There’s no reason to deprive yourself of a great glass of wine with a great salad, especially now that salads are much more than a plate of mixed lettuces. Traditionally salad has been considered “unfriendly” to wine. Conventional wisdom said just skip wine for the salad course, or sip a glass of sparkling water.
But nowadays salads are main events, full of fabulous flavors and intriguing textures. Acidic dressings and raw greens and vegetables don’t flatter wine but make sure that there isn’t too much acid in the dressing and that the salad contains lots of “bridge” ingredients whose flavors and textures complement and contrast with the wine.
Cheese, meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits and nuts in the salads play a key role, contributing to the salad’s weight and essence and influencing the choice of amiable wines.
A salad built with the right ingredients, can be the perfect partner for a full range of wines, like Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Riesling, Prosecco Superiore and also Moscato Reale in Sparkling version, which can match salads that have sweet notes.
It helps to know a few tricks.
When a salad serves as a main course, those toppings—like roasted vegetables, grilled meat or fish —take the lead, while the greens get dressed for the occasion.
A salad with fish might get a light, citrusy dressing, for example, while grilled white meat get tossed with aged balsamic vinaigrette. As you can notice, the main element sets the tone for the dish, and the components play a supporting role.
Keep acids in balance. “One part red wine vinegar to three parts olive oil” dressing is too sharp to work with wine. Too much aggressive acid will make the wine taste flat and dull, even when the wine starts out bright and crisp. The best advice is to avoid starting a “war of acids” between food and wine.
Replace acid ingredients with other liquids that are intense, but not sharp, such as rich chicken, veal, fish or vegetable stock, Worcester sauce, soy sauce, juices from roasted meats or vegetables or roasted garlic purée.
Try using fuller, mellower vinegar, such as balsamic sherry or rice wine, or look to other tart ingredients instead of vinegar like lemon juice, orange juice, apple cider, cranberry juice or any fruit juice with a bright flavor.
When you do use oil, pay attention to the oil you choose. A super fruity olive oil or a toasty note from nut oil can make an important link with wine. Too much of a good thing can overwhelm a subtle wine.
You know that there is an important variety of greens to choose from with all kinds of flavors spicy, tart, peppery.
When designing a salad, be sure to include ingredients that have a natural affinity to wine.
- Greens – Strong peppery greens will want a wine like Sauvignon Blanc or a light Syrah.
- Vegetables – Grilled vegetables pairs well with an aged Verdicchio or a barrel-fermented Chardonnay. Mushrooms welcome with succes a red wine, such as Pinot Noir.
- Fruit – Fresh and dried fruit like melon, apple, pear, grapes, orange, apricots and pinnaple are common for Glera, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Moscato Reale. Many Sangiovese, Raboso, Primitivo di Manduria exhibits fresh berries, strawberries, cherries, sometimes with subtle notes of tomato.
- Cheese – If the cheese is very salty, like a blue cheese, pair it with a slightly sweet wine, such as a dry Riesling. Dry aged cheeses, like Parmesan or Asiago, with their toasty, buttery flavors, link wonderfully to Cuvee Surfine or ROOS from Foss Marai.
- Seafood, poultry or meat – Think of grilling these ingredients and going for an oakier wine or a sparkling wine like Guia Prosecco Superiore Brut DOCG from Foss Marai.
- Herbs – Lots of wines have herbal notes in them, including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
- Croutons – Toasted or grilled bread in a salad also works nicely with Marai de Marai Brut from Foss Marai.
Most of all, remember that pairing salad and wine is not rocket science. Experiment and have fun with it.