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Vegan Food and Wine Pairing: How to Pair Wine with Vegan Food

With media interest in vegan food and vegan-friendly wine at an unprecedented high, you might wonder what sort of wines pair with vegan food best. Is it even OK to drink wine with vegan food? How do I know if my wine is vegan? And how do I craft plant-based wine pairings as good as their carnivorous counterparts? So here's the lowdown.

What makes vegan wine vegan?

Vegans are only slightly more restricted than vegetarians when it comes to wine drinking. The issue is in the fining process which removes any solid particles from the wine. Some wines are fined with animal products like gelatin and isinglass (fish bladder) which rules them out for both vegetarians and vegans. Other producers, particularly of fine wines, use egg whites which would obviously be unacceptable to vegans. Some wines, however, are unfined for extra flavour and texture so those wouldn't cause any problems.

How do I know if wine is vegan?

Fortunately most supermarket own label wines specify whether they’re suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Many online retailers give this information on branded wines too though in the absence of this it makes sense to check with the producer for reassurance. Retailers are also increasingly making it easy to find vegan wines online, for example… 

Vegan wine options at Waitrose

Vegan wine options at Sainsbury’s

Vegan wine options at Majestic

Tesco’s wines for Veganuary

Vegan wine beyond just the drinking

That said veganism carries with it a whole approach to food which may affect your attitude to wine. You may well want to avoid wines made from vines that are treated with pesticides or to which products like enzymes are added. Organic and biodynamic wines are likely to appeal.

You may also be attracted by wines that are made from indigenous or wild yeasts or which use a minimum of or no added sulphur in which case you should look out for so-called ‘natural’ wines, a somewhat controversial description which basically refers to wines that are made with what is referred to as 'minimal intervention'.

Vegan Wine Pairing Fundamentals

The style of food you’re eating will always have implications for the type of wine you drink. If your diet is largely plant-based you may find white wines are a better match though pulses like lentils and beans and richly flavoured ingredients such as aubergines (eggplant) and mushrooms can easily handle the tannins of a medium to full-bodied red. Raw dishes like salads tend to work well with crisp whites and rosés.

But as with meat, fish and dairy it’s more about the way you cook a dish than the base ingredient. Tofu, for example, has no significant flavour of its own - it depends what you put with it.

Five-spiced tofu nuggets by Elly Curshen; the pairing is more about the sauce than the tofu!

Spicy foods pair with wines with a touch of sweetness like a pinot gris or riesling while umami-rich Japanese dishes generally go with wines that are aged on their lees like white burgundy, muscadet and champagne, as well, of course, as sake.

Read on for more wine pairing ideas for various types of vegan cuisines and vegetables.

Vegan Wine with Vegan Food: The Plant-Based Pairings are Endless

Pairing wine with vegan food follows the same fundamentals as any dish; it’s all about pairing complimentary flavors and textures to create a harmonious balance that elevates both the food and the wine. To find the perfect vegan wine for your meal, start with the ingredients. To give you a head start, here are my wine pairing suggestions for popular vegan ingredients (and the dishes that are made from them):

Mushroom Wine Pairings - the king of umami, with wine pairing options as diverse as Champagne, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, depending on the dish.

Cauliflower Wine Pairings - Especially grilled or roasted cauliflower, in which case go for a white Rhône or similar blend or an oaked white rioja.

Eggplant/Aubergine Wine Pairings - Usually a hearty dry red! But for cold eggplant dishes, go for a dry rosé.

Zucchini / Courgette Wine Pairings - It’s more about the flavours you put with them than the ingredient itself, but typically we’re talking a crisp unoaked white wine more than a red.

Red and Green Pepper Wine Pairings - Again, it all depends on how they are cooked. Red pepper soup pairs well with a dry white like a picpoul or albarino, while rich and sweet grilled peppers goes better with a young rioja. You’ll find more wine suggestions for specific pepper dishes in the post.

Squash and Pumpkin Wine Pairings - An autumn favourite. Roast squash tends to favour rich white wines like oak-aged chardonnay whereas pumpkin or butternut squash soup would generally work better with an unoaked one. Similarly for squash salads.

