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A major problem in pairing salad and wine is the high acid levels of most vinaigrettes, which wreaks havoc on wine, making it taste flat and flabby. You can avoid this conflict by making dressings that are less sharp but still vivid, with some of the following techniques: ~ Replace part or all of the red-or white-wine vinegar in a recipe with balsamic, sherry, or rice-wine vinegar, which have fuller, mellower flavors.
~ Use fruit juice instead of vinegar. Obvious choices might be lemon or lime juice, but think also of orange juice, apple cider, cranberry juice, or any fruit juice with a bright flavor.
~ Replace acidic ingredients with other liquids that are intense but not sharp, such as rich chicken, veal, fish, or vegetable stock, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, juices from roasted ,eats or vegetables, or roasted garlic pure.
When designing a salad, be sure to include ingredients that have a natural affinity to wine. They'll create the link that makes the combination work.
~ Herbs: Lots of wines have herbal notes, including Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. ~ Greens: Strong or peppery greens will want a wine with some spiciness to it, like Zinfandel or Petite Sirah.
~ Vegetables: Roasting vegetables concentrates their flavor and brings out their natural sweetness. Vegetables in this mellow state work well with deeper, richer wines like Zinfandel and barrel-aged Sauvignon Blanc. Grilled vegetables want a wine that "seen some oak: to link the toasty, woody flavors, so try a barrel-fermented Chardonnay. Mushrooms in particular make a salad more full-bodied and earthy, making a red wine, such as Pinot Noir welcome.
~ Fruit: So many fresh and dried fruit flavors and fragrances are found in wine that fruit is a natural bridge ingredient. Apple, pear, melon, and even tropical fruit flavors are common in Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewrztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, or Smillon. Rip fresh berries and cherries dominate many Beajolais and Pinot Noirs, and even hearty Cabernets can have similar flavors. Dried fruit, like figs, dried cranberries, apricots, and raisins will link to wine with bright fruit notes, such as Grenache or Gamay.
~ Croutons: Toasted or grilled bread in a salad also works nicely with slightly oaky wines.
~ Nuts: Toasted nuts complement slight oaky, toasty wines.
~ Cheese: Wine and cheese is almost a clich, but why does it work so well? One reason is that the milk proteins in cheese tame the tannins and acidity in wine, making the combination smoother. If the cheese is very salty, like a blue cheese, pair it with a slightly sweet wine, such as an off-dry Riesling. Dry aged cheeses like Parmesan or Asiago, with their toasty, buttery flavors, link wonderfully to barrel-fermented and aged Chardonnays.
~ Meat, Seafood, Poultry: These ingredients can tame tannins and acids in the same way cheese does, and their fuller flavors and textures make a salad bolder and more substantial. Think of grilling these ingredients and going for an oakier wine.