What to sip with your salad
May 7th, 2012
01:30 PM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

The sun is out, the gentle breezes are blowing, the gardens and the fields are burgeoning with new green leaves, and so now is the time to eat them. As a fairly carnivorous person, I tend to feel that if I’m going to be eating a salad, I might as well have some wine with it, just to give the whole enterprise some sort of point. To that end, here are a few thoughts about pairing wines with salads.

Green Salad with Vinaigrette
This illustrates a basic pairing idea, which is that acidity likes acidity. Pour a low-acid white like a Chardonnay with a vinaigrette, and you won’t taste the wine at all; pour a tart, zingy white like a Sauvignon Blanc or an Albariño, and the vinegar in the dressing will actually bring out the fruitiness of the wine. Essentially, food trumps wine when it comes to taste, so the tartness of the dressing makes your mouth perceive the wine as less tart than it actually is.
Salads with Creamy Dressings
Ah, ranch dressing. Actually invented on a dude ranch, you know - the Hidden Valley Ranch, near Santa Barbara. Then, in 1972, the brand was purchased by Clorox. Generally speaking, we don’t associate bleach with salad dressing, but there it is.

Regardless, ranch dressing and others of its ilk are creamy, high in fat and modest when it comes to acidity. Oregon Chardonnays and Pinot Gris would both be excellent options; California Chardonnay, as long as it’s not so big and buttery that you ought to be pouring it on the salad itself, would also be good.
Frisée-Bacon Lardons-Egg
I like to think of the French thought process behind this insanely good salad as something like this: “Sacre bleu! We take zee bacon and zee egg, and we put zem on top of the salad! Eet is like breakfast - with leaves!” Culinary geniuses, to be sure. But wine-wise, you’ve got egg (protein), bacon (protein, fat), bacon fat in the dressing (um, fat), a little tanginess and some greens. Think light red or a crisp rosé - a measure of tannins or acidity or both, and enough substance to go with a fairly filling salad. For an alternative, Champagne, which goes very well with eggs indeed.
Steak Salad
I think the Tuscans have it right when it comes to the idea of steak and salad. Basically, take a big, beautiful steak (the classic bistecca fiorentina), grill it to perfection and slap it on top of a bunch of argula (which then wilts). Drizzle it with great olive oil. Sprinkle some sea salt on top. See? Steak + salad.

Clearly, the thing to drink with a fine meal like this is a substantial Tuscan red: Chianti Classico Riserva, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile de Montepulciano. You’ll need those tannins to cut through the juiciness and fat of the meat. And the salad? Oh, right. It’s under the steak. Don’t worry about it.

More from Food & Wine

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Delicious Steak Recipes

Fantastic Green Salads

Spring Recipes

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Salad • Sip • Wine

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Trissa

    Heh heh. Sacre bleu means damn in French.

    May 8, 2012 at 1:06 am |
    • readerpan

      No, it doesn't. Although, it can mean several things that could be used as substitutes for damn.

      August 23, 2014 at 3:13 pm |
  2. Brian

    The answer is jiz

    May 7, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  3. DK

    If you drink enough of the wine first, you can probably skip the salad!

    May 7, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  4. jillmarie

    Love salad, love wine- great article! I was hoping for suggestions for my favorite salad- Greek Salad. I usually just drink a Cabernet with it.

    May 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  5. BreakPoint

    Goober Pyle passes away and we are talking about wine and salad? For shame.

    May 7, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Chainsaw

      Adam Yauch died and wars being waged, too. This is a food blog, dude. It's what we talk about. Get a grip or move on.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
      • Chainsaw

        Damn. Shoulda been Sabotage.

        May 7, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
      • BreakPoint

        Then we should cease eating until all the wars are complete. Problem?

        May 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
        • Sabotage

          *hands over a screwdriver* Here. You might want use it to tighten up the loose screw in your head.

          May 7, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
        • Crandal


          May 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          HAHA. Forgot about that.

          May 7, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • palintwit

      Not only are teabaggers mourning the loss of Goober Pyle, but they are also still mourning the loss of Peggy Rea, the actress that played Boss Hogg's wife.

      May 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
      • Truth™

        This is a food blog. Kindly refrain from talking politics...

        May 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
      • ParodonMe

        There's this chick at work who's a** I'd love to slap. Not because shes mean or anything, but she's a dirty girl and I'd know she'd be into it.

        May 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          Don't be a wuss. Do it.

          Let me know how that works out.

          May 7, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
        • ParodonMe

          Dude, it worked! Got her number. She is a dirty girl.

          May 7, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  6. Wham Bam, thanks maam

    A mouse ate my nuts.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  7. jim

    The one drink that goes with all of the salads is a Large Class of Unsweetened Ice Tea........

    May 7, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Old Fashion

      Sounds healthier that way........

      May 7, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  8. denroy

    I don't need some arsehole to tell me what to drink with my food – i am an adult

    May 7, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  9. Vampires Gone

    I sip ranch dressing with my ranch dressing.

    May 7, 2012 at 10:15 am |
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