Wine with Food: with Salads!
by Paul Kalemkiarian Sr | November 1982
Yes, the exclamation mark is necessary. Everybody says “… no wine with salad”. I say “Hold it,… try it with some; you will be surprised.” I might be disinherited from the Wine and Food Writers Guild for this, but I’ll stand by my convictions.
Let’s look at the problem. It is the vinegar or lemon juice in most salad dressings that is the offending ingredient. The herbs and spices do not help either. Take vinegar, it is what wine spoils to, so naturally you do not want that taste sensation in any concentration with your wine. The lemon juice is similar in a way, because it is acidic and will augment the acid in the wine to give it a sour sensation. The herbs and spices are dominant and potent flavors that can mask the delicate wine.
So what do we do? Naturally we follow the rule when any of the above ingredients are obvious in the dressing. A delicious tangy, spicy. dressing is something to enjoy for itself. The ingredients in the salad that is embellished by the dressing have additional influence on the decision of wine or no wine. If this type of dressing dominates the salad, then by all means…no wine. If the dressing is “once over lightly” and the ingredients are distinct in flavor of themselves, then I find you can consider wine. You must look at the main ingredients, the wine that is suitable for it, and maybe try a taste. You will soon know whether to abandon the concept of wine or make a more suitable selection. I recently had a cold beef salad for lunch, with an excellent basic french dressing that was applied lightly, along with crusty French rolls. A young California Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel was just the wine.
And, how about all the mild dressings? The mayonnaise based ones…, the cooked ones, the sweet ones…A world of pleasure awaits you in taste sensations that you would miss if you adhere to the “no wine with salads” maxim. You see,…it’s the overall taste effect that counts. Taste the salad with the dressing on it, then taste some of the wine you think will harmonize, and see if they conflict. As simple as that Don’t let the culinary high priests intimidate you!