The Plant-Based Guide to Wine Pairing

I love wine. I love the variety of flavors, that they can be slowly sipped and savored, and of course because they contain alcohol. Because I am also a foodie, I am fascinated by food and wine pairings. As a busy mom, I am definitely not pairing wine to my food on a daily basis. As long as it has alcohol, it’ll do. But pairing the right wine to a meal can bring out all the right flavors in both.

When I first starting learning about food and wine pairings, it was hard to figure things out from a vegan perspective. Most pairing guides are based on pairing a wine to the star animal protein of each dish. But after some digging, I’ve discovered some good rules and general pairing ideas for plant based meals.

Tips, Tricks, and Basics:

  • Go from light wines to heavy wines over the course of a meal, just as you would with food. Lighter appetizer and salads, followed by heavier and protein rich entrees, then finished with a very sweet dessert.
  • Find the main flavors in a dish and either compliment the flavors, or contrast. In other words, choose similar flavors or the opposite in order to better highlight an ingredient. Sometimes a contrast can be refreshing, such as pairing a crisp and light wine with a heavy cream dish in order to create a refreshing balance.
  • Consider the cooking method. For example, steaming gives food a lighter feel while grilling imparts more flavor and heaviness.
  • Choose the food first. Wines vary tremendously. Although you could line up a whole row of Chardonnay, they would all taste different. If you have your food picked and know that you need a very dry Chardonnay, picking the right wine is a whole lot easier.
  • Consider acidity and sweetness when choosing a wine. Wines also vary in acidity, so it’s important to know the acidity of a particular brand and year of wine before you choose it. Pair acidic wines with acidic foods for balance and to prevent the acid from one overpowering the other. As for sweetness, always go for a wine that is sweeter than the dish.
  • Tannins are associated with body and heaviness of a wine. It can come across as bitterness, especially if the dish is too light. A good rule of thumb to remember is to pair heavy and high-tannin wines with plenty of protein.

Common Wine Pairings

Dry White

Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Semillon

Salads, green vegetables, light pastas, ravioli, rich and heavy cream sauces, fresh herbs, coconut milk, rich and simple dishes

Rich White

Chardonnay, Viogner, Marsanne

Avocado, spinach, squash, grilled veggies, roasted veggies, sauteed veggies, BBQ, tomato sauces, lime, risotto, beans, nuts, corn, tropical fruit

Sweet White

Riesling, Moscato, Chenin Blanc

Spices, citrus, apples, Asian dishes, eggplant, enchiladas, guacamole, curries

Sparkling

Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, Franciacorta

Rich and creamy sauces, vegan butter, salty foods, fried foods, popcorn, pastry, Asian food

Rose

Pinot Noir Rose, Garnacha Rose, Sangiovese Rose

Bold spices, light salads, pasta, rice, olives, melon, hummus, sandwiches, Greek food, Mexican food, Thai food

Light Red

Pinot Noir, Gamay, St. Laurent

Cherries, Berries, cabbage, potatoes, mushrooms, light dishes, basil, thyme, mustard, sweet potato, pumpkin

Medium Red

Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Grenache

Mushrooms, pasta with tomato sauce, bold dishes, acidity, rice, citrus, olives, fresh herbs

Robust Red

Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon

Black pepper, squash, mushrooms, citrus, cream sauces, vinegar, rich and heavy dishes, pizza, spices, strong herbs

Dessert

Port, Sherry, Madeira

Dried fruit, nuts, desserts, baked goods, chocolate

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