zippy Muscadet sur Lie will please , with it’s somewhat leesy character picking up the oak in the fish.

Another French classic that works well is a very dry or slightly off-dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire, such as Vouvray or Vouvray demi-sec.

By the time the wine is four or five years old it begins to develop, instead of floral, honeysuckle and red apple characters, some apricot, nuts, orange-blossom and peach aromas, allied with a honeyed richness that could be intriguing.

 

The one over-riding necessity is for the character of the wine to be assertive enough to overcome the strongish aromas and flavours of the salmon, but yet subtle enough to complement it rather than overpower it, especially the milder styles of Wild Atlantic Smoked Salmon.

The second most important factor is acidity. There should be a generous helping of acidity, without being too sharp, in order to cut through the somewhat oily texture of the fish and leave the palate feeling fresh and clean.

 

Certainly those classic wines will never come amiss with smoked salmon, but there are other, fascinating choices that can be made.

 

One example is the Sauvignon Gris, a very rare grape variety, which only grows in tiny patches in Bordeaux and here and there in Chile, where it is often mistaken for Sauvignonasse.

It has all the crispness and aromatic directness of Sauvignon Blanc from Europe but to this can be added a distinctly spicy character giving it a special

character of its own.

 

Another wine that might well work in harmony with the stronger, more fleshy smoked salmon is the Conde de Valdemar White Rioja, fermented in new barriques.

This wine has a smoky nuttiness and a smooth buttery mouth feel which will stand up well to the powerful flavours of the more robust styles of fish. The touch of oak and spice will match the oak and spice in the fish, with neither getting the upper hand.

The grape variety here is 100% Viura.

 

A smooth, unoaked Chardonnay from the cool Pyrenees slopes in Somontano, Northern Spain, is a good match for the lighter, more delicate style of salmon.

Here, the undoubted smoothness, bright fruit, yet round, soft mouth feel will set off the subtle flavours of the salmon to perfection.  Enate 234 is just such a wine.

 

Riesling is a wonderful and versatile variety which  can be experimented with as a food match with endless possibilities. It is great fun, try it!

Whether it is a bone dry Trocken from the Mosel or a halb-trocken from the more earthy Rheingau, German Riesling will give a whole new salmon experience. Riesling works well with smoked food.

An Alsace Riesling is a classic match but also try a Pinot Gris with its faintly rose-petal aromas for a real taste conundrum. However, Gewurztraminer is probably a no-no as its  heavy, oily, perfumed character will fight like hell with the texture of the salmon and the acidity is too soft.

 

Rieslings from Australia or New Zealand will provide a zingy, condiment-like  foil to the fish. Try Lawson’s Dry Hills from Marlborough or Milton Park Riesling from Eden Valley in Australia.

 

And then there is Italy! The wonderful dry, unoaked styles from the Trentino-Alto Adige or Friuli-Venezia-Giulia are made to go with smoked fish. Alois Lageder in Alto Adige has some fine oaked and unoaked chardonnays as well a some very full-bodied Pinot Grigio. Or there is the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Podium or the lighter Macrina, from Garofoli, in the Marches, just begging to be paired with fish

 

Rosés,(France) Rosados (Spain) or Rosatos (Italy) are a natural partner for smoked salmon with the lovely bright pinky-orange hues perfectly reflecting the delectable flesh of the salmon. However, they should not be sweet like Rosé d’Anjou for instance and should be fairly well-endowed with alcohol. A rosé from Provence such as Domaine de Triennes will fit the bill, as will the Enate Rosado from Spain which is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

And red? There is nothing to say that red wine does not go with smoked salmon but apart from a few light reds like Henry Fessy Beaujolais crus, Fleurie or Georges Duboeuf Brouilly, or delicate reds like Valpolicella Rio Albo, the oiliness of the salmon will fight with the tannins in a red-wine, jarring the senses somewhat.

 

Ideally, a wine to go with Irish Smoked Wild Atlantic Salmon should perform the same function as the slice of lemon but of course adding a whole exciting and enjoyable experience as well.

 

From the above general rules, the following are some matches for County Cork salmon:

 

Ummera Smokehouse:

Here I would be inclined to use the unoaked Chardonnays, or perhaps the Chenin Blanc,  with a hint of oak,  a fine Meursault or a bone-dry Sancerre.

 

Woodcock Smokery:

Pinot Grigio from Italy here, or the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi to match the floral notes of the salmon. Also, unoaked Chardonnay should melt into the soft, buttery flavours of the fish. Also, a fine Pouilly Fumé such as Chateau de Tracy would knife through the tightly-knit flesh.

 

 

Belvelly Smokehouse:

This is the one for the Sauvignon Gris from Chile, from Casa Silva, but equally, Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend , particularly Lochlann Quinn’s Abeille de Fieuzal or another, Ch. Picque-Caillou also from Pessac-Léognan could work its magic with the crispness and definition so typical of Sauvignon from this region allied to the satiny, rounded Semillon character.   Riesling, especially from the Southern hemisphere, with its richness and steely strength, is another option.

 

Above all, be prepared to experiment, find what you like and pass on the tip!