There’s a huge array of different salad leaves available. You can control the way they match your wine by adding key ingredients. Sliced pear, for example, will introduce a sweetness that goes well with a ripe Riesling or Chenin Blanc.
Herbs will marry with wines that have herbal notes, such as Sauvignon Blanc (nettles, tarragon) and Cabernet Sauvignon (mint). A scattering of red berries would match with Beaujolais. And croutons or toasted nuts would complement slightly toasty, oaked wines.
By the same token, the addition of ingredients that contrast with the wine also works. Chopped red chilli will add heat that plays off against the spicy sweetness of Gewurztraminer, for example.
Of all the salad vegetables, fresh tomatoes are particularly difficult to match with wine, due to their high acidity. The best match is Sauvignon Blanc, especially one from New Zealand.
Being very acidic, tomatoes are a difficult ingredient to match with wine. Fresh tomatoes in particular demand wines with high acidity and the best match is Sauvignon Blanc, especially those from New Zealand.
or roasted tomatoes a deeper red wine works better. Look to Italy whose reds are noted for their high acidity; select a Barbera or other youthful Italian reds.
A Quick Guide to Wines for Main Course Salads:
Caesar Salad, with or without chicken: Lightly oaked Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc
Frisée aux Lardons: with poached egg Beaujolais Cru or gently oaked Chardonnay
Goat’s Cheese Salad: Sauvignon Blanc, especially from the Loire
Greek Salad: Dry white Bordeaux
Salade Niçoise: Provencal Rosé Salade Périgourdine: Beaujolais
Salade Tricolore: Soave Thai Beef Salad: Off dry Riesling from Alsace or New Zealand
The trouble with salad is vinegar! The moment you introduce this ingredient to a dressing you’ll spoil any wine being served. Using mellower vinegars like balsamic or rice vinegar can help, but one of the best tricks is to substitute vinegar with something else.
A method commonly employed by red winemakers is to use red wine instead so that you can drink the same colour wine with the dish (as salads are lightweight, choose light reds to drink). Fruit (squeezed citrus, or pomegranate molasses) is a good substitute for vinegar too.
For example, if you made a lemon and oil dressing you could choose white wines with citrus flavours to match; there are many examples of this – unoaked Chardonnays immediately spring to mind – but select wines that have high levels of acidity to match the sharpness of the citrus.
Whether you decide to replace the vinegar with lemon or wine, it’s advisable to change the commonly used 'one part vinegar to three parts oil' recipe to reduce the dressing’s acidity. This will avoid a 'war of acids' on your table. Instead, try to reach a harmony between the wine’s acidity and the dressing’s acid.
There are alternative salad dressings that won’t be so problematical with wine. Mixing oil with soy sauce or a few tablespoons of rich stock produces a less acid, more savoury dressing (although these are salty, so not good with very tannic wines). You could mix the oil with a purée of roasted garlic.
A Quick Guide to Wines for Salad Dressings
Lemon and Oil Sauces: Unoaked Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, citrus-flavoured Italian wines like Fiano
Creamy Sauces like Mayonnaise: Oaked Chardonnay
Hollandaise oaked New World Chardonnay and Semillon
Cooked Fruit and Vegetables:
Roasted or grilled fruit and vegetable dishes are virtually a summer staple nowadays, thanks to Mediterranean holidays becoming commonplace during the past 30 or 40 years. The heat used during cooking (whether in the oven, under the grill or on the barbecue) causes the water content to reduce through evaporation, thus concentrating and intensifying flavours.
Often the addition of ingredients – such as herbs and garlic to vegetables, or perhaps brown sugar and rum to fruits – add further flavours and complexity to dishes.
So these foods require full-flavoured, and sometimes fairly full-bodied, wines: In the case of cooked vegetable dishes it is often a red rather than a white wine that will provide the best marriage.
For example, roasted aubergine or red peppers have a rich deep flavour and usually they’re cooked with olive oil, which adds further richness and also fat to the dish.
This all points to a light- to medium bodied (to match the weight of the food) full flavoured wine, perhaps one with tannin to balance the oil; these characteristics are more commonly found in red wine.
Fruits like pineapples and bananas are delicious cooked and are popular barbecue desserts. Their intensified flavours call out for the addition of complementary b, sweet ingredients to a recipe.
