Summer salads is our theme this month, and though salad itself doesn’t present particular wine matching problems, vinaigrettes and other dressings can prove difficult. Vinegar is just plain unfriendly to almost any wine and should be used sparingly – make the dressing with a little less than you might normally use and try to use balsamic or sherry vinegars which tend to be sweeter and less astringent. Even better, look for an alternative to vinegar. One restaurant trick is to substitute a little wine in the dressing, red or white to match the wine the customer is drinking. Another useful tip is to substitute nut oil for olive oil if you are drinking Chardonnay: Chardonnay is a variety that often has a nutty taste of its own and this can enhance the wine/food match beautifully. UK stockist and prices in pounds sterling (approx £5=$8US)
Santa Carolina, Chardonnay, Chile
This is an impressive chardonnay with a creamy, nutty nose and hints of butterscotch, tropical fruit and warm toast. Medium bodied, the plate has excellent balance with ripe but restrained tropical fruit flavours, lovely lime-fresh acidity and moderate oak in the finish.
Cave de Turckheim, Alsace Pinot Blanc, France
The Turckheim co-operative is normally sound if a little unexciting, but this wine comes from a terrific vintage in Alsace and really is excellent at the price. The nose is nicely waxy with tropical notes on top of melon fruit. The palate is full and lush with flavours of ripe pear and spice. A good all-round food wine that would be lovely with smoked salmon or maybe tuna salads.
Vin d’Alsace, Gewürztraminer, France
The essence of summer in a glass, this wine has lovely aromas of rose-petals, bursting lychee fruit and exotic spices. Quite full bodied, it is packed with soft peachy fruit yet is very fresh and zippy due to finely judged acidity. A classic example of this variety at a modest price and perfect with spicy or exotic salad ingredients.
Villa Lanata, Gavi di Gavi, Italy
This is possibly the finest Italian white I’ve come across. The grapes are “raccolto tardivo”, that is, harvested late to produce a wine that is racy and clean as a whistle, yet is rich and multi-layered. Delicate floral aromas with notes of acid-drops, tangerine and minerals lead to a palate brimming with tangy lemon and gooseberry flavours.
Tesco, Italian Merlot
Merlot is not a variety we normally associate with Italy, but here it has produced a wine with a fine balance of jammy plum fruit and a fine, bitter-cherry firmness. It is deliciously easy to drink.
Conde de Siruela, Ribera del Duero, Spain
Okay, it’s not a salad wine, but it is a terrific one. From Ribera del Duero, arguably Spain’s finest red wine region, the nose is creamy and dense with blackcurrant, mint and liquorice aromas. On the palate there is plenty of tannin over a core of smoky plum and blackberry fruit. A wine that would benefit from 2 or 3 years cellaring