While most wine pairing articles stick to the tried and true ‘red with meat, white with fish and chicken’ advice, what about veggie meals? With more people turning towards vegetarian dishes for elaborate mains, how to pair the best wine with your veggies is just as important as matching a red with your barbecue.
Should you choose red or white?
Again, unlike when pairing wines with meat dishes, there is no ‘wrong’ answer. While some people swear you should only have white with tofu and red with pasta, there really is no reason to restrict yourself.
Go with the robustness, acidity and sweetness in the wine, rather than worrying about archaic pairing rules. Maybe try a sparkling white with your tofu, or a full-bodied, heady white with your favourite pasta dish. Wine pairings can be as innovative as you like.
Don’t avoid rosè
You may instinctively shelve the rosè when looking for the perfect wine, but dry roses made from traditional red grapes like Syrah and Pinot Noir go brilliantly with all kinds of vegetarian dishes, and don’t overpower the freshness of the flavour.
Good vegetarian dishes are all about the ingredients and allow the natural flavours to come through. A good wine will help and complement the flavours and elevate the dish into something really special.
This is good advice even if you’re buying globally. Think about the kinds of foods you’re eating and remember that across Europe all wines and food grow together regionally. So, search for wines from similar regions as the food you’re cooking.
For example, a rich ragout laced with Mediterranean herbs will naturally pair beautifully with a hearty bottle from southern France, Italy or Spain. A cheese-based dish would be best served with a delicate wine from a colder growing region, including Bordeaux and Burgundy.
Having said that, don’t completely ignore Australian, South African, Argentinian or Californian wine just because you’re eating Italian or French food. Wines from similar climates as your ingredients can also work well.
Match like with like
If you’re having a three-course fancy dinner party, then go all out with the wine. But if it’s a humble evening pasta dish, then you don’t need to fork out for a vintage wine. For celebration meals, go for a finer vintage, as they stand up much better to complex flavours in food.
Also match delicate to delicate, and robust to robust. If you serve a subtly flavoured wine with a complex spicy dish, then it’s going to taste like nothing. Bold food needs a bold wine, which is why Zinfandels work so well with Mexican dishes, for examples.
There is no heritage for wines that go with Thai and Indian food, but it does go very well if you choose wisely. The ripeness and residual sugars in a sweet white wine will temper any heat and draw out other flavours in spicier dishes. For example, a German Riesling brings out the sweetness from vegetables used in Asian and Indian dishes.
Don’t overthink your choice and remember that wine is very versatile. Your own built-in palate preference is just as important as expert advice, because taste is subjective with wine as it is with everything else.