Salads might not be your favorite meal, but the right glass of wine could change your mind. Read on and learn how to perfectly pair salad with wine.
If eating a salad once or twice a year is a big deal for you, prepare to develop a new appreciation for them. Admittedly, if your salads consist only of iceberg lettuce, a few limp slices of tomato, and maybe shredded carrots, it’s easy to understand why you may not find them inspiring. When done right, however, salads are a celebration of fresh ingredients and bright flavors. Still not convinced? What if we told you the easiest way to start enjoying salads involved wine?
Yes, you read that right. Maybe you don’t have the time, energy, or inspiration to put together the salad of your dreams, but you can spruce up ANY salad with the right glass of wine. Salads can be particularly tricky when it comes to wine pairing though. All those healthy vegetables can leave wine tasting lackluster while the oil and vinegar used in many dressings can leech the flavor and brightness of wine.
The trick is knowing which wine will be the perfect pairing. So, keep reading and discover a few tips and tricks on how to perfectly pair any salad with the right glass of wine.
Simplify Your Salad Pairing and Focus On The Dressing!
“Salads” can encompass a surprisingly wide variety of dishes. While we traditionally think of veggie-heavy salads, there are also fruit salads, pasta salads, couscous salads, etc. Depending on your dietary preferences, you’ll naturally gravitate towards certain types of salads over others, but today we’re focusing on the more classic salads. Even then though, each salad might have many different ingredients and flavors. It can make choosing the right wine a bit overwhelming, but there’s an easy way to simplify your pairing.
The simplest way to select wine is to choose a wine that creates an interesting pairing with the dressing. The same goes for any dish with a prominent sauce element. And when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Lots of different salads have similar vegetables, but often it’s the dressing that differentiates it from other salads. That’s why a wine that pairs beautifully with a classic Caesar salad, may not be as delicious with a salad with Italian dressing.
If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at our Wine Pairing 101 guide, here are a few highlights to help you determine which wines pair well with different dressings.
Top 3 Tips for Wine and Salad Dressing
- Simplify the taste components of your dressing. Is the dressing acidic, sweet, bitter, fatty, salty, or spicy? These elements will be key in determining which wine will pair well.
- Consider how intense the flavors of your dressing are. A Thai salad with a spicy peanut dressing would definitely be more intense than a salad with lite Italian dressing. Once you’ve determined the taste components and intensity, you can play around with congruent (similar) and complementary (opposite) pairings.
- Consider the balance of the overall pairing. If you have intense flavors in both the salad and the wine, it might be overwhelming. On the other hand, pairing a light-bodied wine with a simple salad may not allow any flavors to shine whatsoever. It’s all about balance.
It’s important to remember that everyone has a unique experience when it comes to wine and food. We each have different preferences, and what one person enjoys might be the least favorite dish of someone else. So, feel free to play around with the tips above!
If you’re a bit too nervous to jump right in and experiment all on your own, however, we’ve got a few classics for you to try as well.
Pair Blue Cheese Dressings with Light-Bodied Sweeter Wines
This is an excellent pairing because of the heavy, intense nature of blue cheese. This particular dressing tends to have more prominent fat, salt, and sometimes even bitter taste components and the intensity is usually pretty high.
To create a more balanced experience, you’ll want something sweeter with more acidity to cut through the heavy fat tastes. Plus, having a light-bodied wine will tone down the intensity and keep you from feeling too full.
For a salad with blue cheese dressing, we can’t get enough of the floral, peachy flavors in this bottle of Vermentino. Similar to a Sauvignon Blanc, this wine isn’t overly sweet, but the acidity will balance out the fat content of the dressing.
Try Full-Bodied White or Light-Bodied Red for Caesar Salads
While it may sound crazy, caesar salads can pair beautifully with both full-bodied reds and light-bodied white wines. It all depends on your taste preferences and the type of experience you’re going for.
An intense, buttery white wine with moderate sweetness and acidity will create a pleasant complementary pairing. However, a light-bodied red wine, like our Grand Noir, will bring out the savoriness of the dish while highlighting any black pepper notes.
For Salads With Italian Dressing, Go Big or Go Home
Well, you don’t have to go home, but playing it safe can sometimes leave your palate feeling underwhelmed in this instance.
Because of the vinegar content of many Italian dressings, they tend to have higher acidity. The high acid content has a habit of making many wines taste flat and lackluster. Honestly, this is a big issue for many dressings and is one of the reasons why pairing wine and salad can be so confusing.
The trick to getting past this hurdle is to select a savory wine with just as much acidity as the dressing, if not more. If you select a wine that can’t stand up to the bright acidity of Italian dressing, it’s going to taste weak and watery in comparison. In this instance, we’d recommend something like our Chianti Superiore.
This vivacious wine has the boldness to stand up to Italian dressing. It actually pairs beautifully with many Mediterranean dishes. That means a salad with olives and feta cheese will be even more enjoyable with this particular bottle.
Lean Into Exotic Fruits For Thai Salads with Peanut Dressings
For our more adventurous salad eaters, a Thai inspired salad has a little bit of everything. Maybe there’s a hint of sesame oil, the bright citrus from a lime, let’s not forget the myriad of delicious vegetables, and perhaps even the crunch of peanuts. There are a lot of taste components in a Thai inspired salad, so you might think something subtle would help balance it out.
However, we think leaning into those exotic flavors is the best way to celebrate them. Don’t tame them! Enhance the intensity and flavors with a wine that uses more tropical or exotic fruits. Our Tenuta di Ceppaiano has the aromatics to stand up to a sesame or peanut dressing, and its litchi, rose, and raspberry flavors will complement and enhance any savory notes from the salad.
This wine is also particularly delicious with seafood and spicy dishes. So, if you wanted to make an entire meal by adding shrimp to this salad, this wine will elevate it even more!
Enhance Ranch With Medium-Bodied, Crisp White Wines
There’s no shame in your love of ranch dressing, and if that’s your pick then we suggest leaning into the creaminess of ranch with a medium-bodied wine with equal intensity. The salt and fat content of ranch dressing should be no surprise, so to cleanse your palate (and enhance the flavors) you’ll want to pair it with a crisp white wine with not-so-subtle flavors.
Our chardonnay-like PALO61, Toscana Bianco has floral forward notes that will elevate a heavier buttermilk ranch dressing. Plus, it’s moderate acidity will lighten your palate and allow you to enjoy your entire salad without the heaviness of too much fat content.
The Right Wine Can Change the Salad Game
We hope this helped you develop a new love for salads because they’re so insanely good for you! All those vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals that your body needs, which is kind of why we’re obsessed with them. We work hard to make wine that’s free of additives and added-sugar so that we can continue to eat, drink, and celebrate life without the guilt. The right salad and wine combo will let you do just that!
There’s a LOT that can go into a wine and salad pairing. So, if you just want to stick with what you know and like, that’s fine too! No matter what, just make sure you’re enjoying every bite and every sip. Be sure to follow-us for all the latest updates and make sure to tag us in your gram-worthy wine & salad pics!