How to pair wine with salad (and, not just whites!)

best vinaigrette recipe

Settle in and learn about pairing wine with salad. Bonus: Denise shares the best vinaigrette recipe ever (hers) and some of her yummy salad creations. Forks up, folks!

Wine with salad – really?

Yep! Pay attention to your ingredients and use Denise’s fantastic – and easy – vinaigrette dressing recipe for endless meals to delight. Think of the vinaigrette recipe below as a base for all your salad dreams – change up the flavor profile with simple ingredient additions. And, further down, find a couple of complete salad recipes that she paired with a Barbaresco.

For salads, limiting yourself to white wines isn’t necessary. Go big – Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, Bordeaux, Red Burgundy – they can take it.

Tips to make a wine-friendly salad:

  • Dress the lettuce before adding the rest of your ingredients. By doing this, you ensure the lettuce is properly – and evenly – coated before putting the rest on it.
  • The key elements here – especially when pairing with an important bottle – are fats and protein. Think egg, meat, pancetta / bacon, cheese, nuts, olives, and even fatty fish. Denise says, “consider the protein and fats you’d use to pair with your favorite Barbaresco or Brunello for your wine-friendly salad creation.”
  • Denise likes to use two different types of lettuce for salad. Doing this diversifies the taste, texture, and color. Bonus: leafy greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, and helps with your water intake.
  • A breakdown from drills down tastes in different types of lettuce for salad:
    • Arugula, watercress: peppery.
    • Dandelion, escarole: bitter.
    • Sweet mâche, iceberg: sweet.
    • Tatsoi (a lettuce green): mustard.

types of lettuce for salad

How to Make a Wine-friendly Salad

You often hear that you cannot have your salad and your important wine, too! Well, this is because the acid in the vinegar of a simple salad destroys your palate for the wine. 
Sure, certain acidic foods make pairing difficult and of course, you want to put your top wines with dishes that showcase them the best. But by following a few simple rules, great wines pair with salad beautifully.
With salads being both an important part of our cuisine and popular, there is no reason to give them up just because you don't think you can pair your wine with salad. 
Author: Denise Pardini, Hotel Castello di Sinio


The rules to create wine-friendly salads:

  • The first thing to remember is that acid is the foe of wine and fat or meatiness is often its friend. This is true of white wine as well. 
  • Always think COMPOSED SALAD, something invented by the French who are pretty avid about their wine, too. Don't think simple salad of only leafy greens with maybe tomatoes, oil, and vinegar. 
  • Add some kind of PROTEIN to give the salad balance and some substance. Think of things like egg, meat, bacon, cheese, nuts, olives, and even fatty fish, which on their own might be paired with your favorite Barbaresco or Brunello.
  • Add some FAT to give balance to the vinaigrette and the acid in your wine. Again, items like cheese, nuts, olives, creamy dressings with a base of mayonnaise, mascarpone, or crème Fraiche gives unctuousness and creates something on your palate to be refreshed by a Burgundy or Chateauneuf du Pape.
  • Smokiness as in smoked trout, or smoked duck breast, or even smoked cheese gives another layer of complexity to help balance and gives foil to your Bordeaux.
  • Adding high pectin fruits adds further complexity and balance, which plays well with your nebbiolo or Valpolicella.
  • Make a vinaigrette with lower acidity and more complexity creates a terrific pairing for even your most important wines. For instance, you would think a lemon vinaigrette would destroy a wine, but by using preserved lemons that have mellowed from being salted and placed under oil gives you that great lemon FLAVOR without any of the acidity. Plus pairing it in a salad placed next to your Vitello Tonnato gives you a complex and interesting COMPOSED salad to go with your complex, interesting 1997 Barolo!


Copyright Denise Pardini 2008 - 2020,

pairing wine with salad

Wine-friendly salad ideas

bistrot salad with wine
Bistrot Salad
Garden greens, vegetables with bacon, 6-minute egg, garlic whole-grain croutons, and parmesan shards. Dressing: Red Wine Shallot Vinaigrette.
My personal riff on the famous french bistrot salad of Frissè lettuce, poached egg, and lardons. The salad's pedigree intends it to be drunk with a hearty red wine. Be sure you use heartier but not too delicate, lettuces. The 6-minute egg replaces the poached egg. Fast, easy, and every bit as wonderful. Be sure to use thick meaty bacon, but regular old slices work nicely, too. I love the chew and heft of whole-grain croutons but use whatever you have, just make sure you make them yourself, the boxed kind just don’t cut it here.
Check out this recipe
best vinaigrette recipe
Red, White, and Green Salad
My perfect salad. I could eat this every day in one form or another. There are many forms it could take and easy variations depending on what you have or what you need to use. Just make sure you start with the red, white, and greens, a crispy crunchy fruit, a stronger cheese, and nuts. 
For instance, apple or fig would be a perfect substitute for the pear but it could even be strawberries or blueberries. Gruyere could replace gorgonzola if you are not crazy about blue cheese and really, any nut works. A nut oil for the salad dressing adds an important dimension and helps it pair even better with wine. But, a basic vinegar and olive oil dressing works just fine, too.
Check out this recipe

Keep in touch!

Denise and I had so much fun with the salads, we decided we are going to make this an ongoing feature, so expect one or two new salad recipes (and, wine pairing ideas!) a month, so if you like these, check back in!

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