Pairing great food with great wine shouldn’t be limited to special occasions or sidelined at summertime.
It’s that time of year when the grubbiest of places look desirable, everyone prances around in next to no clothing, and weekend plans involve squeezing yourself into the sunniest corner of the pub garden (which doubles up as a car park).
It is also a time when our food becomes fresher and lighter and our drinks…. well, we tend to sideline the idea of pairing and reach for some fruit- floating concoction or the on-offer Rosé . But it’s not hard to see why. Salads are the obvious summer dish, but with all their variations and components, they are particularly difficult to pair a wine with (what is the main ingredient- the lettuce?! the tomatoes!?). And picnics! We must have one – where to start!?
But now is not the time to stress – it’s summertime after all. So here is a guide to our favourite summer salads and what goes well with them:
Salty olives, crunchy cucumber and crumbling feta. Delicious. I am a firm believer of drinking the vine of wherever the dish is from, so why not try Assyrtiko – one of Greece’s signature white wines. Pick a bone-dry version and the sharp citrus tangs will work wonderfully with the dominate feta.
Goats Cheese and Walnut Salad
If stranded on a desert island and you only had one cheese to live off – for me, it would probably be Goats Cheese. Stick that cheese in a walnut- sprinkled salad, and I am rowing myself to the island! The wine made for Goats Cheese is a white Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc from Loire France). That’s because the rich and varied vegetation of Sancerre (the land) is not just for good for wine, but it’s good for goats – producing some of the best known Goat’s Cheese around – most notably the Crottin de Chavignol.
Tomatoes, anchovies, black olives, capers, French beans, lemon juice – what a curiously odd, eccentric group of ingredients which somehow work perfectly together. Originating in the South of France, its popularity spread right to the 80s Wall Street banker. Still today, the Salad Nicoise makes for a classic lunch. This is when Rosé can come out to play – but keep with the theme and make sure it’s a Provence version. The saltiness of the anchovies and capers will maximize those fruity flavours in the wine.
Salad + (inserts yours here)
Adding chicken, shellfish, mackerel or salmon will energize any salad.
With chicken, try a Chardonnay. Thighs and sticks go well with a bigger, bolder style (think Californian or Australian), while the rest of the bird would be suited to a light white Burgundy style (such as a Macon).
With shellfish, try a Southern French Rosé which sets off the gentle saltiness of the fish perfectly.
Salmon can demand something quite special, so go crazy and pop open the Champs, the bubbles and acidity will cut through all those good fats. But if you are not that flush – no, we’re not either – try an alternative sparkling. We recently devoured ours with a sparkling Malbec rosé from Mendoza, Argentina.
For those salads providing a base for hams or pâtés, aim for light, fruity reds such as Beaujolais.
Veggies can add a few fried slices of our favourite squeaky cheese – halloumi – and wash it down with a sharp Assyrtiko Rosé to, again, balance that saltiness. Alternatively, throw in a Spanish tortilla and stick to the rule of the land by choosing either a Red or white Rioja.