Whereas for fresh fruit you’d be looking for not-overtly-sweet lightstyled wines, for cooked fruit consider rich, ultra-sweet wines, like Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise.
A Quick Guide to Wines Summer Fruits & Vegetables
Asparagus: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
A Corn on the cob, grilled: Full-bodied, oaked New World Chardonnay
Crudités: Fresh flavoured dry white, such as unoaked Pinot Grigio
Ratatouille: Full-bodied southern French red wines like Fitou
Red pepper, roasted: Flavoursome fruity red like Tempranillo-based (Rioja) or Zinfandel
Salad, green: Zesty Sauvignon Blanc
Salad, tomato: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Fruit salad: Off-dry Muscat, still or sparkling
Red berries: Off-dry German Riesling, like Riesling Kabinett
Red berries, with cream: Sweet Chenin Blanc, German Riesling Beerenauslese, or Sauternes
Summer Pudding: German Riesling Beerenauslese or Banyuls
Deserts with Cooked Fruit: Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise
Light Meats, Fish and Picnic Food:
Chicken, shellfish, sardines, mackerel and salmon add interest to any salad.
Try a Californian or Australian Chardonnay with grilled chicken thighs or drumsticks, or a white Burgundy or Bourgogne Rouge with cold chicken.
The delicate saltiness of shellfish is well matched by Southern French rosés.
The white wines from Vin du Pays d'Oc region go well with oily fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon – though the latter really cries out for a majestic Chablis or even Champagne.
For cold red meats such as ham, raised pies and pâtés, go for a light, fruity red such as Beaujolais or Pinot Noir.
A Quick Guide to Wines for Picnic Food
Crudités: Fresh flavoured dry white, such as Pinot Grigio
Sandwich, rare beef: Young, fruity red, Gamay, or Merlot
Sandwich, egg mayonnaise: Lightly oaked Chardonnay
Sandwich, ham: Pinot Noir or light red such as Beaujolais
Sandwich, smoked salmon: Champagne, Chablis
Raised Pies and Scotch Eggs Pinot Noir or light red such as Beaujolais
Cold Chicken Drumsticks: Affordable Burgundy such as Mâconnais or St Veran (white). Or Bourgogne Rouge
Tortilla (Spanish Omelette - served cold): Red or white Rioja
Pâté, Chicken Liver: Beaujolais or off-dry Riesling
Pâté, Mushroom: Pinot Noir
Quiche Lorraine: Good Chardonnay like 1er Cru Chablis or Pinot Grigio
Pissaladière: Provencal Rosé or unoaked French or Italian white wine
Meringues: Sweet Muscat
Fresh Summer Berries & Stone Fruits: Moscato d’Asti
Aside from cucumber-laden Pimms, there’s nothing more evocative of summertime than the smell of charcoal from a barbecue. Today’s barbecue parties are more sophisticated than ever before. Burnt-yet-raw chicken drumsticks have been replaced by dishes like char-grilled sea bass and Halloumi cheese kebabs. Such delicious fare deserves the right wine to accompany and complement it. Read our comprehensive Barbecue Food and Wine Matching guide here.
Fruits like pineapples and bananas are delicious grilled on the barbecue and their ultra-sweetness demands a sweet wine like Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise.
But one of the luxuries of summer is the taste of fresh, seasonal fruit, for which you want something lighter and not overly sweet, such as an off-dry German Riesling.
Strawberries & Cream are the essence of English Summers. Serve them with either a Sweet Loire or German Beerenauslese. Strawberries served alone are actually quite high-acid and would be better with a less sweet wine, a medium or medium-dry Champagne would be delicious.
Summer Pudding is very rich, but not quite as sweet because of the addition of blackcurrants, so Beerenauslese is sufficiently sweet.
A Quick Guide to Wines for Summer Desserts:
Strawberries & Cream: Sweet and Medium Sweet Loire or German Wines
Strawberries on their own: Medium or medium-dry Champagne
Raspberry Pavlova: Eiswein, Rutherglen Muscat
Raspberries on their own: Sweet Loire or German Sweet Wines
Summer pudding: Auslese or Beerenauslese Rielsing, Barsac or Sauternes
Gooseberry crumble, pie or tart: Auslese Rielsing
Other fresh, citrusy summer fruit: Off-dry German Riesling