Summer food and wine pairing guide
Wondering which wines to take for alfresco dinners, picnics and potlucks? Here, you'll find some summer pairing pointers, as well as some favourite dishes and summer wines to pair with them.
Salads are the perfect dish when temperatures start soaring. Consider the type of toppings and dressing to figure out what sort of wine would go best: crisp and light-bodied for simple salads, full-bodied and structured for more complex dishes with heavier dressings.
Green Salads like greenish wines… For a green salad, it’s best to opt for wine with a hint of ‘green’ such as crisp, pale-coloured white wines with grassy or herbaceous aromas. A South African Sauvignon Blanc, or a crisp blend of native grapes from the Alentejo region of Portugal would pair fabulously. Go easy on the vinegar though. If you use lemon or a milder type of vinegar when making a vinaigrette, the acidity won’t clash too much with the wine you’re drinking, especially if it’s super fresh.
Creamy salad dressings such as cheese-based dressings need more structured white or rosé wines. Opt for something that has had some wood-aging, is a bold grape giving full-bodied wines or even a rosé with a strong colour.
Top Tip: Throw some fruit in for the perfect pairing. By adding fruit such as peaches or apples to your salad, it will be easier to pair with wine and the common flavours between wine and food will make the pairing more balanced.
Grilled peach salad with curry pecans and honey vinaigrette and Terre Lontane, a fruity, round, food-friendly rosé from the very South of Italy.
With Grilled Fish & Seafood
Summertime is barbecue time, and if you’re going to grill fish, try matching it with medium to full bodied white wines. Seafood such as prawns love the grill and when it comes to fish, the more oily, structured types, such as mackerel and sardines give the best results. The intensity of the aromas and flavours needs a wine that can match in flavour intensity, and high acidity will help it cut through the oiliness.
Fish don’t like tannins: The trick when pairing with fish is to find a wine with structure without too much oak-ageing. Red wines also work but only ones low in tannins, as the tannins in these wines can clash with the fish oils, leaving a metallic taste in your mouth.
Grilled sardines with lemon, garlic, and paprika with Hamdani and Jandali, a blend of two grapes native to Palestine. It has personality without being overpowering, with tons of fresh citrus and mint notes. Ideal for pairing with grilled fish (and included in the Quaranvino Holy Lands Discovery Box)
With Grilled Meats
Red all the way… If you’re grilling some meat on your summer bbq, it’s time to bust out the reds just because the tannins that are found in red wine, soften meat and make it oh, so succulent.
Go easy on the alcohol... Keep high-alcohol powerhouses in the cellar for the time being: the alcohol can feel overpowering in warm weather so look for wines that are 13.5% alcohol or less. It’s better to opt for slightly chilled red wines so you can still enjoy their aromas without being hit by the alcohol. Also, think of matching the smoky notes in the meat with wines that have a hint of smokiness such as Lagrein from Northern Italy. Other red wines that are super easy to pair with grilled meats include Cabernet Franc, Refosco, Schiava, Grignolino and Valpolicella wines (not Amarone but the lighter, simple Valpol).
With Cold Dishes (Picnic Foods)
Summer is synonymous with picnics and picnics need wines that are light and easily paired with a variety of dishes. Sparkling wine is a sure-fire winner, the bubbles help it pair with just about everything. Another option would be a fresh, fragrant white that will highlight the herbs used in salads and summer finger foods.
Erbazzone is a spinach pie from Emilia-Romagna that is just PERFECT for picnics although it requires a bit of skill when it comes to getting the pastry super thin! Try it with Amore, a fresh rosé from Umbria with a fab label you’ll want to show off.
With No-Bake Desserts
The last thing you want during the hot days of summer, is to turn the temperature up even more. If you crave sweets, but don’t want to turn on the oven, no-bake desserts are your answer! Berries with yoghurt and crushed meringue or a tasty ice cream mean that summer is the time to take easy ingredients and turn them into something impressive.
Up the sugar! As for wine pairings, remember the one golden rule: your wine needs to be sweeter than the dish so look out for demi-sec or semi-secco wines as they will have the sugar you need to not leave a puckering in your mouth.
Whip up some cream with fresh berries: couldn’t be easier! Medici Ermete’s Quercioli Rosato is a fab pairing: slightly sweet, fruity and fresh.
If your grill is still on, grill some pineapple, and serve it with ice cream, chopped nuts and caramel sauce. This makes a wonderful with Ben Ryé, one of our all-time favourite sweet wines.
Have fun playing around with these suggestions during your next summer hangout, and remember: the perfect pairing is the one that you enjoy best! Have a fabulous summer!
P.S. If you love Indian food, take a look at the Quick guide to pairing wine to Indian dishes.