Matching Wine and Vegetables

                                        Photo by Tod Dimmick

Delicate flavors and acids in fresh farm produce make wine matching a challenge.  Vegetables bring natural grassy, green, vegetal, earthy, mineral, floral, flavors.  Cooking adds smoky, baked notes.  But note that these “vegetable” flavors are also used to describe wines!    

Vegetable dishes also have their own unique textures (think salad versus roast carrots) and a huge range of richness (cucumbers versus eggplant Parmagiana).  A delicate, light salad brings to mind a delicate, light wine, whereas a rich baked vegetable dish might easily match with a flavorful red. And when sauces or dressings become the dominant ingredient, those flavors become the ones to match.  The basic notion is, “match like with like”. 

A few tips:

Acidic or tart vegetables (like artichokes and bitter greens):  A light, similarly acidic wine will taste friendly, fuller, and even sweeter alongside.  Try a Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Grigio, or a Vinho Verde.

Sulfuric vegetables (onions and garlic):  Raw they are tough on wines, but cooked they mellow and sweeten, and in many dishes pair beautifully with dry whites and rosé.
Fresh tomatoes:  These are both sweet and tart – try a wine with balancing sweetness, like a Riesling or Gewurztraminer.

Tomato sauces:  Now we’re talking rich flavors with umame.  A mellow, dry red, like a good Merlot, Sangiovese (Chianti) or aged Bordeaux could be a great partner. 

Grilled vegetables: I have found that these flavors go really well with wines that have spent time in oak, which has its own toasty, smoky flavor.  Everything from Chardonnay to Cabernet could work – now there’s a wide range!

Hot peppers and spicy dishes:  Sweetness, and cool temperature, can be the perfect foil for spicy dishes.  This is another place for a good Riesling or Gewurztraminer.

Salty veggies:  Him, like my favorite steak fries made from local potatoes.  A dry, clean white like a Sauvignon Blanc, or a light fruity red like a Beaujolais.  Avoid reds with over 14% alcohol, because salty foods make hot wines unpleasant.
Cheater’s Tip:  Serve a bubbly with your veggies!  Italian Prosecco, Spanish Cava, and of course French Champagne can be found everywhere, and at every price. They are refreshing and pair well with everything from a light salad to a rich veggie casserole.  It’s a bonus that those bubbles make the whole meal feel like a celebration.  Bubbly goes with everything.  Well, almost everything.
Find more on food and wine pairing here.

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