Tomato season is upon us! Brightly colored, flavorful, juicy tomatoes are spilling over farmers’ market boxes and store shelves. Romas, Black Krims, and Brandywines are making appearances at almost every meal at my house. But what to drink with these perfect summer fruits?
Pairing wine with tomatoes can be challenging, but it is definitely not impossible. Whether you serve your tomatoes straight off the vine, in a salad, off the grill, in a sauce, or on a pizza, there's a wine for you to create that perfect pairing.
Tomatoes pretty much have it all - great texture, mouthwatering acidity, and a juicy sweetness. When adding wine to this already perfect equation, you don’t want to overpower the fruity nuances with a heavy, tannic wine. In other words, save your full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon for later and reach for a crisp, dry, acidic white, rosé, light red, or even a sparkling wine.
The Challenges of Tomatoes & Wine
Pairing wine with food is always an act of balancing acidity, fat, sweetness, saltiness, and texture.
So, why are tomatoes so challenging to pair with wine? Acidity. Tomatoes are a juicy fruit, packed with acid.
If you pair a tomato with a full-bodied, lower-acid wine like, say, a Chardonnay, the wine will lose any pronounced flavors and come across flat. What you're looking for is a hand-in-hand, balanced match that lets each component shine through. Let's break this down a little.
4 Guidelines When Pairing Wine with Tomatoes
- Consider the food preparation or cooking style. Fresh, raw tomatoes are usually higher in acidity and require a wine with a similar profile. Cooking tomatoes actually lowers their acidity a little and can allow for a broader selection of wines, including some lighter red varieties.
- Choose white wines that are lean, crisp, and vibrantly acidic. Higher acid wines pair well with tomatoes' acidity. Try avoiding wines with lower acidity or heavy oak aging. Look for Sancerre, Soave Classico, Falanghina, or Sauvignon Blanc.
- Avoid heavy, tannic reds. Excessively heavy or tannic wines can overpower the tomato's fruitiness. Look for fruity, refreshing reds that are light to medium in body. Barbera and Sangiovese are budget-friendly and food-loving reds to look for.
- Keep rosé and sparkling wines in mind. Rosé provides a bit more body, while preserving acidity. Plus, it's hot outside, and this chilled wine, made from red grapes, fits the bill for a heftier preparation. I find that pairing sparkling rosé wine with a chilled caprese salad proves an impeccable match.
5 Wine Pairings with Tomato Recipes from the Kitchn
1. Tomato Salads
Your options are open here! Look for fruity wines with high acidity, like a dry sparkling wine, Sauvignon Blanc, Fiano, Sancerre, Albariño, or Falanghina.
- Recipe - Caprese Salad
- Wine Pairing - Santiago Ruiz Albariño Blend, Rias Baixas, Spain, 2013, $20 or Schramsberg Brut Rosé, North Coast, California, 2010, $35
2. Tomato Soup
Chilled, summery soups, made with uncooked tomatoes, also call for crisp wine. Try pairing with Chenin Blanc, Soave Classico, or a rosé. For a classic cooked tomato soup, choose a light red like Grenache or Barbera. And don't forget the grilled cheese sandwich!
- Recipe - Gazpacho
- Wine Pairing - My Essential Grenache Rosé, Provence, France, 2013, $15 or Protea Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa, 2013, $17
3. Green Tomatoes
Don't overlook end-of-the-season green tomatoes. These tart, under-ripe fruits make excellent salsa and are terrific fried, served alongside Grüner Veltliner, Vinho Verde, or Verdicchio. These crisp, dry whites oftentimes exhibit "green" herbal and citrus notes that pair perfectly with green tomatoes.
- Recipe - Fried Green Tomatoes
- Wine Pairing - Loimer "Lois" Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria, 2013, $14
4. Roasted or Braised Tomatoes
When you cook tomatoes, you decrease the acidity a little and increase tomatoes' richness and intensity. Look for a light- or medium-bodied red like a Côtes du Rhône rouge or Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.
- Recipe - Gnocchi Skillet with Chicken Sausage and Tomatoes
- Wine Pairing - E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge, Rhône, France, 2010, $15
5. Tomato Sauce
Wines like Sangiovese or Barbera pair beautifully with tomato sauce. These food-friendly reds are high in acidity, medium in body, and light in tannins, making them perfectly suited for a rich, tomato sauce.
- Recipe - Slow-Roasted Tomato Sauce
- Wine Pairing - G. D. Vajra, Barbera d'Alba Superiore DOC, Piemonte, Italy, 2012, $24
What are your favorite wines to pair with tomatoes? Remember that rules are made to be broken or at least experimented with, so let me know if you have had a killer pairing that didn't quite follow these suggestions. Has anyone ever paired wine with a tomato dessert? No matter what you are sipping, cheers to summer's most celebrated ingredient!