The Ginger Man

Archives: August 2016

Vegetarian – “Do they actually taste better?” (With wine that is…☺)

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Although I may be a wine enthusiast I am no way a vegetarian, I have had a lot of fun trying different types of wine with strictly vegetable dishes. Vegetable dishes may not have the richness or proteins of meat-based dishes but they aren’t as wine averse as we’ve been led to believe. It does take a little experimentation, however. Vegetables actually have an amazing depth and variety of flavor and they are rarely cooked alone.

That variety can make it difficult to find a wine that complements all those flavors.

Because of their natural sugars, many vegetables come across as sweet and some people prefer to balance that with a dry wine. Other people like to complement the sweetness with a fruity wine. The point behind pairing food and wine is to elevate them to something better than either is alone.

But since you rarely sit down with a plate of peppers and a glass of wine, the question often comes down to how the vegetable is prepared and what accompanies it. In short, there is no simple answer to what wine to pair with vegetables; no quick tip, like red with red meat, white with white meat.

The good news is that this means you get to try a lot of different wines. Actually that’s probably the best answer to the question. You may wind up puckering now and then, but here’s a tip I learned watching Master Sommelier and trained chef Andrea Immer: you can make just about any dish wine friendly if you season it with wine friendly ingredients. At the top of the list are shallotsgarlicthyme and olive oil.

Now what dish wouldn’t be improved by one of these? Some Good Wines to Start You Experimenting

  • Red Wines: Go for lighter, softer reds that tend toward either spicy or fruity.
    • Chianti, Merlot Pinot Noir, Shiraz and especially Zinfandel
  • White Wine: Most whites will work with vegetables, especially the brighter, non-oaky wines. Save the oaky Chardonnay for richer dishes.
    • Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Sparkling Wine

How to Begin Thinking about Pairing Prepared Vegetable Dishes

Since you probably won’t be pairing wine with raw vegetables, it’s more helpful to focus on the way the vegetables are prepared. In fact, some preparations, like roasting, can make vegetables even more wine friendly. Some tips:

  1. Roasting and grilling will caramelize the sugars in vegetables and give them a richness that’s almost meaty. Roasted vegetables can stand up to savory reds, like Merlot, Syrah or Zinfandel.
  1. Cream, butter and cheese add richness and body to vegetable dishes and they tend to pair well with oaky wines, like Chardonnay.
  1. Spicy dishes can go two ways. They can be balanced with a fruity wine, like Gewürztraminer, or enhanced with a bolder wine, like Merlot.
  1. Greens and herbal dishes tend to have a grassy freshness that can be easily overpowered, but pairs well with an equally herbaceous wine, like Sauvignon Blanc or a Gruner Veltliner.
  1. Tomatoes, which are acidic, will taste better with a relatively acidic red, like a Sangiovese.
  1. Pair dark, leafy greens like spinach or swiss chard with light reds such as Gamay; greens make full-bodied reds too astringent.
  1. Match mushrooms, lentils, miso and other earthy ingredients with an earthy red like Pinot  Noir.
  1. Tannins intensify heat, so for dishes with hot chiles, pour soft, fruity reds like Zinfandel.
  1. Protein-rich vegetarian dishes (with cheese, for instance) often stand up to tannic reds like Syrah.

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Again, pairing wine is a matter of personal taste. But here’s a cheat sheet I’ve pulled together from various sources and one I’ve used and enjoyed myself, to experiment.

Wine and Vegetable Pairs

White Wines
Chardonnay Chenin
Blanc
Gewürztraminer Pinot
Grigio
Riesling Sauvignon
Blanc
Sparkling White
Zinfandel
Asian
Dishes
x x x x x x
Beans x x
Cilantro, dill, parsley, basil x x
Citrus x x x
Corn x x
Curries x x
Dairy x
Eggplant x x
Garlic x x x
Mexican Spices x x
Mushrooms x
Onions x x
Potatoes x x
Roasted Vegetables x x
Tomatoes, Raw x
Vinaigrette x x x x
Red Wines
Chianti Merlot Pinit Noir Syrah Zinfandel
Beans x x x x x
Mexican Spices x
Mushrooms x
Roasted Vegetables x x x x x
Rosemary, bay, sage x x
Spices, Hot x
Tomatoes, Cooked x x
Tomatoes, Raw x