Like many chlorophyll-rich vegetables, kale is a wine killer, so it’s a brave, brave person who wants to pair kale salad with anything but fresh-pressed juice or coconut water.

November 09, 2014

Sometimes, it’s not the wine that’s the problem.

Like many chlorophyll-rich vegetables, kale is a wine killer, so it’s a brave, brave person who wants to pair kale salad with anything but fresh-pressed juice or coconut water.

For your standard green salad with a tangy vinaigrette, most sommeliers reach for high-acid whites that have natural vegetal components, like grassy Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley or peppery Grüner Veltliners.

But raw kale is an especially assertive, sometimes-bitter and weedy-tasting green, and can challenge even the most vegetable-friendly wines. The solution, then, is not to switch up the wine but to adapt the salad.

Cooked mushrooms, cheese and cured pork products, like bacon, are promiscuous ingredients—wines (lots of different ones) love them and become instantly more accepting when they’re involved. Add one of these (or heck, more than one) to your kale salad and a world of wine pairings opens up to you. (This rule also applies to other bitter leaves, like dandelion greens.)

Your best bets will still be zippy white wines—you could go for something completely dry or look for a wine with a little sweetness, like off-dry Riesling. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could try a light-bodied, higher-acid, not-too-tannic red, like Beaujolais, which will pair well with the promiscuous ingredients without bulldozing your salad. And that’s much more appealing than beet juice, don’t you think?

Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and author of the forthcoming The Modern Potluck (Clarkson Potter, 2016). She is also the cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.

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