Not so long ago it was a hard an fast rule that one had red wine with meat and white wine with fish with chicken dishes falling somewhere in between depending on the methods of preparation. Thank goodness palate’s have become more sophisticated, without being fussy – and that the sheer variety of wines that are now available make it easier than ever before to break out of tha antiquated approach.
So if we can kick that idea to the curb – then who is to say we should not be pairing wines with the salads that many are turning to as entrees?
The fact of the matter is that is is more than possible to match a wine to a salad – in fact not to do so would be doing the meal a grave disservice.
So what are some pointers that will help in selecting the wine that will complement that flavorsome salad?
Pivotal to that choice must be the influence of the dressing. Some dressing can simply overpower the wine that has been chosen. This is especially true of dressings that are high in acidity. In cases like this, for instance where lemon juice is a component of the dressing or where a tart vinaigrette has been used care must be taken to select a wine that can match or even exceed the levels of acid in the dressing.
It seems logical that if the tartness of the wine matches the tartness of the dressing then you would end up with the two components ‘washing each other out’.
This is far from the truth. In essence what happens is that the cancelling out of the two competing levels of tartness allows the other flavors of the salad to come to the fore. this is especially true of salads that have a high herbaceous component or roasted / strongly flavored vegetables as ingredients. in these cases a Txakolina from Spain or a Muscadet from the Loire Valley in France might well do the trick. Another very viable alternative is a Rose or even a sparkling Rose. A Riesling might be a viable alternative as well.
Some wine experts recommend that the wine match the ‘weight’ of the salad. But there’s no reason to bring out the kitchen scales. What they are in fact saying is that a creamier salad dressing might call for a wine with the creamy finish that comes from fermentation in Oak barrels – the higher the ‘oakiness’ of the wine the more suited it will be to accompany those heavier creamy dressings.
A great example is the wines that would go best with one of the most classic salads on the face of the planet – the Caesar Salad. Although the dressing on a Caesar Salad is not the heaviest it does have some components that can threaten to overwhelm many wines.
Whipping together Parmesan, egg yolks and anchovies might seem like a bridge too far for any wine to cross – but there are some very good wines that pair magnificently with this salad.
Some great pairing are the crisper white wines such as Chablis and other types of unoaked chardonnays.
If the chicken has been char-grilled then feel free to go for broke with the richest Chardonnay that you can find.
these rules will work just as well with other salads that are immersed in a creamier type of dressing.
It must be said that Blue Cheese dressing presents its own challenges, but even these can be overcome with Riesling, Chenin Blanc and unoaked Chardonnay. It should also come as no surprise that a good bottle of Beaujolais or Pinot Noir will also complement this salad dressing.
There are very few hard and fast rules. Just try and match acidity so as not to mask the taste of the salad and half the battle should be won.