6 things you need to think about when pairing wine and vegetarian food
If you think it’s difficult to pair wine and vegetarian food, think again. It’s no trickier than it is for those who eat meat or fish.
True, vegetarian dishes tend to include more ingredients than a simple steak or piece of fish but if you focus on the style of the dish and the way it’s cooked it’s not hard to come up with a delicious wine match.
Here are six things to think about:
How the food is cooked
Is the dish a light dish like a salad or a hot dish like a casserole. The former will call for a lighter wine (generally a crisp dry white or rosé) than the latter which is more likely to go with a medium to full-bodied red. Fried foods like fritters always pair well with sparkling wine.
Does one vegetable e.g. mushrooms or asparagus dominate?
If so match that ingredient. Mushroom dishes for example generally work well with pinot noir, butternut squash with a rich white like a chardonnay and asparagus - contrary to the general wisdom - with all kinds of different wines.
Does it contain a meat substitute?
Veggie sausages and burgers or soy mince behave very much like their equivalent meat-based versions with wine so check the website for recipes and ingredients like sausages or spaghetti bolognese.
Does it come from a particular country or region e.g. Italy or the middle-east
In which case match the wine to that style of food - a southern Italian red works well with baked pasta dishes such as lasagne for example and a crisp dry white or rosé with mezze
Is the dish spicy?
Spicy food tends to benefit from wines with a touch of sweetness like riesling and pinot gris. Full bodied fruity rosés also work well. But remember there are different kinds of spice - a zesty Thai green curry pairs better with an aromatic white like pinot gris or a punchy New Zealand sauvignon blanc while a rich aubergine curry would work better with a red.
Are pulses involved?
If so, good news! As they’d tell you in Tuscany pulses like beans and chickpeas are an excellent foil for a fine red wine like a good Chianti Classico or Brunello di Montalcino.
The only other thing that need concern you is whether the wine is suitable for vegetarians i.e. whether any animal products are used in the fining process. Most supermarket own brand wines will give this information on the back label otherwise you’ll need to check with the producer or shop you buy from.
For more insights and ideas see this post I wrote for Decanter on which wines to drink with vegetarian food
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