A Guide to Vegetarian Food and Wine Pairing

A Guide to Vegetarian Food and Wine Pairing
When it comes to pairing wine and food, not all those who wander are lost. Experimenting with pairings leads to eureka! moments of discovery, and you won’t experience these moments until you’ve been around the block a time or two. I don’t believe there are any steadfast rules when it comes to food and wine, as I tend to take a very simple, unpretentious approach.

Have I been known to eat salad alongside red wine? Yes! A plate of lasagna with a chilled glass of white? Absolutely! But for those who are interested in experiencing eureka! moments and don’t know where to begin, I can provide some guidance.

Pairing vegetarian meals with wine may seem intimidating, especially when most wine guides focus on pairings involving meat and fish, but the same concepts apply. Fat, acidity, body, sweetness, tartness, and flavor all play a crucial role in pairing vegetarian food with wine. The key component to the perfect pairing is simply matching the food’s qualities with the wine’s characteristics and relying on what tastes good to you. I know I have a winning combination of flavors when the pairing melts in my mouth into buttery bliss.

A Guide to Vegetarian Food & Wine Pairing

The Basics of Pairing Wine and Food

It can be difficult to pinpoint specific vegetables that match specific wines; therefore, pairing vegetarian meals with wine according to the herbs, spices, oils/fats, and sauces used in a dish is the best way of achieving a delicious combination. In general, soft buttery white wines (and some light-bodied reds) go well with simple citrus, butter or cream sauces, peanut sauce, yellow coconut curry, and other various ethnic foods. Medium to bold red wines pair well with tomato-based sauces. Reds can also pair well with chili sauces and salsas, barbecue sauces, various curries, and teriyaki sauce.

Because there are so many flavor profiles within each wine varietal, matching the flavors of the wine with the flavors of the dish is the best way of conducting a pairing as opposed to relying on what wines should pair with which foods. For instance, it is not always the case that a full-bodied red wine pairs well with lasagna. Whether the wine is dry or sweet (aged or young), depending on the crop of grapes, the region in which the grapes were grown, if the wine was barrel-aged or aged in stainless-steel or concrete tanks, all of these have a magical and complicated role in the end result.

While most wines can be matched with food, not all wines are food-friendly. Some wines, no matter the body, tannins, or flavors, will either overpower food, or simply be difficult to match. Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and red and white blends tend to be very pairable wines, whereas Viognier, certain rosés, and Alicante Bouchet can be extraordinarily difficult. If a wine isn’t sitting right with a meal I’ve made even though my research suggests it should be perfect, it does not mean my palate is broken–it simply means the combination isn’t meant to be, or simply is not jiving this time around.

A Guide to Vegetarian Food & Wine Pairing

White Wines

White wine tends to be more dry than red wines, although there are some sweet varieties too. The light body of most white wines makes them perfect for serving with summertime dinners.

Pinot Grigio

Body and Tannins: light-bodied
Pairs Well With These Foods: pasta, raw dishes, light salads, coconut milk, gouda
Try It With: Pumpkin and White Bean Bisque with Sage Pesto and Dill Rolls from Eats Well with Others

Rolle

Body and Tannins: light-bodied
Pairs Well With These Foods: veggie stir fries, light pasta dishes, garlic, mild brie
Try It With: Zucchini and Lemon Spaghetti from Oh My Veggies

Riesling

Body and Tannins: light-bodied
Pairs Well With These Foods: Thai, Vietnamese, Southwestern food, barbecue sauce
Try It With: Vegetarian Pho from Kitchen Treaty

Muscato D’Asti

Body and Tannins: light-bodied
Pairs Well With These Foods: summer salads, light cream sauces, citrus vinaigrettes, ginger, gorgonzola
Try It With: Kale Salad with Apple, Pear, and Roasted Pecans from The Roasted Root

Chardonnay

Body and Tannins: ranges from crisp and light to buttery and medium-bodied
Pairs Well With These Foods: potatoes, winter squash, legumes, risotto, goat cheese
Try It With: Butternut Squash and Porcini Mushroom Risotto from Running to the Kitchen

Sauvignon Blanc

Body and Tannins: medium-bodied
Pairs Well With These Foods: veggie burgers, pesto, lemon, cilantro, feta
Try It With: Sweet Potato and Quinoa Fritters with Avocado Lime Sauce (Vegan) from Dishing Up The Dirt

Viognier

Body and Tannins: medium to full-bodied
Pairs Well With These Foods: mild curries, tagines, peanut sauce, cumin
Try It With: Root Vegetable Tagine from Coffee & Quinoa

Gewurtzraminer

Body and Tannins: full-bodied, bold
Pairs Well With These Foods: Asian food, red curry, spicy dishes, German food, aged cheeses
Try It With: African Peanut Soup from Oh My Veggies

Red Wines

Red wine is made with the pulp and skin of red and purple grapes. Not only is this responsible for its deep color, but it’s also why red wines are touted as having health benefits–the grape skins are rich in polyphenols. There are some light-bodied red wines, but in general, red wines are more full-bodied than their white counterparts, so they pair better with stronger flavors in food.

