The easiest and most successful food and wine pairing advice I ever give is this: pair regionally. You're cooking pasta with a Bolognese sauce? Try a Sangiovese di Romagna. Planning on cassoulet? Go Madiran or Cahors. Not always the creative option, but the classic pairings work because they've been working for hundreds of years in parts of the world where wine has a place on the dinner table. This advice applies to spin-offs as well. Have a take on a classic dish? Let's try a similar wine to its regional partner, made somewhere else.
Niçoise Salad hails from Nice, the Provençal city on the Mediterranean coast. It's a great summer meal and if you grow a garden, you can source half the grocery list (cherry tomatoes, green beans, chives, fingerling potatoes and parsley). Western Living recently published The Dirty Apron's take on the dish, Warm Nicoise-Style Salad, and you can expect to find it in their upcoming cookbook. I'll admit that I took The Dirty Apron's recipe and reintroduced two classic elements, soft boiled eggs and canned tuna, but it will work either way.
The classic wine that is drunk with Niçoise salad is dry rosé from Provence, especially Bandol. Grapes like Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Cinsaut bring characters of soft berry fruit, herb and spice note. The wine has bright and fresh acidity, it loves tuna, and has no problem handling vegetables like green beans, which can sometimes clash.
And now for the spin-off wine: Nichol Vineyard Pinot Gris. This is one of the Okanagan's most recognized pink wines from a great Naramata producer. It's made from Pinot Gris, a white grape, which like Nichol's, can have purple skins. After 36 hours of the juice sitting in contact with its crushed skins, it picks up a lovely hue. And while it's not technically a rosé, it drinks like one. The wine is vibrant with a slight oily texture, perfumed notes, rosewater and lavender. It is absolutely magic with the salad.
A wide variety of pink styles will work. Try the salad with some of these wines, available on My Wine Canada:
Elephant Island Orchard - 2011 Pink Elephant (sparkling)
Jake Skakun is a writer and sommelier from Vancouver, currently living in Toronto. He can be found most days pulling corks and twisting caps at the Black Hoof. He Tweets and Instagrams @jakeskakun.