During the summer months, I love nothing more than experimenting with different types of salads and then figuring out what type of wine pairs best with them.
I have to admit that we take the easy way out when it comes to the lettuce itself; we simply buy a pre-packaged product from the produce department, and change up on the mix of greens from week to week. We do try to go with whatever is freshest and grown locally whenever possible.
Using that package as a base, we then add ingredients to make the salad “our own.” I happen to love papaya and avocado as add-in ingredients. Sometimes we’ll go with strawberries or blueberries.
It seems that regardless of what we add, however, the dominant flavor of the salad almost always turns out to be the dressing. When pairing wine with any dish, it’s important to target the dominant flavor of the dish.
If you add nuts or various types of sliced meats to your salad, the dominant flavors could be a combination of those add-ins and the dressing, so keep that in mind when selecting the wine.
We tend to keep it simple — saving the proteins for dinner, and sticking to veggies and fruits for the salad, which we typically enjoy at lunchtime. For those types of salads, I’ve developed a “cheat sheet” for wine pairing based on the dressings we may use…
- Balsamic Vinaigrette — Sauvignon Blanc.
- Blue Cheese — Late Harvest (i.e. sweet) Riesling.
- Caesar — Chardonnay (preferably one that is lightly oaked).
- Thousand Island — Chardonnay (preferably one that is “unoaked”).
- Ranch — Pinot Gris.
- Italian— Sauvignon Blanc or sparkling wine.
- Asian Peanut — Riesling (made in an off-dry style).
Everyone’s palate is different, so use these suggestions as a starting point and do some experimenting. There’s no reason your summer salad has to be accompanied by iced tea or just water.
With rare exceptions, where there’s a wine, there’s a way — and that includes pairing with dressings we use to top our summer salads.
P.S.: If you’re feeling ambitious, check out this salad recipe, which pairs perfectly with Sauvignon Blanc.