Cucumbers are such a neat trick of nature. They reach peak season in early summer, just when their crisp, cooling character is needed most. It’s the perfect time to explore less common varieties in farmers markets, like tennis ball-sized lemon cucumbers and slender, snakelike Armenian cucumbers.
While often relegated to garnish status, cucumbers can be the star of a meal, whether raw or pickled in sandwiches and salads, or sautéed, braised or roasted. They’re also a flexible match for nearly any fish, dairy, fruit or herbs. Regardless of use, the right wine can bring out some of their more subtle, complex flavors.
Though most of a cucumber’s astringency is in the peel, it also contains a compound called cucurbitacin that lends a slight bitterness throughout. To avoid accentuating that characteristic in your wine, pick a dry, fruity white like Pinot Gris from Alsace or Oregon. Its honeyed pear and cantaloupe flavors will bash any bitter notes into submission.
Cucumbers are in the melon family, and they can have flavors akin to unripe honeydew or watermelon. The inherent melon flavors of Verdejo run from green to ripe and luscious, and the wine has crisp citrus notes that sidle up comfortably to a cucumber’s juicy crunch.
A cucumber’s fresh, grassy character is why it’s often seen as a must in salads and green juices. Food-friendly Grüner Veltliner shares those green notes, which show up as everything from celery to gooseberry and tarragon. Its mouthwatering acidity will also help tease out the cucumber’s sweetness.
Like lettuce, cucumber has a high moisture content that lends a delicate, sometimes crunchy texture and a refreshing taste. Preserve this simple, elegant character with a wine that won’t overwhelm, like Muscadet. Light and savory flavors of citrus zest and seashell will play nice with cucumber’s gentler side.