Wine Pairing Challenge Follow-up: The Taste-off

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about one of my favorite summer salads . . . Spinach Salad with Watermelon, Blueberries and Feta.  I was stumped about a wine pairing (there’s an awful lot going on in that bowl), so I asked for your help.  You responded with so many great suggestions, I decided (in the interest of continuing education) to try them all.

I’m making this salad in continuous loop now . . . before summer comes to an end, and watermelon turns anemic and tasteless.

So I grabbed some thirsty guinea pigs friends & family and we sat down to taste.

Here’s the lineup  (btw, the pictures aren’t blurry, it’s your eyes) 😉:

So, how’d they do?  Here are my pairing notes.  The stars refer to the success of the pairing, not the quality of the wine.

Sauvignon BlancMerry Edwards Russian River Valley 2011  
Merry Edwards is, hands-down, my favorite Sauvignon Blanc on the planet.  I will use any excuse to open a bottle.  That said, this was just about the worst pairing ever.  Toothpaste and orange juice bad.  Argh, salad!  What have you done to my wine??  It just goes to show you that food can absolutely wreck a beautiful wine.

Moscato d’AstiVilla Jolanda, Italy 2011  ★★★★★
I wasn’t crazy about the Moscato on its own (too sweet for me), but the paring was a dream. The Moscato d’Asti knocked it out of the park!  And the bubbles?  Perfection.  I also love that this wine is only 5.5% alcohol.  Mentally, it seems “right” with the lightness of the salad.  I didn’t think it was possible to love this salad more . . . and then I tried it with this wine. Eureka!

ProseccoMacaron Albino Armani, Italy NV  ★★
I admit to buying this Prosecco because I liked the label.  The macaroons look like a rainbow of flying hamburgers.  It’s tough to compete with that.  By itself, an easy drinking, uncomplicated, fairly dry Prosecco.  I really liked it solo, but it fought with the salad.  The balance was just off — it needed to be a sweeter Prosecco.

Riesling SpätleseWeingut Karl Erbes Ürziger Würzgarten, Germany 2011  ★★★★★
A gorgeous wine from the Mosel Valley . . . and it complimented the salad beautifully.  I had originally thought Kabinett for a Riesling pairing, but Spätlese was a far better choice.  The sweetness provided a perfect balance to everything going on in the salad — a wine pairing win!

Vinho VerdeCasa de Vila Verde, Portugal 2011  
The Hatfields and McCoys were feuding in my mouth with this match.  And there was this weird, bitter grapefruit aftertaste.  We all made pucker faces.  Again, by itself, a razor sharp focused wine.  But this wine begs for a pile of seafood with lemon wedges . . . it doesn’t like watermelon and blueberries.

RoséThe Winery at Bull Run, Virginia 2012  ★★★
I originally bought this Rose for #WBW80, but ended up tasting in a different direction.  I thought this might work with the salad because it has 0.5% residual sugar.  But it fell into the close but no cigar category.  It wasn’t awful, but it did nothing for the salad.  Meh.

I’m really glad I did this exercise in wine pairing.  I always learn better by doing — turning theory into practice.  I now have a much better understanding about how sweetness balances acid and compliments fruit.  And it continues to amaze me how food can ruin even the best of wines . . . or create one of those Eureka wine moments that stays with you forever.



  1. What a great post, I always have a very hard time pairing salads and wine, it is rarely if ever successful for me. Love your scientific approach, the only way to truly know is to give it a try. Thinking about it after the fact I’m not really surprised the Moscato and Reisling scored so well. I would have thought the Rose would be nice too and it didn’t fare too badly but not a homerun.


    1. Thanks, Suzanne. I was surprised the Rosé didn’t fare better, too. Rosé seems to rise to almost any food challenge. It was a lot of fun . . . I’m hoping to do it again (with another challenge) soon! :o)


  2. Pairing with salads is always weird. I usually go with some kind of sparkling, and with the ingredients I think something off-dry would be great. So it’s no surprise the Moscato and the spatlese worked. This is the funnest type of experimentation, right?


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