The tomato is a versatile ingredient, and it certainly comes into its own during the summer months when we like to make light and fresh dishes. However, when it comes to pairing wine with this classic culinary vegetable, we can find ourselves somewhat stumped. We asked Philippe Barret, our favourite taster, what he thinks about this pairing puzzle.
What should we drink with our summer favourite, the tomato salad?
The tomato’s number one characteristic, as is the case for many fruits and vegetables, is its acidity. When pairing wine and food, we tend to look for opposite features that complement each other; this is why acidic wines are a popular pairing with fatty dishes. Since tomato is acidic, don’t open a fine wine, it’ll be spoilt! Red isn’t a good idea with raw tomato, unless it’s a particularly light one like a simple Beaujolais. Ideally, a rosé or a simple white will go nicely, something that isn’t too rich or mature. For example, a Côtes-du-Rhône, a Côtes-de-Provence or a Sylvaner.
Does this go for cooked tomato, too, like with dishes like provençal tomatoes or stuffed ones?
This depends on how the tomatoes are cooked, as the wine should pair with the other ingredients, too. A meat-stuffed tomato calls for a red wine. However, this should still be relatively light and not too tannic. A Beaujolais, a Côtes-du-Rhône or a Loire wine such as a Bourgueil or a Saumur-Champigny should do the trick.
As for provençal tomatoes, another obstacle gets in the way with garlic being quite the enemy to wine. Red is absolutely not the one here! This is definitely a moment for white or rosé.
And more generally, what should we pair with dishes with a tomato base?
When we’re talking about classic, Italian dishes like spaghetti bolognese and lasagne, these should be paired with reds that aren’t too tannic, with nice aromatics and plenty of fruit. Italian wines are, unsurprisingly, a good bet, especially grape varieties like Dolcetto or Barbera. If you’d rather stick with a French wine, a Beaujolais, a southern Côtes-du-Rhône made from Grenache, or perhaps a Côtes-de-Provence would be lovely (though not a Bandol since this will likely be too powerful and tannic). In any case, don’t pick a top-quality wine for this kind of dish, as it will likely be spoiled by a tomato pairing. A supple wine with understated tannins is best.
All in all, you have to keep in mind that the tomato isn’t wine’s best friends, but there are bottles with which it can get along just fine. Save your special bottles for another time and enjoy a sharing wine!