Salad leaves and raw vegetables seem like innocuous things. Yet despite having created wine lists for the Tate galleries’ restaurants for 18 years, I still find them some of the hardest ingredients to match.
What you think will work often does not – and the bad matches are actively horrid.
We are dealing with things that taste intensely of vegetable. This may sound obvious, but compare the grassy, herbaceous intensity of raw fennel to its cooked counterpart, all sweet and subtle aniseed.
For the former, I need whites in the savoury rather than fruity camp. If you like sauvignon blanc, say, look to the Loire Valley rather than New Zealand.
Consider the dressing you intend to apply, too. This might contain mustard, vinegar or lemon juice, none of which are friends of wine. Tart dressings need a wine of similar bite – anything less acidic will come across as flabby.
Vinaigrettes play particular havoc with red wine, making anything tannic taste nastily bitter, so even if your salad has a red-meat component, white is usually the better option.
Italy does savoury and acid particularly well, especially in the north – try gavi, lugana and proper soave.
The Loire Valley also delivers, with muscadet, or the aforementioned sauvignon in the form of sancerre.
If you are stuck, peppery (and thus fabulous with watercress) grüner veltliner from Austria rarely stumbles.
2014 Saint Mont Chemin des Pèlerins, Plaimont Producteurs, Gascony, France cellarandkitchen.adnams.co.uk £6.99
This is extraordinarily good value, and as happy as an aperitif as it is with simple salads.
2014 Lugana, Cà dei Frati, Veneto, Italy thewinesociety.com £11.50
From vineyards around Lake Garda, this offers citrus, grass and a touch of creamy intensity.
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Katie and Giancarlo's salad recipes from around the world