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Wines to Pair with Summer Tomatoes

It’s the height of summer, and tomatoes are at their juicy, sweet best right now.  I’ve been eating them in salads, on burgers, and even by themselves.  As you know all too well if you grow your own tomatoes, the season for these beauties is a short one, and as you know if you’ve ever even tasted a home-grown tomato, there’s simply no comparison between the sweet flavor of the real thing and the watery, lifeless store-bought version.  So anyway, tomatoes are the thing to be eating right now.  But what to drink with them?

Pairing wine with tomatoes can be tricky.  You want a wine that doesn’t overwhelm the delicate sugars of the summer tomato, so don’t reach for something strongly tannic.  You also don’t want something with too much acidity, as tomatoes are acidic enough already.  What you really want is a wine that will bring out the fruitiness and subtle sweetness of the tomato, showcasing this short-seasoned treat–because, really, it’s good enough to shine on its own.

Although you want to be careful not outcompete the tomato flavor, raw tomato dishes like caprese salad and gazpacho need a wine with a bit of acidity to match the tangy quality of this summer fruit (not vegetable!) in its freshest state.  Try a fruit-forward Sauvignon Blanc or even a Pinot Grigio.  The bright, crisp qualities of these wines will match up to the acidity of the tomato, while the fruit will play up its sweet, juicy characteristics.

Cooking tomatoes lowers their acidity, so if you’re going with a richer, cooked tomato dish such as pasta with a fresh tomato sauce or stuffed tomatoes (fill them with fresh breadcrumbs and chopped basil, or cous cous with herbs), go with a lighter, fruity red wine.  Play with what you like here; just be careful to avoid overtly tannic wines, or you won’t be able to taste the tomatoes.  Try a Merlot or fruity Pinot Noir.  The 2008 Les Jamelles Pinot Noir would be perfection.

If your or your neighbor’s garden is overflowing with ripe red tomatoes right now, try having a tomato-themed outdoor dinner party!  Serve a caprese salad with a fruity Sauvignon Blanc, and follow it with simple pasta in a fresh tomato sauce with a soft Pinot Noir.  Extra points for a tomato dessert!

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