• Lorelei Helmke

Pairing of the Greens

10 West Living - July/August 2019

Entrée Salads for Summer Dinners

Cool, crisp, and crunchy salads are making their way onto the dinner table, especially during heat and humidity of summer. The salad can be the perfect meal on a sultry day.

Vegetable embracing chefs are creating new combinations to liven up the greens. The “entre salad” is not just for those watching the waistline – though that is a benefit of savoring such fresh cuisine. Entrée Salads are ripe with opportunity to create gluten-free, diary-free, vegan, or low-carb meals to meet the culinary desires of anyone. The only question is “How do we pair wines with our greens?”.

The Basic Principles

There is no single wine to quaff with your veggies. We are not bound to sip on white wine. The basis for pairing a wine with a salad should start with the acidity level.

Consider the dressing. High acidity in a salad dressing can cause an otherwise crisp wine to taste sweet or flat – try a racy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Picpoul Blanc. If your dressing is a cream based like ranch style or Caesar one could opt for an un-oaked Chardonnay or Viognier.

Now, consider what’s in the salad. If the salad is full of nuts, fruits, olives, or cheese this will change the complexity. With goat cheese, Chenin Blanc or Sancerre is a fabulous choice. If dried fruits like cranberries, apricots or raisins are added, a lighter style red is appropriate – Gamay or a light Cotes du Rhone – slightly chilled.

Finally, balance the choice with the protein. We can go back to Wine Pairing 101, the lighter the dish, the lighter the wine. Protein options include fish, chicken, tofu, shrimp, or lobster. Although it’s not uncommon to find beef in an entrée salad. If the salad has blue cheese and beef a touch heartier red wine accompany the entrée beautifully.

Pairing Choices for Popular Greens

Greek Salad

Feta and olives with lemon vinaigrette works best with a racy white wine. Try an Albarino or a white wine from Greece.


Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini 2018 – Santorini, Greece – Chalky and minerally with a hint of creaminess from the 5 months aging on the lees. $45

Morgadno Albarino 2017 – Rias Baixas, Spain – Intense with tropical fruit and granitic minerality, dry with a long finish. $25

Spinach and Bacon with Blue Cheese Crumbles

Here is where a medium-bodied Merlot or a Barbera will pair nicely. If a white is preferred, try a dry Riesling.


Wente Vineyards Sandstone Merlot 2013 - Livermore Valley - Blended with a touch of Petite Sirah, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. $20

Trefethen Dry Reisling 2017 - Oak Knoll District - Dry and succulent with hints of jasmine and refreshing minerality. $30

Salad Nicoise

Combines green beans, tuna and hard-boiled eggs - Go for the Rose. A traditional Provence Rose is preferred.


JCB No.5 Rose 2018 - Provence, France - Soft and delicate with spicy white blossoms. $20

Miraval Rose 2018 - Provence, France - Elegant with aromas of fresh fruits. $20

Cobb Salad with Chicken or Seafood

Add in bacon, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and avocado and tossed with a red wine vinegar dressing, this is my favorite entrée salad. Here we have acidity mixing with creaminess of the avocado and cheese. A Gruner Veltliner is a perfect accompaniment.


Habit Gruner Veltliner 2017 – Santa Ynez Valley, California – Driven by acidity aromas of jasmine, juniper and white pepper with a hint of lime. $35

Domane Wachau Gruner Veltliner 2017 – Wachau, Austria – Golden delicious apple notes are balanced with herbal, peppery and citrus aromas. $15

Three things to remember when pairing your greens.

The wine should be more acidic that the dressing. When making a vinaigrette tone down the acidity by using orange juice or grapefruit juice instead of lemon or add a little cream, mayonnaise or honey.

Red wine is an option for a salad when made with balsamic dressing, blue cheese, dried fruit or red meat is included. Look for lighter style reds such as Gamay, cool-climate Pinot Noir or Italian reds (ie: Barbera or Sangiovese)

When in doubt choose Rose from Provence or a Sauvignon Blanc.

by Alexandra Mathews
Asian Ceasar Salad with Blackened Tuna

Cheers and Kisses!

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