Gone are the days when the mere mention of having salad for dinner conjures up images of sad assorted greens and a few misplaced carrots and tomatoes. Today’s summer salads are not just for those looking for a healthful option, but those wanting delicious too.
Of course there are numerous options for the salad greens — Boston, bibb, arugula, romaine, spinach, iceberg, kale and that is only a fraction of the list.
As with all wine and food pairings, it’s about the dominant flavors, the add-ins, that determine the best wine match. Diced pears, for example, introduce sweetness and go well with Riesling or chenin blanc. Fresh herbs will match with wines having herbal notes, such as sauvignon blanc. If the salad includes red berries Beaujolais is ideal, while toasted nuts complement a toasty oaked wine.
But some ingredients — tomatoes and vinaigrette — complicate matters. Fresh tomatoes tend to have high amounts of acid, which can clash with many wines. An easy tip to remember is to stay with a high-acid wine like a sauvignon blanc.
Vinegar and wine, though related, are not friends. Whenever possible, use fresh citrus juice such as lemon or lime instead of vinegar.
These are a few tried and true entree and wine pairings.
- Caesar salad (with or without chicken): chenin blanc
- Cobb salad: chardonnay
- Greek salad: dry, white Bordeaux
- Nicoise salad: dry rose
- Taco salad: gewurztraminer
- Caprese salad: sauvignon blanc
- Grilled steak salad: light-bodied pinot noir
- Curried quinoa salad: dry Riesling
- Salad with Asian flavors: pinot grigio
If you’re looking for a pairing that is virtually guaranteed not to disappoint, a dry rose goes well with any salad.
- 2014 Crios Malbec Rose, Argentina (about $8 retail)
- 2014 Montes Cherub Rose, Chile (about $14 retail)
- 2014 Presqu’ile Winery Rose, California (about $23 retail)
- 2014 Hogwash Rose, California (about $17 retail)
What once was a mere bed of lettuce with some vinaigrette drizzled on top is now a centerpiece on the menu and an entree option. When it comes to pairing wine with salad, the approach is much the same as selecting which wine to pair with fish or meat. As we continue to learn the principles of wine and food pairing, there usually is not a single answer.
Salads are complex dishes featuring a range of flavors and textures. All components must be considered. Does the salad include fruit? What is the type of protein? Is the dressing light or heavy? And most importantly, what are the dominant ingredients?
Pasta salad flavors can range from Greek to Asian and include a diverse addition of ingredients, from salmon and anchovies to vegetables and even barbecued pork. The pasta most likely will take backstage while the flavor profile determines the wine pairing. Just as with any pairing, consider the weight and taste of the main ingredients and then consider your wine.
- 2014 Sean Minor Chardonnay, California (about $12 retail)
- 2014 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Chardonnay, Washington (about $26 retail)
This is an easy pairing recommendation. The saltiness of the tuna and olives, the acidity of the tomatoes and the heaviness of the green beans and potatoes make this ideal for a refreshing, light-bodied dry rose.
- 2014 La Vieille Ferme Rhone Rose, France (about $11 retail)
- 2014 Hogwash Rose, California (about $18 retail)
SPINACH AND STRAWBERRY SALAD
The sweetness of the strawberry mixed with the bitterness of the spinach calls for a wine with good acidity but also a touch of sweetness, such as moscato or Riesling.
- 2014 Bella Sera Moscato, Italy (about $9 retail)
- Tintero Moscato, Italy (about $17 retail)
The Caesar is reasonably easy to pair as long as anchovy does not overwhelm the salad. Because of the creamy texture and taste, it pairs well with a light-bodied white wine such as a pinot grigio, dry rose or sauvignon blanc. If it includes grilled chicken, a lightly oaked chardonnay would shine with the smoky combination.
- 2014 Montes Classic Chardonnay, Chile (about $11 retail)
- 2014 Presqu’ile Chardonnay, California (about $33 retail)
GOAT CHEESE SALAD
If you have ever had goat cheese and sauvignon blanc in a tasting, you know this combination is a natural. It is one of my favorite salad pairings. The goat cheese has searing acidity and saltiness that pairs perfectly with the crisp, refreshing high acidity of sauvignon blanc.
- 2014 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (about $12 retail)
- 2014 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (about $19 retail)
SPINACH AND BACON SALAD
This smoky, salty salad creates a complex pairing opportunity. Often this recipe includes a blue cheese dressing, making it all the more interesting to explore a red wine.
- 2013 Cline Sonoma Pinot Noir, California (about $14 retail)
- 2013 Reynolds Winery Carneros Pinot Noir, California (about $43 retail)
Salad was once merely a refreshing collection of leaves and herbs dressed with oil and seasoning, but many of our creations are becoming all-out meals. Our summer menus are much like those in every other household trying to beat the heat and keep it light. Salad (and not just the mixed greens standby) is a staple each week at dinner, so I am always looking for the ideal wine pairing and have started fine-tuning our salads to maximize the match.
The age-old wine pairing rule of “white wine with fish and red with meat” leaves our bountiful salads without much pairing advice.
As you know in your own creations, salads can include ingredients ranging from the traditional to the extraordinary. The wine pairing is less challenging when you consider the weight, and texture of the ingredients.
The more protein and weight the easier it is to find a match. That’s why the Cobb salad, with its roasted chicken, bacon, blue cheese and hard-cooked eggs, works effortlessly with many wines. Fruity, low-tannin wines are the best pairing for proteinpacked salads.
Salads with have high-acid ingredients like tomatoes, citrus and tangy cheeses like goat or feta pair best with high-acid wines like sauvignon blanc, Riesling, Champagne or sparkling wines.
Salty and pungent ingredients, much like protein, pair easily with wine. The classic Caesar with its salty anchovies finds a perfect partner in many fruity, sparkling or even off-dry wines.
The only troublemaker is usually not the salad itself but the dressing. Many of the bottled dressings (Thousand Island, ranch, Catalina) have a touch of sweetness that matches easily with wine.
Vinegar-based dressings can clash with wine; vinaigrettes with an olive-oil base work best for wine compatibility.
Over the past months these have been a few of our favorite wines we paired with salad.
- 2011 Ruffino Orvieto, Italy (about $10 retail)
- 2011 Kendall Jackson Chardonnay, California (about $15 retail)
- 2011 Kris Pinot Grigio, Italy (about $14 retail)
- 2011 Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc, France (about $28 retail)
- 2011 La Cana Albarino, Spain (about $17 retail)
- 2011 Turkey Flat Vineya rd s Ro s e, Australia (about $19 retail)