Pinot Noir

Body and Tannins: light, silky tannins, light-bodied
Pairs Well With These Foods: mushrooms, Asian food, Mediterranean food, legumes, fruit-based sauces, camembert
Try It With: Lentil Bruschetta from Food Doodles

Grenache

Body and Tannins: soft tannins, body depends on the blend
Pairs Well With These Foods: grilled veggies, risotto, light Italian dishes, eggplant, fontina
Try It With: Caramelized Onion & Eggplant Puff Pastry Tart from Oh My Veggies

Merlot

Body and Tannins: soft tannins
Pairs Well With These Foods: wine-infused red sauces, grilled vegetables, black olives, sweet potatoes, curry
Try It With: Sweet Potato, Chickpea & Spinach Curry from Kiran Tarun

Malbec

Body and Tannins: medium to full-bodied, tannic
Pairs Well With These Foods: Cajun flavors, barbecue sauce, baked potatoes, black pepper, asiago
Try It With: Garlic Roasted Cauliflower with Toasted Asiago Breadcrumbs from Skinnytaste

Barbera

Body and Tannins: medium-bodied, acidic
Pairs Well With These Foods: pasta with tomato sauce, roasted vegetables, Mediterranean food, béchamel sauce, aged cheeses
Try It With: Pizza Quinoa with Summer Squash from Produce on Parade

Mourvèdre

Body and Tannins: soft tannins, medium-light body
Pairs Well With These Foods: mushrooms, roasted vegetables, earthy flavors, butter, manchego
Try It With: Sage Polenta Bowls with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Wild Mushrooms  from Oh My Veggies

Sangiovese

Body and Tannins: medium to full bodied, tannic
Pairs Well With These Foods: roasted peppers, lasagna, pasta with tomato sauce, soy and teriyaki sauces
Try It With: Portabella and Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups from Oh My Veggies

Syrah

Body and Tannins: full-bodied
Pairs Well With These Foods: olives, barbecue, grilled or roasted vegetables with bold sauces, parmesan cheese
Try It With: Cauliflower Steaks with Olive & Herb Salsa from Sweetest Kitchen

Petite Sirah

Body and Tannins: full-bodied, tannic
Pairs Well With These Foods: Mexican & Latin American food, rich foods, pizza
Try It With: Cauliflower Rice Burrito Bowls from The Roasted Root

Cabernet Sauvignon

Body and Tannins: strong tannins, full-bodied
Pairs Well With These Foods: grilled or roasted veggies, barbecue sauce, chimichurri, garlic and onion, aged cheddar
Try It With: Roasted Portabella and Chickpea Burritos with Chimichurri Sauce from Oh My Veggies

Zinfandel

Body and Tannins: full-bodied, bold tannins
Pairs Well With These Foods: Mexican, Indian, and North African food, tapenades, butter and cream sauces
Try It With: Indian Eggplant Curry from Spicie Foodie

A Guide to Vegetarian Food & Wine Pairing

A Note About Vegan & Vegetarian Wines

Just because wine is made out of grapes, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s vegetarian or vegan. Some wine makers use fining agents that are derived from milk or animal protein during the wine-making process. For more information about what makes a wine vegan, read Discovering Vegan Wine: What! Isn’t all Wine Vegan? from The Kitchn.

About Julia

Julia Mueller writes the food blog, The Roasted Root, and is the author of Delicious Probiotic Drinks and Let Them Eat Kale!. A Lake Tahoe native, Julia loves to play outdoors, and enjoys developing recipes that are nutrient-dense and approachable to make any night of the week.   Read more from Julia →

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Comments

  1. says

    Finding out that many wines (and other types of alcoholic drinks like beer) etc contain animal bi-products really grossed me out. Now whenever I’m in a store buying wine I open up http://www.barnivore.com on my phone and which which ones are vegan-friendly. It’s surprising how many of them aren’t.

    This is a great list, I’m terrible at pairing foods and wines together!

    • Julia Mueller says

      Martina, I never would have thought adding animal products to wine would be a “thing” either…but it seems like wine makers are using more vegan products these days instead of animal-based ones, so there’s hope ;) So glad you like the guide and hope it helps for all your tasty endeavors! :)

      • froggy says

        It’s still more of a thing to use animal products in old-style European wines, where the style is more traditional. In the US, makers are more willing to experiment with different fining techniques, mainly because they don’t have hundreds of years of history of their winery doing it one way.

  2. Kare RayeKare Troughton says

    I freaking love this! Wine pairing isn’t just about what goes with prime rib or chicken or halibut, darnit! Now I don’t feel so left out. :) I think it’s important that I now go forth and try every single suggested pairing you describe above. Immediately.

    Seriously, this is awesome. Thank you.

    • Julia Mueller says

      Haha! My sentiments exactly!! I think a lot of people also shy away from pairing wine with ethnic food, but they’re so well matched! In my opinion, a nice veggie curry and a glass of wine is a dream come true. So glad you like the guide and thanks so much for your GORGEOUS photos!! I was stunned when I saw them! :) xoxo

    • Julia Mueller says

      So glad to hear it, Erica! I feel like there’s no end on how to pair wine with food, and it can all be slightly overwhelming…most of the time, I just stick to what tastes good :)

    • Julia Mueller says

      Love the idea of keeping a wine guide around in the kitchen during meal prep! I find lighter to medium reds go well with heavier curry dishes and pizza, but whites seem much more versatile when it comes to vegetarian cooking, yup!

  3. says

    Thank you thank you for this!! I often get stuck in a rut drinking one type of wine just because I don’t know what else to try or how it will jive with the meal. This will help me branch out! Fantastic recipes too!

    • Julia Mueller says

      YES! Glad I could be of some help, Jaime! I have a tendency to get stuck on one type of wine or two, as well. I definitely have to remind myself how many options there are out there – it can be overwhelming, but also a fun adventure :)

    • Julia Mueller says

      Stephanie, I’m a Syrah lover, too! Ahhh, who’m I kidding, I love all wines. But yup, I have a soft spot for Syrah and parmesan. Ooh, if you ever have a chance, pair Syrah with blue cheese topped with a drizzle of honey. It will change your WORLD! #mouthwatering ;)

    • Julia Mueller says

      Thanks, Joanne! I had a blast making the guide, but I have also been known to be very lackadaisical with pairing food and alcohol. Sometimes I just take the shotgun approach, close my eyes and hope it all works out ;)

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