It takes a talented cook to create a spectacular vegetarian dinner. A cook that can pair up the perfect wine with a meatless menu is a champ. The trick to matching wine with vegetarian food is to creatively produce the flavors to prepare the palate for the wine. Fiona Beckett, on her Matching Food & Wine website offers some great tips. Vegetarian food offers such a diversity of flavors it is not difficult to hit the right note with some thoughtful planning.
Normally the protein in meat is what tames the tannins in red wine, so generally you’ll want to serve mature wines with slightly less tannin such as the best of Napa Valley, Tuscany, Burgundy and Bordeaux. You don’t want to overpower the subtle flavors in the recipe. Grain and mushrooms (porcini) dishes work very well with these wines, as do pasta or risotto with a mushroom or truffle reduction sauce. Sprinkle these combinations with a freshly grated hard cheese from cow’s milk – parmesan or asagio for example.
Roasting or grilling your vegetables for carmelisation adds a depth that goes well with red wines and tames the tannins. Beans, pulses, cooked tomato sauces and dark vegetables such as eggplant are appropriate. Some Chefs recommend wines produced in cooler regions to complement the freshness of vegetarian dishes. Boost the flavor with soy sauce, miso, balsamic vinegar and chestnuts. Spice it up with ginger, cinnamon and five spice.
It is very easy for wine to overshadow vegetarian food, even when serving rich white wines. You’ll want to follow the food prep basics for red wine and pair it up with crisp, elegant white wines. Make your sauces rich and buttery with heavy cream. (A Chardonnay is good with this.) Top your dishes with tasty crumbs and grated cheese to serve au gratin.
Use lentils, coco beans, roasted pumpkin seeds or pine nuts, sweet potatoes, roasted red peppers and butternut squash. Almonds and hazelnuts draw out the oaky flavor of certain white wines. Add a little creaminess to your vinaigrettes. Some Chefs suggest a Sauvignon blanc to match uniquely tasting vegetables such as asparagus or artichokes.
Go with Your Taste Buds
When attempting to match wines with vegetarian food, trust your own sense of taste as you would with meat dishes. There really is no wrong answer. A rose wine goes with just about everything. Try pairing your wine with foods from the same growing region, but don’t rule out a great Argentinean wine with Italian food. Test a Zinfandel with fired up Mexican dishes. Experiment! Bon appétit!
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