Who would've imagined that mesclun mix would become a supermarket staple and iceberg lettuce wedges would make their way back onto upscale restaurant menus? As America's salad tastes have changed, the classics have endured, too.
From sensational sides to main dish masterpieces, salads are more popular than ever. "But a lot of people are confused about pairing wines with salads," explains Jordan Mackay, contributing writer and wine educator for Wine & Spirits magazine. "Vinaigrettes pose the main challenge, as they often contain more acid than a typical table wine, making the wines taste dull and flat. Luckily, this is a challenge that is easy to overcome."
For starters, high-acid sparkling wines, crisp, dry rosés, and white wines with little or no oak work well with many vinaigrettes. In fact, they are great go-to wines for salads of all types. Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, dry Riesling or Spanish Albariño offer several great options. "The crispness and acidity in these wines can usually stand up to a vinaigrette in a more balanced way," Mackay says.
Above all, don't be afraid to have fun experimenting with salads and wine to discover the pairings you like best. To get you started, Mackay and the Wine Market Council have shared some winning wine pairings for favorite salad classics.
Caesar Salad - Garlic and anchovies give Caesar salad its unmistakable bite. A bright, tart Italian Pinot Grigio or a Portuguese Vinho Verde will stand up to those powerful flavors.
Cobb Salad - Because of the meat and cheese in this traditional, hearty salad, a light red wine is a nice choice - consider something with good acidity and not too much alcohol like a lighter Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. If you prefer white wine, try a dry Riesling as a palate-pleasing option.
Greek Salad - A good Greek salad is a strong dish, with loads of salty, sharp flavors that call for an assertive wine. A lively, brash New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc loaded with acidity and pungent flavors stands up to this salad's aggressive flavors.
Nicoise Salad - Briny olives and fish give traditional Nicoise salads a distinctive Mediterranean flavor that calls for a bright, Mediterranean-style wine. A dry Rosé or a tangy and bright Spanish Albariño are great partners. If the salad is made with seared tuna steak, a light red wine like a Pinot Noir is also a nice match.
Asian Chicken Salad - Asian chicken salads get their distinctive flavor from rice vinegar, lime juice, and sesame oil, while hot red pepper flakes add a bit of heat to this cool summer salad. An off-dry Riesling is a great match for this salad. Its crispness balances the tangy Asian flavors, while a hint of sweetness handles the spice.
Pasta Salad - Pasta salads are picnic staples that tend to be very rich and creamy with mayonnaise. An equally rich wine, like a classic California Chardonnay, brings welcome balance to its heaviness.
Don't see a pairing for your favorite salad? Find additional salad pairing suggestions, plus tips and information at www.wineanswers.com.