Pairing wine and food is one of the trickiest parts when it comes to turning a meal into a delightful and memorable feast. Things get even more complicated when you need to pair wines with vegetarian dishes, since most pairings are based on the food that contains meat or fish. However, the basic concept remains the same: you should find a match that brings out the best qualities of both food and wine. So, here is a quick guide that should help you make a match made in heaven between a wine and vegetarian dishes.
Being drier than red ones, white wines usually boast light body, which makes them ideal for summertime dinners. Let’s take Pinot Gris for example. It goes well with pasta, raw dishes, light salads and coconut milk, while Rolle should be paired with veggie stir fries, pasta, garlic and mild brie. You can also try it with zucchini and lemon spaghetti.
Internationally renowned Riesling has been proven to go well with Thai, Vietnamese and South-western food, especially if accompanied by barbecue sauce. Muscato D’Asti complements summer salads, light-cream sauces and all dishes with gorgonzola. Chardonnay, on the other hand, can be crisp and light or buttery and medium-bodied, so it is usually paired with potatoes, winter squash, legumes, risotto and goat’s cheese. Sparkling wines, such as a quality champagne, can also be paired with vegetarian dishes, and not be used only for special occasions. It’s light and quite acid and can be paired with appetizers, asparagus, butter or cream sauces. You can use it with Chinese vegetarian dishes, curries, Indian or Japanese dishes, mushrooms, peaches or vegetarian sushi. Finally, people have recently started pairing it with creamy avocado pasta.
Unlike its white counterpart, red wine is made with the pulp and skin of red and purple grapes, which give it that deep colour and health benefits, such as the high content of polyphenols. Red wines are typically much more full-bodied and go better with stronger flavours in food. For example, Pinot Noir, which is not the most light-bodied red wine, should be paired with mushrooms, Asian and Mediterranean food, as well as with fruit-based sauces and Camembert. Grenache, on the other hand, is usually a great match for grilled vegetables, risotto, some light Italian dishes, aubergine and fontina.
If you like Merlot and its soft tannins, try it with red sauces, grilled veggies, black olives, curry or sweet potatoes for maximal pleasure. Fans of Malbec should enjoy it with dishes containing barbecue sauce, baked potatoes, black pepper or asiago. Experiment with roasted cauliflower and garlic and you’ll discover a whole new world.
Barbera, renowned for its acidity, really goes well with any kind of pasta with tomato sauce, roasted vegetables, Mediterranean dishes, béchamel sauce or aged cheese. On the other hand, Mourvèdre should be enjoyed with mushrooms, roasted veggies, butter and all other earthly flavours, such as polenta with roasted Brussel sprouts and wild mushrooms.
Sangiovese is another great red wine that can be a real treat with vegetarian dishes, such as roasted peppers, lasagne, any kind of pasta with tomato sauce or dishes with soy and teriyaki sauces. Syrah, famous for its full-bodied taste, should be enjoyed with olives, barbecue, grilled or roasted vegetables with sauces containing parmesan cheese, while Petite Syrah goes best with Mexican and Latin American dishes, rich foods and vegetarian pizzas. Finally, Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the wines that are full-bodied due to strong tannins, is great when accompanied by roasted or grilled vegetables, barbecue sauce, chimichurri, garlic and onion or aged cheddar.
As you can see, there are many combinations that have been tested over the years and these recommendations are based on the experience gained by vegetarians from all over the world. Still, your perfect combinations may be something completely different and unique, but you have to be bold enough to experiment. If you have little or no experience with wine pairing, we recommend you start with combinations that have been tested, before you start discovering other great pairings.