Kale Wine Pairings - A slightly bitter vegetable which can make wines taste sweeter so you may want to choose a slightly drier fresher style

Brussels Sprouts Wine Pairings - Yes, sprouts! Particularly vegan recipes for sprouts that include citrus, where a white wine with tropical fruit goes well (think a sauvignon-semillon blend or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc)

Vegan Wine and Popular Cuisines

Veganism is not limited to any particular cuisine, and neither should be the wines that accompany plant-based dishes. That said, there are several cuisines from around the world that lend themselves particularly well to vegan dining, and thus should influence your wine match:

1. Asian Cuisine: and I don’t just mean stir-fry. The flavors of Asian cuisine can vary greatly depending on the part of the continent you're in. For aromatic vegan Thai or Vietnamese dishes, think aromatic or fruity whites like Gewurztraminer or Alsace Pinot Gris (see more wine pairings for Thai food). As for Chinese food, be guided by the most intensely flavoured dish - see my extensive list of Chinese wine pairings to guide you.

2. Middle Eastern Cuisine: a classic vegan option with its myriad fresh ingredients and vibrant flavors. Where a classic mezze involves such dishes from falafel to fattoush to vine leaves to hummus, my friend Sally Prosser suggests reaching for rosé (see more about what to drink with Middle Eastern food).

3. Mexican Cuisine: Mexican cuisine is full of bold flavors and vibrant spices. Of course, you could be tempted by a margarita or even a beer - both superb vegan drink options that go with Mexican food. But wine can work, too, particularly sauvignon blanc or a dry rosé. See my wine, beer and other pairings for Mexican food and six of the best drinks to pair with tacos.

4. Indian Cuisine: India has a long-standing tradition of vegetarianism with a cuisine rich in plant-based ingredients including pulses, grains, vegetables, and spice. It’s also one of the more challenging cuisines to pair as the dishes vary so wildly in both flavour, texture, and of course heat. Read my guide on what to pair with curry for some ideas.

Vegan recipes with wine pairings 

Here’s a round-up of favourite vegan recipes I’ve collected which are really so good they deserve a suitable wine pairing. Click through the links for the recipe and wine pairing suggestions to match.

Roast Pumpkin with Savoury Sage & Pumpkin Seed Granola from Daniel Acevedo

Baingan Bharta - Indian Roasted Smoky Eggplant from Romy Gill

Parsnip, Miso, Oat and Shallot Boulangere from Gizzi Erskine

Burmese Mango Salad with Peanut and Lime from Meera Sodha

More vegan food and wine inspiration:

See all of my posts on wine pairings for vegetable and salad dishes

Which wines to pick with vegetarian food

6 vegan recipes that meat eaters will love

Top image ©shellygraphy at shutterstock.com

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Comments: 7 (Add)

smiley one on January 8 2024 at 19:18

Unprecedented use of 'unprecedented'

The real question is Kombucha : is it plant or animal based? because fungi are in a grey zone. Until Vegans make a clear declaration, we have no idea if Kombucha, Mushrooms, fermented alcohol, or indeed penicillin are acceptable.

Fiona Beckett on January 16 2018 at 13:14

Thanks, Angeline. Hadn't picked that up.

Angeline Bayly on January 16 2018 at 12:24

As ever, on-trend with a hot topic!
I read on decanter.com today that the closures are also important eg beeswax seals and a milk-based glue used in agglomerated corks.

Bob Lindo on January 10 2016 at 15:25

All Camel Valley wines are, and have been, suitable for vegans for 25 years

Tony Milanowski on January 11 2015 at 14:18

Many Vegans would find that your recommendation Biodynamic wines to problematic as they involve animal products in the vineyard.

The use of Prep 501 (manure in cow horn) and sprayed on the vines, which is fundamental to biodynamic certification would be considered by some Vegans as be contrary to their philosophy.

The other compost preps that involve use of animal internal organs would also be unacceptable.

Finally Steiner advocated 'ashing' vineyard pest which involves capturing problematic animals (including birds, rabbits etc), burning them (whole or important parts of them) and then distributing them over a vineyard.

Fiona Beckett on January 3 2014 at 12:31

Great to hear! Hope other producers will say if they do too.

a'Beckett's Vineyard on January 3 2014 at 12:23

Good article, good vegan friendly wine is out there including some from our vineyard here in England.

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