Wine pairing is one of those things many of us wish we could master. It helps us when hosting or attending dinner parties and events, and can even improve our cooking. There are many factors to consider when finding harmony between food and drink. Texture, variety depth, acid, and sweetness all come into play. Not to mention understanding how to compliment flavors. For a novice this can feel like an impossible task, but thankfully our guest writer this week has broken things down into simple terms. This helps make Pairing Wine with Vegetarian + Vegan Food a breeze.
Guest Post: Pairing Wine with Vegetarian + Vegan Food
Countless articles, lectures, and books have been written about how to pair wine with animal-based meals. We know to pair red wine with beef and white wine with fish, but what goes with a mushroom risotto? Traditional wine pairing logic doesn’t explain how to create delicious pairings when there’s no meat involved. What in the world are the vegetarians, vegans, and meatless Monday masses to do?!
As the founder of Plant & Vine, finding delicious wine pairings for plant-based dishes is my mission. I’m all about creating meatless meals and exploring the wine pairing options that compliment them. Wine pairings can be elegant, surprising, invigorating, and refreshing, and have the potential to wake a meal up. Let’s explore six common wine pairing principles and how they apply to vegetarian and vegan food.
Pair great with great and humble with humble
As the revered Karen MacNeil in Wine Bible so famously wrote, match a wine to its food. A bean burrito prepared on the fly does not deserve your most expensive Bordeaux. But, if you’re having a dinner party with good friends and homemade Portobello Wellington to celebrate a recent work promotion, now is a good time. Whether it’s a fancy recipe, special company, or both, let the occasion dictate how to dress up or dress down your wine pairing.
Match delicate to delicate and bold to bold
If you’re eating a five alarm fire curry, don’t quench your scorching mouth with Pinot Noir. It might taste like water but you’ll lose all of the delicious nuances that make wine unique. Likewise, if you’re eating fettucine and pair it with a Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine will overwhelm the dish and your palate will forget all about the main course. Dishes with bold spices call for bold wines and softer, creamier dishes call for wines with similar characteristics.
Salt works with wine’s acid and sweetness
Use this pairing concept to your advantage. Salty foods such as cheese or soy-sauced glazes will dazzle with a high-acidity wine like Riesling. Both the food and the wine will pop with flavor. Thai green curry, for example, with delicious spices and a little bit of heat, pairs perfectly with a crisp, slightly sweet Riesling.
High fat meals warrant rich wine or bubbles
Pulling from the wisdom of Rule #2, if your meal is rich in fat, whether from avocados, oil, vegan butter, or creamy, nutty sauces, add a well-structured wine to the equation so your pairing is balanced. A tannic red wine provides palate-cleaning properties so your mouth can refresh between bites. If red wine doesn’t fit the mood, bubbles in sparkling wine will have the same effect.
Wine should be sweeter than dessert
If your dessert is sweeter than your wine, your wine is going to taste bitter and boring. When serving wine with your dessert, go for a less sweet dessert like a fruit tart and ask your local wine shop for their best sweet wines. If you’re pairing with cupcakes, cake, or another really sweet dessert, you’ll want to amp up the sweetness with a cream sherry or tokaji aszu.
You don’t always have to follow the rules
There are a lot of theories and concepts behind how to pair wine with food that can be a source of anxiety for both new and experienced wine drinkers. If you just want to pick a bottle, pop the cork, and start your meal, that is ok too. No need to stress on the perfect pairing because truth be told, there is no one right answer in the wine pairing world. Lots of wines can pair with lots of dishes for different reasons. If you like a pairing what isn’t classic or textbook but you think it is delicious, then you have found wine pairing success. Cheers!
Learn more about the author
Kerrie is a photographer, wine nerd, and lifelong learner—currently spending evenings in photography classes and studying for the Wine Spirit Education Trust Level III exam. She has never been satisfied with following a recipe word-for-word and prefers the surprises that emerge when veering from suggestion, in life and in cooking. After being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 30, Kerrie began experimenting with a plant-based diet and hasn’t looked back since.
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