White Wine to Accompany Summer Salads

As the weather turns warmer so our appetite for food changes. No longer do
Posted 25th July 2012        

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As the weather turns warmer so our appetite for food changes. No longer do we yearn for hearty casseroles and roasted meats and vegetables to keep us warm. The long, sunny days of summer (ok, maybe not every day in the UK) encourage our taste buds towards light and delicious salad dishes.

This change of emphasis in our meals requires a change of emphasis in our wines. The big, full-bodied white wine styles which we enjoyed through the winter are less appealing in the warmer weather. Instead, the higher temperatures and the lighter meals steer us towards lighter and brighter white wine styles which will not overpower the food and yet have the necessary touch of sweetness and acidity to complement the wide variety of salad dishes available in the summer.

Salads almost always call for a white wine accompaniment. For those of us who like to add dressings to our salads, particularly vinaigrette dressings, the white wine needs to have some acidity. Many of the vegetables used in summer salads such as peppers, carrots and beetroot, are slightly sweet so are best complemented by a white wine with a hint of sweetness although tomatoes, which are also generally sweet, are better with a dry white wine.

A simple green salad has little effect on a white wine so the key to matching a green salad to wine is the dressing. If the salad is simply dressed in a little olive oil the best whites to accompany it are a Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne or a Bourgogne Aligote. If you add raw onion to a green salad you could try it with a Sancerre or a Verdicchio or even an Australian Semillon.

Adding raw peppers to a green salad opens up other white wine options, although if you want to drink white wine with your salad avoid raw green peppers – the grassy acidic flavour of green peppers is almost impossible to match with white wines. However, raw yellow peppers go well with a white Spanish Rueda and raw red peppers, the sweetest of the peppers, are nicely complemented by a Viognier.

Many of us will enjoy a Greek salad or two through the summer, whether at home or on holiday abroad. Traditionally, Greek salad is accompanied by the Greek white wine Retsina and in practice it is probably the best match. A Greek salad needs bland white wines with relatively high acidity so other whites to try include a Chardonnay VdP du Jardin de la France, Muscadet Sur Lie, Sancerre or a Spanish Rueda.

Coleslaw is another popular summer salad and its combination of carrots, white cabbage, onions and mayonnaise is best matched with high acid, slightly sweet white wines. Champagne is fantastic with coleslaw but if your budget doesn’t stretch that far try a slightly sweet Vinho Verde. Other good white wine matches include inexpensive German wines such as Liebfraumilch or Piersporter Michelsberg, Vouvray demi-sec or medium-dry English wines.

Caesar salad demands dry white wines. The best matches are Frascati and Aligote but there are a host of other dry whites which make a good accompanying wine such as simple Chablis, Bordeaux Blanc, VdP des Cotes de Gascogne, Champagne, Verdicchio and warm climate Sauvignon Blancs.

Dry white wines with relatively high acidity make the best matches for Salade Nicoise. The best partner for this salad is Cheverny from France’s Touraine region but other enjoyable whites include Soave, Vinho Verde, white Corbieres, Muscadet, Chardonnays from northern Italy and the Jardin de la France region and white Burgundies, excepting Chablis.

In contrast, a Waldorf salad is best served with a medium-dry white wine with no more than medium acidity. There are no ideal matches for a Waldorf salad but many German whites such as Hock, Liebfraumilch and wines from the Rhine area are good enough.

A simple tomato salad with an olive oil vinaigrette dressing is best accompanied by a Sauvignon Blanc. The best Sauvignons to drink with tomato salad are from the French areas of Touraine, Haut Poitou or St-Bris whilst Sancerre and Sauvignons from Chile and New Zealand are also enjoyable. Other whites worth trying include Cheverny, Muscadet and Spanish Rueda.

If you add mozzarella cheese and basil to a tomato salad to make a caprese salad it complicates the white wine choice slightly. No white wine is perfect with every part of the salad but simple Chablis and other white Burgundies are pleasant, as are Verdicchio and Sauvignon Blanc from cool-climate regions. Adding avocado to make an insalata tricolore makes little difference to the white wine choice.

Carrot salad, with its combination of sweetness from the carrot and acidity from the olive oil dressing, can be difficult to match with white wine. Champagne makes a good match but if you want a cheaper option try a medium English white or demi-sec Anjou Blanc.

Beetroot salad tends to clash with dry white wines so this dish requires medium-dry to medium-sweet whites with highish acidity. The best partners are white Lambrusco and Rhine Riesling Kabinett. Other options include Riesling Kabinett from the Mosel region, demi-sec Anjou Blanc and Spanish Alella Clasico.

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