Food for Thought
Trying Wine with Salads for Healthier Meals
When it comes to wine pairing, salads can be tricky: a salad that’s dressed with something tart can knock out the flavor of the wine you’re trying to enjoy.
We’ve always been told that it is almost impossible to pair wine with salad. We’ve searched and searched and come up with a few exceptions to that myth.
Nowadays, there are tons of recipes for more than just iceberg lettuce which I don’t care for and dry shredded carrots. But does a healthy salad brimming with kale, roasted beets, and soft-boiled eggs mean giving up your glass of wine with dinner? Not necessarily.
Wine with medium acidity suddenly becomes flabby in the face of zippy salad dressing because vinegar is infinitely more tart than any of the acids that turn up naturally in wine. When we were young way back in grade school you learned about chlorophyll, the pigment that gives plants their green color. Just so you know, it’s that pigment that will destroy the taste of wine, any wine. Dark, leafy greens, like that ever-popular kale, are full of chlorophyll, so it’s best to skip your wine on times when they are the lion’s share of your meal. You’ll want to save those green things for your not-so-sad desk lunches.
If you’re starting with lighter lettuces and not-so-bitter greens, pay attention to the dressing and the toppings. Tart wines are best with salads, since you’re often dealing with vinegar and mustard in dressing. Keeping it purely salad greens with subtle vegetables, and everything dressed with a tangy vinaigrette? Given the old adage ‘acid loves acid’ the balsamic dressing will marry perfectly with this higher acid red grape. You’ll need to counter the tang with a lighter high-acid white wine, like a nice Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire or New Zealand, even California, or go for an Austrian Grüner Veltliner. The main concern is making sure that the acid in the wine meets or exceeds the acidity in the salad dressing; you might think that a tart wine with a tart vinaigrette would be overwhelmingly, well, tart, but together those two high acid components will wash each other out, and you’ll be left with a clean palate, ready to experience the more immediate flavors in the salad. If you want to pretend it’s really summer, add some shrimp and/or grilled octopus, then pick up a bottle of Portuguese Albariño. If you haven’t tried it do so! Especially on nights where roasted vegetables or crumbled bacon are calling to you. Enjoy that with an off-dry Riesling or a Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige, Italy. However, if you have a steak or chicken salad, you can go with a light-bodied red, like a Beaujolais, or Arbois from France. Or with a super acidic dressing, you might choose a fuller white, perhaps a California Chardonnay with some oak aging.
So, pairing wine and salad can be a bit tricky, but certainly not impossible. Plus, you’re already doing the healthy ideas. You’ll definitely need a nice wine for balance. Wine Is Food.