Good wine: Salad and wine can be a perfect pairing

Posted7/24/2013 6:00 AM
  • Albarino Terras Gauda "Abadia de San Campio"Rias Baixas, Galicia, Spain 2012

    Albarino Terras Gauda "Abadia de San Campio"Rias Baixas, Galicia, Spain 2012

Wine and salad used to be a big dining "don't."

In culinary circles, the gripe was vinegar-based dressings affect wine, accentuating the tannin in reds, the sweetness in whites and generally throwing the palate off-kilter.

At home, if salad was served at all, it was simply a leafy segue to the real meal of meat and potatoes, so who had time for wine (if wine was served at all)?

Then, our national waistline expanded, the USDA switched their recommendation from Four Foods Groups -- equal servings of meat, dairy, starch and fruit/ vegetables -- to the Food Pyramid emphasizing veggies and fruit and salad became a mainstay of America's diet.

Today, with our new generation of salads and salad-lovers, wine can be a delicious "do" if you follow these guidelines:

• Avoid wines with oaky flavors and alcohol levels more than 13.5 percent that add hard and hot flavor to salads. Steer toward cool-climate regions, including Oregon, France, Germany and Alpine Italy.

• Look for common flavors. With many dishes, contrasting wine and food is an exciting strategy (such as pairing sweet wine with a spicy dish). With salad's multitudinous ingredients, it's best to take it easy on your palate by pairing similar wine and food flavors.

• Balance acidic ingredients (tomatoes, goat cheese, citrus fruits) with cool-climate, high-acid wine.

• With dairy-based dressings (including American classics Caesar salad, Cobb salad and Crab Louie), serve unoaked Chardonnay (including French Chablis or Macon-Villages), which share the flavor compound diacetyl with cream and butter. For an exotic twist, serve Spanish Albarino. (See Ross's Choice.)

• With olive oil-based dressing (including international Greek, Caprese or Nicoise salads) serve Sauvignon Blanc (including French Sancerre), which share the flavor compound methoxypyrazine with olives, herbs and vegetables. For lighter flavor, serve Italian Pinot Grigo. For an exotic twist, serve Assyrtiko from Greece or Rueda from Spain.

• With fruity/spicy dressing and for salads involving fruit (including Waldorf salad; pear with arugula) serve fruity and delicately sweet Riesling or Chenin Blanc (including French Vouvray). The wine must be slightly sweeter than your dish.

• Pair dry Rose wines from Spain and southern France with the have-it-your-way salad bar.

You'll find the greatest wine compatibility with salads that contain protein. The adage "white wine with fish, red wine with meat" holds true on the salad plate.

• Crab Louie and other seafood salads call for white wine. As proteins get darker, so do your wine options. For steak, duck, Thai beef, taco and other protein-packed salads, choose a red that is low in tannin and alcohol but rich in fruit, such as French Beaujolais, Greek Naoussa or Oregon Pinot Noir.

• Vegetarian salads tossed with roasted nuts, cheeses, creamy dressings and toasted croutons are also red wine friendly.

• At home, deactivate vinegar's negative effect by whisking your dressing with meat juice, stock or raw egg. Avoid harsh malt and wine vinegars; choose instead balsamic, rice or cider vinegar. Dressing made with a portion or all citrus juice is more wine-friendly than pure vinegar. And use the finest olive oil you can afford; a little brings a lot of complexity to your salad.

So grab a salad and a glass and satisfy your recommended daily dose of vegetables, and of wine.

• Write to Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross at

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