Off the Vine

The ingredients for a meal can be compared to a blank canvas waiting to be painted. This is certainly true with vegetables, when dressings and seasonings become the flavoring "colors."

You already know that a bounty of vegetables is good for you: Eating at least five servings per day can dramatically decrease your risk of coronary heart disease and major cancers while supplying an alphabet's worth of vitamins and minerals (A through zinc) plus a staggering array of antioxidants, phytochemicals and let's not forget fiber -- to protect and enhance your health.

Serving wine with vegetables can make the whole experience even more colorful. All you need to do is try to keep the flavors of the wine and the food in the same taste palette. Your palate will thank you.

An added bonus: Research suggests that an occasional glass of wine itself may decrease the risk of some diseases. But to get the best of both you also need to choose your wine carefully to match the vegetable you're serving. Unadorned vegetables tend to have a lighter flavor, so you should avoid pairing them with wines with overpowering characteristics. Also, as a general rule, earthy vegetables, such as members of the cabbage family, can easily handle the robust flavor of a red wine, while vegetables with more-delicate flavors, such as asparagus and salads, go best with white wines. What's important is balance. For example, baking concentrates and intensifies a tomato's sweet-acid tanginess. The Grüner we picked to go with the Tomato Cheese Tart is crisp with an edge of sweetness and acidity -- a perfect partner for those heightened tomato flavors.

Remember that our recommendations are only suggestions. If your wine merchant or supermarket doesn't carry them, ask for a similar wine from the same grape varietal, or, if you're on your own, read the label and preferably choose a wine from the same region. The tone of the wines should be comparable. Your best resource can be a wine shop with a knowledgeable staff. Don't be afraid to ask questions! They're happy to enlighten you. Most importantly, no wine is right or wrong, if you enjoy drinking it.

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