First published in the Irish Times Saturday 10th September 2016
I am not vegetarian but would be quite happy to forget about meat three or four days a week. Possibly I live too close to the Happy Pear. However, when children depart the coop and diet fads cease (if only) I look forward to changing my own regime. This is the high season for many fruits and vegetables, so this week we look at how to pair vegetarian foods with wine.
There is still a tendency to categorise all vegetarian food as light and salady or very heavy and worthy. It is of course much more complex than that. All meat dishes are based around protein, and wine-drinkers usually try to match this to a particular style of wine. In fact, often it is the spices and flavourings, as well as the accompanying sauce, that should determine what wine to drink. Matching vegetarian food to wine follows similar principles and should not lead to any loss of pleasure. To start off, match lighter foods with lighter wines, and more acidic dishes with crisp white wines.
Rich white wines often partner best with sweeter vegetables, such as peppers, butternut squash, sweet potato and carrots, especially if they have been roasted, as well as beans, bean purées, and creamy dishes. Lighter whites go well with fresh cheeses – goat’s cheese and Sauvignon Blanc being just one example, but also Labneh, Mozzarella and Ricotta, as well as fresh herbs. Leafy salads and raw tomatoes also go well with lower alcohol, fruity whites.
One of my favourite comfort foods is mushroom risotto; a lovely big rich warming plate of happiness. I know many vegetarian friends are sick and tired of it, as it seems to be the standard veggie option in just about every restaurant – whatever happened to the once ubiquitous nut roast? However mushrooms in general are very wine friendly, usually red wine, and around this time of year, we even have wild mushrooms to consider. If you do like a nut roast, those rich caramelised flavours go best with red wines – a robust Languedoc, Côtes du Rhône, or a New World Cabernet would all do nicely. A few other pointers; beans are generally really wine friendly, happily providing the richness of meat as a background to the other flavours. With stir fries, soy sauce and fish sauce generally it is better to go with red wine.
I am a dab hand at knocking up a frittata/tortilla, invariably vegetarian, from whatever is in the fridge or garden. With this and other egg dishes, I enjoy a glass of light, inexpensive red. My most recent lesson came with a tomato tarte tatin (from last week’s Guardian); those intense, lightly caramelised flavours were great with both a rich white wine and a young Cabernet Sauvignon.
A pleasant light wine with plump pear fruits to pair with salads and fresh cheese.
Stockists: La Touche, Greystones; Jus de Vine; Whelehan’s.
A lovely rich Roussanne, filled with honey and peaches. With roast root vegetables.
Stockists; Searsons, Monkstown.
Light perfumed red cherry and plum fruits, to partner mushrooms.
Stockists: Marks & Spencer.