Pairing Potato Salad with Wine

Summer CSANews Issue 67  |  Posted date : Jul 22, 2008.Back to list

The potato salad is no doubt the most convenient and easiest side dish to make to accompany barbecued seafood, poultry, pork and beef. Wine-lovers should be aware of the dressing used, as it can clash with certain wines.

When barbecuing this season, consider pairing your potato salad with certain flesh and matching wines.  In doing this, you can prepare a meal balanced in tastes, flavours and weight, one that creates harmony on the palate.

Every potato salad begins with the main ingredient – the potato.  While the russet variety is the most popular, you may want to be creative and add some flare to your salad. Several high-moisture varieties exist, those with a texture often referred to as 'waxy.'  Some of these include Yukon Golds and red potatoes. Their high moisture will give your salad a more pleasant texture when chilled, and their waxier flesh holds up better to chopping and to tossing with the dressing.  Be sure to scrub and leave the skin on the potatoes for more nutrition and added texture and colour.

Potato salad can be served cold in the North American style, or hot in the German style. Its dressings and added ingredients can range from casual to gourmet.

Look to the dressing to find the appropriate flesh and wine. Some potato salad dressings are vinegar-based.  Refrain from using white or cider vinegar.  It's too acidic to pair with any wine.  Instead use white balsamic or rice vinegar for the dressing.  Add ingredients, such as fresh tomato, corn and peas. Forgo the eggs. Freshly chopped dill or chives adds flavour and colour as well.  Pair vinegar-based potato salad with delicate fish on the barbie, such as sole or halibut.  Drizzle the fish with fresh lemon juice and wrap in foil.  The most suitable wine partner is a crisp, dry, sparkling wine, brut Champagne, or crisp, dry white.  Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most popular white wines that works extremely well with balsamic and rice vinegars.

Classic mayonnaise-based potato salad has a slightly sweet, creamy texture with delicious fattiness and heavy weight.  Complementary ingredients include eggs, peas, onions, celery, avocado, bacon and pancetta.  Choose a white wine with equal viscosity (fattiness). A barrel-fermented and/or aged Chardonnay will stand up to this dressing.  You'll also want to match the weight and fattiness of the salad with the barbecued flesh.

Salmon, tuna and swordfish have enough fattiness to match.  Consider cedar-planked salmon to accompany your mayonnaise-based potato salad and barrel-fermented Chardonnay. If you want to highlight a seafood theme, add lobster or crab to your salad.

For an Asian-inspired potato salad, use sesame oil for the dressing and add ingredients such as bok choy, carrot, shitake mushroom, sliced green onion and snow peas.  Season this salad with Chinese five-spice and a hint of Chinese chili sauce.  The hint of heat and spice demand an off-dry white wine, such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer.  Barbecued chicken or duck harmonizes with both the potato salad and the wine.

Olive oil-based dressings work well for red wines.  Potato salad with roasted red peppers, roasted onions, sun-dried tomatoes and finely chopped fresh rosemary tossed in extra virgin olive oil is simply divine.  This salad is a fine partner for lamb kebabs, duck and steak.  Choose a red wine with forward berry flavour, velvety texture and soft, but pleasant bitterness.  Look for high alcohol, as well, to give the wine enough fattiness to stand up to the fat in beef and duck.  I enjoy shiraz and Merlot.

Potato Salad with Tomatoes, Black Olives and Capers
  • Serves four to six
  • 4 cups diced cooked potatoes
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (quartered, if very large)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup black olives, pitted and halved
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
In a large bowl, combine potatoes with tomatoes, onion, olives, capers and parsley. Transfer the salad to a large serving dish. Serve at room temperature.

Accompanying Flesh: Sole or perch with lemon and dill, wrapped in foil and barbecued.

Matching Wine: The predominant taste sensations in this potato salad are saltiness from the capers and sourness from the tomatoes and vinegar.  A crisp, dry white has enough sourness to offset the saltiness, while also matching the sour ingredients.

Lobster Potato Salad
  • Serves four to six
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped cooked lobster meat (fresh or frozen)
  • 4 cups diced cooked potatoes
  • ½ cup thinly sliced green onions
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp horseradish
  • 1 tsp dried mustard
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • romaine leaves
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and wedged (for garnish)
  • 6 red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved (for garnish)
If using fresh lobster, reserve claws for garnish.  In a large bowl, lightly toss together lobster meat, potatoes, onions, salt and pepper.  Mix mayonnaise with lemon juice, horseradish, dry mustard and cayenne.  Pour over potato mixture; toss lightly.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.  Just before serving, fan out romaine leaves on a platter or in a large salad bowl.  Pile salad on top and garnish with egg wedges, cherry tomatoes and lobster claws.

Accompanying Flesh: Cedar-planked salmon

Matching Wine:  The fattiness from the mayonnaise and richness of lobster call for a big, fat white wine, such as a barrel-fermented and aged Chardonnay with high alcohol (14 to 15 per cent.)  High alcohol gives the wine full body and a fatty mouth feel, to match the weight of this salad.

Potato Salad with Blue Cheese and Bacon
  • Serves six to eight
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp plus 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tbsp coarse-grained Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp grated lemon peel
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 pounds small red-skinned potatoes, quartered and cooked
  • 8 bacon slices
  • 12 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese 
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, grated
Whisk oil, shallots, parsley, 1 tablespoon chives, mustard, honey and lemon peel in large bowl until well blended. Season dressing with salt and pepper.  In a skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp.  Drain on paper towels. Crumble the bacon into small pieces. Arrange lettuce around platter; mound potato salad in centre. Sprinkle the salad with bacon, blue cheese, egg and remaining 1/4 cup chives.

Accompanying Flesh: Beef burgers, steak

Matching Wine: The predominant taste sensation of this potato salad is fattiness, due to the olive oil, bacon and blue cheese.  A red wine with sweet berry flavours and soft tannin and high alcohol (14 to 15 per cent), such as shiraz or Merlot is the ideal match.

Click image to view chart of potato salads, accompanying flesh and matching wines.