Wine pairing doesn't stop when meat is off the table. These fabulous tips will give you an excuse to break out the vino at vegetarian meals too
A Perfect Pair
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Most of us know Cabernet Sauvignon goes well with Filet mignon and that a Chardonnay or White Burgundy could be good with broiled salmon. But when we talk about wine pairings we usually talk about what goes well with meat, fish, and chicken. However, vegetarian dishes represent an opportunity to recalibrate our thinking when it comes to wine pairings. The earthiness of mushrooms, the spice of peppers, and the brightness of ginger all present a chance for a new adventure with wine. That’s why we asked three wine and food experts to share advice on pairing plant-based dishes with vino. Here, their top picks! (Don't miss these 13 Can't-Go-Wrong Wine and Cheese Pairings, either.)
Tri-Colored Salad with Roasted Pears, Toasted Spiced Walnuts, and Gorgonzola Dressing
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For the base of the salad, try a blend of baby arugula—which is less bitter than mature arugula—endive, and radicchio, suggests Karen Page, two-time James Beard Award-winning author of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible.
The wine pairing: “To offset the slight bitterness of the crunchy toasted walnuts and to play up to the sweetness of the slices of roasted pears, I like to enjoy this salad with a fruity glass of high-acid white wine with a hint of residual sugar, especially Riesling,” says Page. “As a rule of thumb, opt for drier Kabinett or slightly sweeter Spatlese—not uber-sweet Auslese—Riesling for this pairing. A dry Riesling is the single most food-friendly white wine around, so it’s a great one to have on hand all year long.”
Mushroom Risotto with Caramelized Shallots and Fresh Sage and Thyme
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Shiitake mushrooms, cremini, and black trumpet mushrooms harmonize well together and add complexity to the dish’s flavor and texture, says Page.
The wine pairing: “When it comes to mushrooms, I automatically think ‘Pinot Noir,’” says Page. “However, another lighter-bodied fruity red wine—such as Gamay (think Crus Beaujolais, such as a Fleurie) or Grenache—would provide a beautiful pairing here, too.”
African Peanut Soup with Rice and Scallions
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African inspired peanut soups can be hearty, complex, and often peppery.
The wine pairing: “You can choose to complement the creaminess of this soup with a nice velvety Chardonnay, but if the soup is heavier on the pepper then I would steer you toward the fruitier Pinot Gris,” says Laurie Forster, author of The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine. (Also whip up these 9 Healthy Crockpot Recipes You Need to Try.)
Gruyere Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart
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Nothing says a winter comfort food treat quite like a flaky pastry with rich Gruyere and sweet onions.
The wine pairing: “The sweetness of the caramelized onions requires a wine with ample fruit and the cheese is nicely offset by a medium bodied red which to me equals Pinot Noir. It is neither tannic nor overpowering,” says Forster.
Tuscan Bean Soup or Zuppa alla Frantoiana
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This soup is also known as the Olive Harvest soup and though it is a vegetable-based soup, it is typically rich in flavor and quite hearty. “Don't let this vegetable soup fool you! It has real weightiness to it from the Tuscan Beans making it a great dish for red wine,” says Chef Michael Forster who pens the HeCooksSheWines.com blog with his wife Laurie.
The wine pairing: “A Tuscan Sangiovese or Chianti Classico are the perfectly balanced red wines for this dish.”
Roasted Squash Pear and Ginger Soup
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This is another harvest soup rich in flavor and complexity. (Try a meat-free sandwich with these 10 Filling Vegetarian Sandwiches.)
The wine pairing: “To really play up the ginger and pear notes in this warming, autumnal soup—which is such a great simple supper to warm the bones this time of year—go for an Alsatian Gewurztraminer. One of my favorites: Zind Humbrecht. Difficult to day, easy to drink!” says Amy Zavatto, wine expert and co-author of The Renaissance Guide to Wine and Food Pairing.
Sautéed Shishito Peppers
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Simply sauté the peppers in olive oil until the skin blisters, add sea salt and a squeeze of lemon juice, and then pop them in your mouth. Zavatto says Shishito peppers are easily swapped for the northwestern Spain, tapas-centric cousin, padron peppers.
The wine pairing: “These addictive, salted little nibbles make me go straight for a what-grows-together, goes-together white from Galicia. My pick: straight-up Albarino or a blend like Vina Mein’s Ribeiro Blanco, a mouthwatering, fleshy, aromatic mix of Galician-centric grapes,” says Zavatto.
Goat Cheese Soufflé
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Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of making this notoriously difficult dish—it’s actually not that tricky and the payoff is worth the effort. And whether you’re enjoying it at home or out, the tang of goat cheese is a marvelous complement to the airiness of a well-executed soufflé.
The wine pairing: “The words ‘goat cheese’ always make my mouth water for Sancerre, a gorgeous, structured white wine made from Sauvignon Blanc in France’s Loire Valley—where some dream-making chevre can be found too, says Zavatto.”