Wine! Because no good story ever started with someone eating a Salad
Adorned a pub A-board, printed on a tote-bag slung over someone’s shoulder, or maybe on a Greetings card, I’m certain everyone has come across this 'rib-tickling' meme or version of it at some stage.
Salad has an image problem...
Often thrown together at the last minute and relegated to the corners of the spread at your BBQ - the tiresome cry of “no rabbit food for me” can be heard from the salad dodgers. Neglected and unloved it can end up looking rather sad and doomed for the waste bin.
There are of course the go-to classics - Greek, Niçoise, Caprese, Caesar - all delicious nonetheless but they can get boring quickly and for me, week to week, I want variety. But worst of all, must be the ‘Garden Side Salad’. On the menu of many a local pizzeria and brasserie, it should be swerved.
But it doesn’t have to be like this! Salads can be delicious, colourful, flavourful, filling and worthy of centrepiece status on the dining table. Done right, they can look impressive whilst tasting fantastic and will for sure be the conversation starter. The wine will just help those stories keep going!
Whether enjoying the beautiful simplicity of a few ingredients working together or discovering the diverse complexity of multiple textures and flavours, you can go hot or cold, guilt-free & healthy or as ‘dirty’ you like. There are endless possibilities to explore.
When it comes to pairing wines for your salads...
you cannot go too far wrong starting with lighter wines. Summery white wines from the usual sunshine hotspots of Portugal, Spain and Italy are a good starting point and of course Provencal Rosé easily slots in.
That doesn’t mean that red wines are off the menu. Consider lighter bodied Italian Reds; Barbera & Valpolicella Classico are juicy, fresh styles that would easily work. French varietals Gamay and Trousseau are two that fit these criteria nicely too.
If you’re still at a quandary, I’ve listed a few principles below to help guide those decisions.
Salad dressings can be wine killers! Vinegar and lemon juice are far more tart than a wine’s natural acidity. Anything with a medium-low acidity can become flabby and lose its appealing structure. You need a wine to be zippy enough to retain its shape and stay refreshing. Acidity in food even brings out the perception of body and fruitiness, so even the simplest white wines can be transformed into a wonderfully expressive drop.
AVOID – Viognier, Warm climate Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Garganega
It could be from fruit in your salad or honey in the dressing. Matching wine with sweetness in food can always be tricky but we’re not dealing with a dessert level of sugar here so it’s a little easier. Sweet fruits like fresh strawberries, caramelised peaches or sultanas in your salad can bring out an increase in perceived acidity while decreasing the roundness and fruitiness of a wine.
AVOID – Pinot Grigio, Vermentino, Delicate Rosés
Greens, Radishes, Onions, Celery, Herbs. Veggie heavy salads can be super fresh, peppery and even a little bitter. Wines with herbaceous and vegetal aromatic characteristics can really complement these farm-fresh flavours. Wines with a briny oceanic kick or volcanic smoky minerality are also great. Stick to white wines for the best pairings here.
AVOID – Anything with bitterness or astringency.
It could be meat, fish, eggs, nuts or cheese. Consider what proteins there are to make your decision on your best pairing. Anything like Red meat, smoked fish, earthy walnuts or hard sharp cheeses would open the doors to light and medium bodied reds while white varietals like Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Blanc are versatile.
MY TOP PAIRINGS FOR SUMMER SALADS
This is one of my favourites for the summer and is a real feast for the eyes with the vibrant contrasting colours.
Pair with a Grenache based Provencal Rosé like Chateau Minuty’s Rose Et Or Cotes-de-Provence Rosé or stay on the Aegean with an Assyrtiko such as Domaine Zafeirakis Assyrtiko.
HEIRLOOM TOMATO/CARAMELISED PEACH/BURRATA & BASIL
Caprese evolved – I’ll be honest I made this on a recent holiday to Puglia with the freshest Burrata and the tastiest peaches (they’re always better on holiday right?) and I still dream about it.
Domaine Maubernard’s Bandol Rosé would be perfect
FIG/CHARRED ONION/GORGONZOLA/SALTED ALMOND/HOT HONEY
One for the late summer, when the figs are better but a real mix of textures and flavours really work well together. Salty, Creamy, Sweet, Bitter, Crunchy & Soft.
A Chenin Blanc is a good starting point, the Saumur Blanc from Clotilde Legrand would be an interesting partner. Reds like Tatomer’s Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir or the Primitivo from Fatalone are fantastic varietal expressions.
STEAK TAGLIATA/CHERRY TOMATOES/ROCKET/PESTO/RASPBERRY BALSAMIC
My go-to summer steak recipe. Seared Rare/Med Rare Steak sliced into strips with peppery rocket, sweet cherry tomatoes and tangy dressing
Go for a lighter red wine with pure fruit and an authentic rustic structure Domaine Verret’s Irancy is a new addition to our list or grab one of last bottles of the Decanter’s 97 Point scoring ‘Fuocoallegro’ Piedirosso di Vesuvio.
THAI BEEF SALAD
Use up your remaining Rare Roast Beef or Sear a Flat Iron Steak to go with crunchy veg, plenty of herbs and laced with a spicy, salty, umami Thai dressing.
TURKEY LAAB/LETTUCE WRAPS
A throwback to the Chinese Takeaways of my youth. Sticky rice, crispy turkey mince, ginger, chilli, soy, lime and coriander all wrapped in a lettuce leaf for getting stuck into.
London Cru Bacchus is zingy, refreshing and seriously drinkable.
WHOLE ROASTED HARISSA CAULIFLOWER/SAFFRON COUSCOUS/GOLDEN SULTANAS/WALNUT & POMEGRANATE DRESSING
This Vegan show-stopper looks mightily impressive and packs a flavourful punch. Finish with peppery watercress, parsley and dill. Serve alongside pittas and your favourite mezze to create the ultimate Eastern Mediterranean feast.
The Ebner-Ebenauer Poysdorf Gruner Veltliner or the Cantina Tramin Nussbaumer Gewurtztraminer would complement the fresh green herbs and the aromatic but spicy harissa excellently. If you’re after Rosé look no further than Lebanon’s finest! Chateau Musar Jeune Rosé.
BARBECUED SARDINES/GOLDEN BEETROOT/CITRUS SALSA
Golden Beets are not quite as earthy as their traditional cousins and have a bit of sweetness that goes well with the deep salty flavour of sardines