By Nick Adams
Vegetarian dishes allow for a broad selection of wines to choose from – including sparkling – hence the longer blog post for this one. In general, though, it is harder to match dry and big, tannic red wines – they tend to sit aside a bit from many vegetarian dishes. If you enjoy these wines I would suggest going for bolder flavoured dishes and maybe chargrilled or roasted vegetables, or for non-vegans, serve with some grilled cheese as well.
I often think the key to matching is: does it include tomato in the recipe? If so, the naturally high acid in tomatoes requires a high acid wine to compliment the flavour – which could be red as well as white. For example, a homemade pizza, with a rich tomato or roasted vegetable base – could work well with an Italian red, if not too tannic; it would also work well with a good ratatouille.
Spicy and rich dishes
If you like some spice – such as a vegetable curry or samosa for example – then a lightly oaked white can also work, along with spicier white grapes such as Gewürztraminer, Pinot Grigio, Grüner Veltliner.
If you chargrill vegetables as mentioned above (winter root vegetables are a delight at this time of year) then you can be bolder with the wine, due to their “toasty” character: try rosés as well as reds. A lot also depends on if you are using pastry and/or eggs (not relevant for Vegans of course). For example, with tarts or pies, a gently oaked Chardonnay would match well – you can serve a richer and fuller bodied white. This is especially so if you have a gratin (cheese) element such as with an onion and cheese flan. The stronger the cheese element, the bolder the wine choice can be.
Asparagus is a good option too and works well with most Sauvignon Blancs for example – including with Hollandaise sauce. Another wine which compliments asparagus is Viognier.
One of my favourite dishes is risotto with wild mushrooms and a vegetable stock (with Parmesan/Parmignano shavings for non-vegans). This works very well with Pinot Noirs from Europe or the New World.
With salads and crudités, a lot depends on the intensity of the leaves and vegetables, and the dressing combination. At the blander end of the scale, for example, is iceberg lettuce, maybe at the other endives such as radicchio, or frissé. Then there is onion – the minute this enters the fray the whole salad “warms” up. Add watercress, or rocket, and the peppery levels increases; just a few coriander leaves add citric notes. I think it very difficult to be at all definitive here other than to say that white wines invariably work better – and again unoaked. You can also consider sparkling wines.
Nothing beats a mixed plate of blanched, crunchy vegetables – crudités – and I think especially when served with Mayonnaise, or even better aioli! If you use these richer sauce accompaniments, then you can indulge in more medium bodied and even lightly oaked white wines. Vegans can go for a bold flavoured salad dressing.
A final note on the ever-popular beetroot. With its firm earthy notes and fleshy texture, it is difficult, but not impossible! Lighter Grenache-based reds and rosés from the south of France work well here.
3 perfect wines to go with vegetarian dishes
Here are some good all-rounder suggestions – all are suitable for vegan and vegetarians:
A finely textured supple rosé with bright red fruits and a herbal touch. Will work well with bolder flavoured dishes and roasted or chargrilled vegetables, including tomato and beetroot
Clean, vibrant with fine notes of stone fruits and chamomile, with a lick of oak. This will match with many vegetable dishes and salads
Smooth and rich but not heavy, with silky tannins and bright blackberry fruit and peppery spice. This award-winning wine is perfect with anything with spicy or grilling elements, as well as richer flavoured vegetables such as aubergine, roasted peppers, pan-fried onions, or olives