Fresh vegetables are among the best gifts of spring and summer, but those gifts can wreak havoc when it comes to wine pairing.
Here are a few ideas to help you navigate those challenges. (And, yes, we know that not all of the “gifts” listed below, technically, are vegetables. But you will find them in the produce department.)
- Asparagus — This is probably the most vegetal of all vegetables, and yet, it can be paired successfully with wine, as long as that wine is not red. Opt for a white that offers citrus impressions among its flavors, or try a Gruner Veltliner from Austria. Another enemy of asparagus is oak, so stay from most California renditions of Chardonnay and opt for bottlings with the word “Unoaked” on the label.
- Squash and Pumpkin — These demonstrate that oaked Chardonnays can be paired with veggies. It’s their starchiness that makes the pairing work. And here’s a pairing that really works well: an oaky, buttery Chardonnay with a baked potato topped with butter, sour cream with chives.
- Spinach — This is another choice with a toasty Chardonnay, but only when prepared with bits of bacon. Yes, that may sound like cheating, but if it takes a little bit of bacon to make one eat their spinach, where’s the harm? (It’s the smokiness of the bacon that makes the pairing work.)
- Eggplant Parmesan — Yes, we’re “cheating” again here by adding some assertively flavored cheese to the dish, but it’s the Parmesan that makes the pairing with medium-bodied red wines possible. Sangiovese (a.k.a. Chianti in Italy) is an ideal partner.
- Green Peppers — The “white Pinots” are the wine picks when the flavor of a dish is defined by green (or red or yellow or orange) peppers: Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc. Important: Seek out versions that have no residual sugar; these wines need to be fully fry in order for the pairing to sing.
- Black Olives — A little “cheating” is required to make wine pairing work with olives because of their natural saltiness. As an example, if you include lots of sliced olives in a salad with herbs and mushrooms, you can pour an earthy red wine such as Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache and or “old vine” versions of Zinfandel.