Wine can be paired with just about any meal, whether sweet or savory, but vegetables can present a unique challenge in the kitchen. That’s because the wine you choose to go with that vegetarian dish will depend on a number of things, including the vegetables you’ve chosen, the spices and other ingredients you’ve used, and even how you’ve cooked the dish.
At the same time, particular vegetarian dishes or vegetable sides pair better with wine than others. Heavier dishes, for one, like a vegetarian cassoulet or casserole, often lend themselves well to wine pairings, particularly reds. Also, veggies that are high in glutamic acids, such as mushrooms, complement wine really well too. But what about those leafy greens or those delicious carrots?
While a good general rule of thumb is to pick wines that have a similar flavor profile to what you’ve put in the dish, here are a few other things to consider before grabbing that wine bottle out of your wine rack, and pairing wines with vegetables.
If you’re cooking with other ingredients or seasonings that work well with wines, you can turn some of the hardest-to-pair vegetables into a dish that works well with a glass of wine. For example, sauté root vegetables, as they do in Provence during our cooking vacations, with olive oil, thyme, and shallots, and it’ll be much easier to find a complementary wine. Seasonings like paprika and soy sauce work the same way. Other vegetables that naturally work well with wines include fava beans, peas, leeks, and corn.
But what about vegetables that are more difficult to pair? Consider the way you cook them. When vegetables are roasted or barbecued, the sugars in the food break down, bringing out a richness and smokiness that goes well with many reds. Braising too can bring out a depth of flavor in vegetables. Or, if you steam and sauté your vegetables, you’ll have lighter flavors that you can balance with a dry wine, or complement with a fruity wine.
Some Suggested Wine and Vegetable Pairings
While another rule of thumb is to drink a wine that you enjoy with your meal, it never hurts to consider how that wine will affect your enjoyment of the dish either. So, if you’re tossing together a salad, consider a lighter, earthier wine, such as Cabernet Franc. If you’re having a tomato-based dish, consider a Chianti wine, since acidic vegetables tend to go better with acidic red wines.
One last consideration? Tannins in wine can actually increase the level of spiciness of your dish. So, if you’re cooking with chilies, be sure to go with a soft, fruity red.
Discover more about how to pair wine with vegetables during one of cooking vacations. Whether you’re traveling to Italy or France, local produce is a large part of the menu, and the chefs can help you figure out what wine best goes with that meal.
By Liz Hall
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