Well, it’s that time of the year again, when the sun is blazing in the sky, bare legs make their welcome reappearance, and people start eating a little lighter, with fresher ingredients dominating the menus.
It’s the perfect season for a picnic - and who doesn’t love one of those?
No summer picnic or light lunch with friends would be complete without some fantastic, classic salad dishes. These are summertime defined, with fresh green leaves, beautifully balanced flavours and plenty of exciting ingredients to get mouths watering and senses delighted. The only thing that could make a beautiful summer salad better would be a well-paired glass of wine.
However, when it comes to successfully pairing wines with salad, many people stumble. They’re notoriously tricky to pair with, and it isn’t difficult to see why.
After all, what is the principle ingredient of a salad? The leaves? The tomatoes? Cheese? Dressing? The beauty of a great salad is that it is an assemblage - everything fits together just so, and finding space for the flavour of a good wine can be hard.
I think we can immediately remove almost all red wines from the list - very few salads, with the exception of those that include ingredients like sliced steak and offal, can stand up to the tannin of a good bottle of red, no matter how light in body it may be.
But the world of white wine is a varied one, and sometimes, you need a helping hand to find that perfect pairing. Here’s our brief guide to pairing wines with seven classic summer salads - enjoy!
One of my personal favourites, a classic Greek salad - when made correctly - is a thing of real beauty. Salty olives, crumbly feta cheese, cooling cucumber… it’s delicious. The feta tends to dominate here, and this sheep’s cheese works really well with sharp, citrus wines.
The obvious choice would be a young, fresh Sauvignon Blanc (a good go-to wine for most green salads), but why not make things a bit more authentic and go for a Greek Assyrtiko? This is a wine that’s making a real buzz on the wine scene at the moment, and its vivacity and brightness make it a heavenly match for this salad.
Chicken Caesar Salad
Crunchy leaves, salty dressing, sliced chicken and croutons - the chicken Caesar salad is a true classic, one which is eaten all around the world. Go for the full ‘ladies who lunch’ effect and order a lightly oaked Chardonnay with this one, or a more fully oaked number if the chicken has been barbequed or charred.
I’m a big fan of pasta salads, and when the summer rolls around, I’m often found making one for my lunchbox. Most pasta salads have a very mild taste, and are generally quite heavy on mayonnaise or other creamy ingredients. If this is the case, you’ll want a white wine with plenty of smoothness and a touch of sharpness, something to cut through and cleanse the palate. A Gavi would be brilliant here, or a Chenin Blanc or similar.
Fresh tomatoes are pretty hard to match with wine, and actually, I’ve found that the flavour of tomatoes tends to vary pretty wildly from one supplier to the next, and from one month to another.
Crisp, dry rose wines usually hit the spot when it comes to sliced tomato and basil salads, or those which combine fresh mozzarella and torn herbs. Good quality Italian white wines such as Verdicchio are also a winning pair.
Goats Cheese Salad
I could eat goat’s cheese all day. There’s something fantastically funky and unmistakably goaty about the stuff that makes it a real joy to eat, especially on a patch of grass on a sunny day. It’s a big, bold flavour, though, sure to dominate the salads that it’s included in.
Again, I think that Sauvignon Blanc is the one to beat, here, as that citrus kick really does the job - especially when combined with some steamed cold asparagus.
This is the Gallic salad that took the world by storm, and combines a fairly curious range of ingredients which work extremely well together - ideal on a hot day, and a great example of a classic dish which needs no improvement. Salad Nicoise + Provence or Cotes du Rhone rose = summertime heaven.
I know this is a ridiculously wide umbrella term, but ‘Asian’ has become a bit of a short cut for ‘spicy and aromatic’ in our time, and I don’t have the space to go through hundreds of specific variations. Spices and ingredients such as ginger, lemongrass and soy are always a bit difficult to pair with wines, but I’ve found that most spiced salads - from Thailand to Vietnam, from Japan to Korea - tend to work brilliantly with the grassy, mineral zest of a good Gruner Veltliner.
Now that you have learned the best wines that go best with different types of summer salads, it's time to test your wine palates! Check out our wine profile quiz below to find your favourite three types of wine. Cheers!