The best wines to drink with vegetarian or vegan food
John Wilson: Whether it’s a light salad or full-bodied casserole, there’s a wine to match
As with meat dishes, think about matching the weight and intensity of a food with the wine
Finding a wine to match vegetarian food should be no more difficult than finding one to drink with meat or fish. It is true that the acids and tannins in wine provide a great foil for flesh and fowl, but frequently it is the sauce or accompaniments that dominate the flavours, so it is always worth considering the vegetables, even with non-vegetarian dishes.
First, a few broad pointers. Give Chardonnay a chance. Even if you think you don’t like it, Chardonnay is a wonderful food wine, and comes into its own with so many vegetarian dishes, as do wines made from Viognier, and Marsanne/Roussanne blends.
Remember that rosé is a great food wine, going well with all sorts of dishes, light or spicy. When choosing a red wine, if in doubt, lighter reds such as Beaujolais go well with pretty much any food, as would the delicious Coteaux Bourguignons in this week’s tasting notes.
As with meat dishes, think about matching the weight and intensity of a food with the wine. So for lighter salads and dishes with mild cheese, think of crisp whites, rosés or light red wines. Albariño, Verdejo and Sauvignon blanc are great salad partners, as are dry Provence-style rosés. Full-bodied casseroles tend to go better with red wines; the more robust the dish, the bigger the wine.
Wines of a region will often match the cuisine, and this is true of vegetarian dishes too. With a quiche or flammkuchen try an Alsace Pinot blanc or Pinot gris. Pasta with tomato sauce goes nicely with lighter Italian reds such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a Rosso Conero or a lighter Nero d’Avola from Sicily. Pasta with pesto, herb or cheese sauces are best with lighter crisp white wines, such as Soave or Vermentino.
All of those recipes with tomato sauce, peppers and aubergines – vegetarian lasagne, shakshuka and huevos rancheros – call out for richer, more robust red wines. With substantial bean dishes try out a Chianti Classico, a Malbec from Cahors or Argentina, or maybe a full-bodied Zinfandel.
Mushrooms in most forms, including mushroom risotto, love Pinot noir. Risotto primavera, however, is better with crisp, dry whites including Sauvignon blanc. Whole baked portobello mushrooms go really well with more substantial red wines, while a creamy mushroom pasta dish is best with a rich white wine.
Rich cheese dishes such as cauliflower cheese or macaroni cheese are probably best with a rich white wine such as a Chardonnay or Viognier. With roast sweet potato or butternut squash, you could drink either red or white – a Pinot noir or once again a nice rich Chardonnay.
If this all seems a little complicated, don’t worry. Most wine tastes better with most food, vegetarian included. You can have a lot of fun trying out different matches to see which you prefer.
Cucú Verdejo 2018, Barco del Corneta VdT de Castilla (organic, vegan)
An exuberant, aromatic wine with racy green fruits, zesty citrus and a crisp, dry finish. Perfect with all sorts of salads, mild cheese dishes and herby pasta dishes.
Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie; 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.com; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3, clontarfwines.ie; The Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Lilliput Stores, Dublin 7, lilliputstores.com; Martin’s Off Licence, Dublin 3, martinsofflicence.ie.
Bourgogne Chardonnay 2018 Domaine Latour-Giroud (vegan)
A very impressive richer Chardonnay, with subtle toasted almonds to complement the stylish broad green fruits and refreshing citrus acidity. Perfect with a variety of foods, including a luxurious cauliflower cheese with toasted nuts, or roast root vegetables.
Stockists: Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown, whelehanswines.ie.
Dedicace 2017, Lirac, Domaine Coudoulis (vegetarian)
Smooth, powerful and mouth-filling with masses of rich, ripe, slightly baked red cherries and dark fruits. Try it with Mediterranean roast vegetables and bean casseroles.
Stockists: O’Briens, obrienswine.ie
Cuvée No1 Les Chanterelles 2015 Domaine Huber-Verdereau, Coteaux Bourguignons (vegan)
This is absolutely delicious; smooth, ripe, soft rounded red cherry and cassis fruits. Nicely concentrated yet fresh. A blend of 80% Gamay and 20% Pinot noir. A great all-rounder with food; try it with roast beetroot or mushroom risotto.
Stockists: Wines Direct, Mullingar, winesdirect.ie