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Discover The Best Wine Pairings For Vegan Food

June 10, 2024 3:11 pm

Interest in vegan food and plant-based eating is on the rise. Increasingly popular challenges like Veganuary and trends like Meatless Monday show that many of us are introducing fully plant based meals into our diet.  Even if you’re not fully vegan, you may still be wondering which wines pair best with vegan or plant-based food. With media interest in vegan food and vegan-friendly wine at an unprecedented high, you might wonder what sort of wines pair with vegan food best.

When it comes to pairing wine with vegan food, it really depends on what you’re eating. You can have something crisp and light like a salad that pairs with crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Or you might have something richer and more umami, like a creamy mushroom or aubergine dish. A richer Chardonnay or even a Pinot Noir could be the ideal match for a hearty mushroom dish. Understanding the flavours and textures of the food you’re preparing will guide you in choosing the perfect wine to elevate your vegan dining experience.

Is it even OK to drink wine with vegan food?

Absolutely it is!  Almost all wine could be vegan, because fundamentally its made from Grapes, Water, Yeast and occasionally some other natural ingredients.  Wine becomes Un-Vegan during the fining process.  This process removes particles of matter from the wine leaving the crystal clear product in the bottle.  It is typically carried out with something called Isinglass which made of swim bladders from fish, gelatine or egg whites. These are are most definitely not vegan.  These days there are plenty of wines who do not use this fining process and that number is growing constantly.

How do I know if my wine is vegan?

Most retailers will highlight usually highlight which of their wines are vegan. Supermarkets own label products typically will subtly highlight on the label whether their products are vegan.  This list from Barnivore provides a pretty comprehensive list of vegan wines for example.  We are no exception, you can find our list of vegan wines here.

The fundamentals of pairing wine with vegan food.

Take a moment to consider the flavours and textures that you are working towards in your cooking. Consider factors like how rich, creamy or crunchy they can be.  When you have worked out roughly how your dish will taste you can decide whether you want a wine to compliment the flavours or to contrast them.  Wines can bring three different features to accompany a dish, acidity, sweetness and umami.  More acidic wines help to counter creamy dishes. A touch of sweetness pairs well with spicy food reducing the amount of heat.  

The cooking method of your main ingredient can also deeply affect what wines pair best. Frying or roasting often leads to a slightly higher fat content. This affords you the ability to go a little bolder with the wine flavour, while poaching and steaming allows nutrients to seep out of the food to various levels so a lighter white wine would pair better by not overpowering the flavours.

As a rule of thumb, consider the flavour of your main ingredients, and the flavour of your sauce or dressing. Those will be the two overriding factors in determining what wine to pair with your food as they will be the dominant flavours.

What Wine Goes Best with Root Vegetables?

Root vegetables such as butternut squash, pumpkins, carrots, and swedes pair best with a good rosé wine, such as White Zinfandel, Rosé Grenache, or Pinot Noir Rosé. Root vegetables are typically earthy or nutty in flavour and often sweet. This suits a good rosé wine quite nicely, as they are often a little sweeter, which complements the earthy flavours well.

Root vegetables can handle a lot of spicing. Because of their diverse range of flavours and textures, they can stand up well against many other flavours. A good rosé pairs well with this, as its complex flavours are often a little sweeter, which works well against a lot of spices and aromatics. Additionally, it has just enough acidity to handle creamier and more umami dishes.

What Wine Goes Best with Mushrooms?

Mushrooms are the daddy of Umami flavours and work best with Red Wines. Nothing overly bold but a good solid red or slightly crispier red like a Merlot. Tempranillo or Pinot Noir are also generally well paired with Mushrooms.  These wines are lighter in Tannins and a little more acidic so still compliment the Umami of the mushrooms. They are packed enough acidity to allow the wine and the food to stand together.

What Wine Goes Best with Peppers?

Peppers are incredibly versatile and are often both an accompaniment in a dish or a hero ingredient. Knowing when to consider them as a factor wine pairing and when not to is crucial.   When talking about peppers, particularly bell peppers they become sweeter as they ripen. 

A lot of members of the pepper family are naturally sweet any way. These suit a good contrast in a Merlot or Tempranillo, the tang and fresh flavour of peppers can handle the Tannins brought by a moderate red wine.  Chilies, with their spiciness should be paired completely differently.

What Wine Goes Best with Chilies?

Spicy and Tangy Chilies need something sweeter to counter balance the heat, so a Reisling or Chenin Blanc is always a safe bet with chilies, or spicy food in general.  The natural sweetness of these wines serves to lessen the effects of the spiciness and tends to increase the enjoyment of the food.  Spiciness in this instance should not be confused with Pepperiness. Handling pepperiness needs something from the opposite end of the flavour spectrum in a bold red like a Malbec.

What Wine Goes Best with Greens?

Greens provide a lovely crunch and freshness to almost any dish,  depending on the type of lettuce or Kale or Chard you are cooking the common theme amongst greens is a slight bitterness and variations of earthiness and sweetness.  This generally suits a lighter white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or Trebbiano.  The more gentle flavours and acidity supports the flavour of the Greens but clears the palette quick enough of underlying bitterness. This effect enhances the earthy notes making the greens more pleasant to eat.

What Wine Goes Best with Tomatoes?

Whether fresh or in a sauce base tomatoes bring with them three main flavours, sweetness, acidity and umami depending on the variety.  Universally however these compliment well with red wines particularly Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Tempranillo.    The make up of these wines compliments the flavours of the tomatoes but allows the tannins in the wine to enhance their umami and richness.

What Goes Best with Onions?

If you are cooking onions at the centre of your dish and onion is the primary flavour then a medium red like Merlot, or Nebbiolo suits them well.   Onions and members of the onion family such as spring onions, shallots or garlic are the uber ingredient and are in vast amounts of food in one form or another.  They are present in the base ingredients in dishes across the world. From America to Asia a member of the onion family will likely form part of the base of thousands of dishes. 

If onion is not your definitive hero ingredient then consider the accompaniments on the plate. Onion’s ubiquity allows it to be paired with almost any type of wine.