My wife planted three raised beds this year and discovered she has a green thumb. We’ve enjoyed lettuces, Swiss chard, fraises des bois, radishes, scallions, celery and eggplant. Our zucchini runneth over. The Brussels sprouts look like they won’t make it, but peppers are beginning to ripen, and now tomatoes — Early Girl and Mr. Stripey. I’m looking forward to some Mexican cucumbers that are supposed to taste of lime but never seem to make it into the house. My wife says they are delicious.
She has an informal competition with her mother, who is plying us with green beans, Chinese long beans, hot peppers, sweet peppers, more zucchini and tomatoes. We will be overrun with butternut squash in a few weeks. We’re now overflowing with figs, which mercifully have slowed to about 60 ripe, sugary orbs a day, having crescendoed just as we took on a delivery of the 25 pounds of Georgia peaches my wife ordered through the Peach Truck. We’ve been frantically googling recipes for jams and barbecue sauces.
What to drink with this cornucopia, aside from lots of water to stay hydrated in the heat? We traditionally think of pairing wines with meat or fish, not vegetables. But just as we have an abundant variety of foods from the garden this time of year, there are several options to match wines. The keys are acidity and fruitiness.
Let’s start with those tomatoes. Their acidity is challenging for wine pairing. Remember to match acid with acid. Acidic foods make wines taste less acidic. So tart wines will taste fruitier when paired with tomatoes, while richer wines will skew toward the flabby side. Rosé is an obvious choice. Refreshing acidity and bright fruit make it the iconic wine of summer and an ideal partner to tomatoes. The inexpensive Paul D. rosé from Austria that I recommend this week would work, as would earlier recommendations, such as the juicy, exuberant Bedell rosé from Long Island or the elegant Peyrassol La Croix from Provence.
And remember my mantra: Bubbles go with everything. A sparkling rosé, even a Spanish cava or Italian prosecco rosato, can match the acidity of raw tomatoes and bring out fruit flavors in the wine. High-acid whites such as sauvignon blanc, albariño and pinot grigio also do well with vegetables. The Masseria del Feudo Grillo from Sicily, which I recommended last week, speaks to summer and its foods with citrusy acidity and fruit.
Our first eggplant became tempura, along with green beans and zucchini blossoms. A racy white is ideal here, such as grüner veltliner from Austria — or closer to home, Galen Glen’s from Pennsylvania. Grüner’s acidity and floral character matches vegetables and salads, which are traditionally considered unfriendly to wine. Italian white varieties such as greco di tufa, fiano and roero d’arneis would work here, too.
We shouldn’t neglect red wines, of course. The same guideline holds: Light and fruity reds with good acidity will pair best with the variety of foods from your garden. This style of wine is increasingly available, as winemakers adapt to consumer preferences for lighter, lower-alcohol wines to match with our modern, more plant-based diets.
One of my favorite reds recently was a 2018 nero d’avola from Martha Stoumen Wines in California. This grape, common in Sicily, makes dependable wines for grilling season, most often resembling syrah from Côtes du Rhône. Stoumen’s rendition, from fruit grown in California’s Mendocino County, is pure gossamer. Its flavors seem airborne, flitting around your mouth like a swallowtail and touching down on your palate just long enough to tantalize you into wanting another sip. With 30 minutes in the refrigerator, it’s an ideal summer red for lighter fare and weighty conversation.
Ah yes, the grill. Even with summer’s garden bounty at its fullest, there may still be a hunk of animal protein sizzling next to the zucchini on the grill. We can always revert to traditional wine pairings based on the meat or fish that headlines the menu and go for fuller-bodied, tannic wines such as cabernet sauvignon. Malbec from Mendoza is a natural partner to a meat-centric Argentine asado feast. But when letting the fruits of our garden take center stage — or center plate — I like to keep it light.
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