Studies have suggested there has been a significant rise in people considering an increasingly plant-based diet in the last year, with 25% of Brits reducing their animal-based food intake since Covid-19 began.
Whether you’ve chosen to go vegetarian or vegan, or have just cut down your meat intake, you might have noticed that a lot of wine pairing guides online are focused on meat and fish dishes. Much like the back of the bottles you buy! If you’re fed up of reading that a wine pairs well with chicken, fish or beef, and want to know what goes best with your lentil lasagne or veggie green curry, you’re in luck.
The nice folks at The Bottle Club put together a pairing guide recently for National Wine Day (apparently there’s just one day? who knew) and it notes some easy pairings for a range of vegan and veggie dishes that you can use all year round.
1. Spicy vegan curries paired with sweet white wine
Try to match the intensity of your wine with your dish. When it comes to curries, the sauce and its flavouring are what influence the beverage that you should pair – not necessarily the tofu, seitan or other ‘main’ feature. With a spicy or peppery curry, The Bottle Club recommend pairing a bold-flavoured wine.
The sweet flavours from white wine help tame the heat in your curry, and emphasise the distinctive flavours within the recipe. Muscadet might be the obvious choice here, but a Chardonnay will also bring out the sweetness of the vegetables in the curry.
2. Tomato-based dishes paired with a French red
The key to finding the perfect wine combination is to match the food qualities with the wine qualities and experiment with what works best for your palette. As a rule of thumb, your wine should be more acidic than the foods which you are choosing to pair with it, as well as slightly sweeter.
For dishes like Ratatouille, a vegan aubergine parmigiana, lentil/mushroom bolognese or other Mediterranean dishes that are loaded with tomatoes, peppers and courgettes, just about any French red would be a perfect pairing, but you can’t go wrong with a good Shiraz.
3. Creamy pasta sauces paired with a light Chardonnay
When it comes to choosing the perfect vegan wine and sauce pairing, your choice in colour and flavour wine can be guided by the ingredients within the sauce. For a dish with a rich, creamy sauce such as a soya carbonara, a lighter Chardonnay or a Pinot Bianco compliment the dish well. If you’re using soy or coconut oil-based ‘cheeses’ and creams, they’ll generally also go well with a lightly oaked Chardonnay.
4. Baked tofu dishes paired with a light-bodied wine
Baked tofu recipes call for either a white wine or a light red. Baking tofu neutralises the flavour of the dish, so spices and flavouring are added to create a signature taste to this vegan favourite. The subtle flavours work well with a light-bodied wines like Pinot Noir or Albarino that can bring out the flavours in the tofu. The key here is to find a wine that doesn’t overwhelm the delicate flavours within the dish: steer clear of full-bodied Cab Sauvs and other heavy reds that will drown out the taste of your culinary creations.
5. Mushroom recipes paired by variety
Mushrooms come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, flavours and textures, and this should be recognised when pairing vegan mushroom dishes with wine. Mushrooms become richer and gain more depth of flavour when paired with the correct wine: if you’re eating out and you’ve been lumbered with a boring mushroom burger again you can perk it up with a Pinot Noir or Zinfandel, but these and Syrah also work brilliantly with mushroom risotto.
If you’re eating something a bit more exciting, featuring delicate fungi such as oyster or porcini mushrooms, a fruity wine, with a smooth and gentle fizz is another option. Prosecco and porcini, anyone? I like a Vinho Verde with a gently spiced mushroom ramen, but Pinot Noirs are a great light-bodied red to complement all manner of mushroom dishes.
6. Bean-based dishes paired with a tangy Zinfandel
From a mixed bean shakshuka to a traditional kidney bean chilli, vegan bean dishes come in a manner of styles and preferences. Thankfully, finding the perfect wine pairing is easier than you think.
For beans that are resplendent in a rich tomato sauce, The Bottle Club recommend a Zinfandel Rosé wine to augment the flavours within the dish. A Zinfandel Rosé can calm the tangy flavours in tomato sauces, allowing the rich flavours of your beans to shine through, but is also light enough to pair nicely with creamy or stock-based bean dishes as well.
What to watch out for when you’re buying wine
It might seem obvious, but do remember that not all wines are vegan-friendly. Some wines have been clarified with dairy or animal-based products, so always check before committing to a purchase! Allergy labelling means that wines that contain traces of milk or eggs have to declare as such on the label, though it’s also worth checking Barnivore to find out if any given wine has been clarified with other non-vegan processes. Thankfully, it seems like plenty of winemakers are now labelling their products as vegan-friendly which makes it much easier to have an informed choice!
Thanks to The Bottle Club for sharing their tips, and if you’re on the hunt for vegan booze (not just wine but all sorts of other things) you can check out their vegan drinks selection here.