The Salad Days of Summer

    The salad season has arrived.

     As the weather warms up, even those not on diets begin to gravitate away from soups and toward salads for a satisfying meal.

     Salads can present challenges for wine lovers, however. Many of us order a vinaigrette dressing without even thinking about it, and that creates the most perplexing wine pairing conundrum of all because of the vinaigrette’s high acid content – a quality that can render a wine flat and flabby.

     Fortunately, there are a handful of wines that work with vinaigrette. One would be a high-acid sparkling wine. Another would be a dry Rose. White wines that see no oak – such as most renditions of Sauvignon Blanc – also match well.

     “As with any food and wine matching, it is crucial to think about the relative weight and body of each half of the partnership,” says acclaimed chef John Ash. “You don’t want a rich, oaky wine to accompany a crisp, light cucumber and watercress salad. Nor would a crisp, grassy Sauvignon Blanc necessarily be right for a salad loaded with grilled shiitakes, duck breast and walnut oil.”

     “For me, the two keys to good salad and wine matches are making sure that there isn’t too much acid in the dressing, and that the salad contains lots of ‘bridge’ ingredients – ingredients whose flavors and textures complement and contrast with, and in some cases mitigate, the wine.”

     Add ham and cheese to your salad, and a nice Beaujolais would complement it perfectly. Toss a Caprese salad – with lots of tomatoes, creamy mozzarella and fresh basil – and a Chianti (yes, a red wine) is called for.

     Often, the dressing selected provides most of a salad’s flavor. If you’re using a creamy Roquefort dressing or enjoying a rich Caesar salad, a rich, buttery Chardonnay matches beautifully – the same Chardonnay that would be rendered dull and lifeless by a vinaigrette.

     *** Another summertime favorite is guacamole. Tomorrow on, we’ll have an easy-to-make recipe for this creamy treat, along with wine pairing suggestions.


Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes
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