Will Vegetables Ruin It?

I really do appreciate all the questions and emails I receive about wine.  I’m always amazed at some of the inquiries.  It shows me you are all really concerned with learning as much as you can about such a vast subject.

Helping someone choose the right type of wine to pair with their meal is also a fulfilling task. 

I know learning about wine can be overwhelming at first, but surprisingly a little knowledge can go a long way.

One question I am often asked references wine and vegetables.  With everyone including more greens and other brightly colored veggies in their diets, wine concerns are becoming more prevalent.  So the question remains, should the vegetables in the meal be considered in the wine pairing equation?


There are some problem veggies out there with some flavor challenges.  They can create havoc with wine but can be overcome with a little forethought.

Definitely stay away from the full-bodied reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz/Syrah.  These wines will crush the delicate flavors of the veggies.  Save these wines to serve with red-meat as their tannins bind with the meat’s proteins, making both the wine and the meat taste hearty and silky in the same bite.  Most  vegetables lack proteins and these robust wines will leave you with a metallic or bitter taste.  It’s not good.  Trust me.

I have always felt white wines do better with vegetables BUT if you must go red choose something soft and fruity…such as Pinot Noir.

Spinach and artichokes.  With these two veggies you are dealing with inherent astringency.  Wines served with these vegetables should have little or no oak influence.  Artichokes also (as well as asparagus) contain an acid called cynarin, making everything taste sweeter than it is, presenting yet another challenge.  Choose crisp, light intensity wines; they will pair best being relatively high in acid.  Stick with unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc or a blanc de blancs sparkling wine.

Green bell pepper, asparagus, zucchini and green beans.  Here it is the natural grassy and vegetal qualities inherent in these vegetables, giving wine pairing a run for its money.  I would choose a Sauvignon Blanc as they tend to be crisp and herbally forward.  With the green bell peppers I might go with Pinot Gris/Grigio as the vibrant acidity of this wine will stand up to the strong flavors of this particular veggie.

Tomatoes:  This is probably one of the biggest challenges for wine.  The high-acidity of the tomato found in tomato based sauces and can really upset the desired wine-food balance.  Go with Sangiovese, I do believe it was made especially for these types of meals. 

Cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts:  Here we have issues with minerality and sulfurous characteristics.  If you can’t beat them, join them.  Look for minerality and fruitness.  A very dry Riesling (many are sweet-be careful), Gewurztraminer or some bubbly will do well here.

Salads:  Match the dressing to the wine.  A creamy-full fat coating requires an acidic counter part.  A dry Riesling works well.

Rich vegetable lasagnas or casseroles:  Because you have many flavors at work here up the ante a bit and pair these dishes with a medium-bodied wine.  Go Merlot if you like red or Chardonnay if white is what you prefer.  A lighter style wine would be underwhelming here.

However, sometimes you have to make the vegetables work with the wine.  You can do this by adding fat into sauces or dressings.  Things like butter, olive oil, cheese, cream or mayo will help cut the undesirable ”veggieness”.  Grilling will also create flavors more palatable to the vegetable-wine dilemma.  Lastly, substituting citrus juice for some of the vinegar in your vinaigrettes will help lower acidity, enhancing the wine experience.

Finding wines to pair with your veggies is not unfeasible…enjoy the challenge.

What I Was Drinking One Year Ago Today:  The Lizard Whisperer

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  1. dawn 1

    I have always wondered about this. I swear I have been eating dinner and then have some wine that I was enjoying and then this metallic taste takes over. Now I know I wasn’t crazy. This was so informative and usually you wouldn’t think this would happen with pasta but cab and other wines just do not work. I’ll try with the sangiovese.

  2. snowmoonelk 2

    Thank you! I work in a pub/restaurant and customers often ask my opinion as to what wine they should have with their meal.. This is really helpful.

  3. I had never really thought about it like this, but of course you are right…you always are. Thanks for this informative post.

  4. Wow … great info. I will have to print this one out or bookmark it for sure.

    Thanks, Cathy!

  5. Barbie with a T 5

    Now that was a wealth of information! I never gave the vegetables a second thought. We sometimes have just vegetables for dinner, but do no have wine with them. Usually wine is served here with “special event” meals. But that is very interesting and thank you for giving us those tips on pairing wine with veggies.

  6. MsMVNJ 6

    excellent post! It can be a challenge to pair appropriately – most people pair only with the meat, but you have to consider every flavor on the plate. I recently started working for a vineyard and this will come in handy during my tasting sessions!

  7. Julia 7

    Great post! Very informative. One thing I also recommend is that folks get themselves an aroma wheel – to help guide them in figuring out what flavors are in the wine.

    The sad thing, for me, is that Riesling is such a good food pairing, but I really don’t like it.

  8. What a great post! I’ve never given much thought to how veggies can change the taste of wines. But as you say, there are strong flavors and other factors at work.
    Lizard Whisperer….I’d drink that just because the name is so good!

  9. imom 9

    I love it when you talk wine!

  10. This is such wonderful and useful information! Thanks Cathy!

    We’re still without power here in my part of Maine. Stayed at a hotel last night and thank God for free wireless…and hot water too! If I don’t stop by for another day or two it’s because CMP still hasn’t gotten around to hooking us back up. Although, I did manage to update the blog…cause ya know, that’s just sooooo important! *lol*

  11. Thanks so much for this great info, Cathy. You’ve presented it in a straightforward and understandable way. There is so much mystery attached to wine selection. This will be my reference guide.

  12. Thanks for all the tips Cathy:D I will become a wino yet with a wine for every dish:D

  13. This is great info – you should definitely create an e-book that people can buy off your site with all your wonderful suggestions!… hint hint…:-)

  14. Great post! I think people often forget to account for vegetables in wine pairings but they are definitely important!

  15. leftfoot 15

    OH THANK YOU! You have no idea how perfect your timing is for this post. Tomorrow I’m cooking a 5 course meal for my husband for our 10th anniversary and I have been fretting over wines. I’m a wine appreciator, but with minimal knowledge. We had a merlot with our Valentines Day dinner and we definitely had the metallic taste with the main course – asparagus as the veggie. Now I have an idea on what to get for the different courses. Thank you so very much.

  16. Stacey 16

    Your blog has made me so hungry! looking at all of your wonderfull recipes. I’m on my way to the kitchen.

  17. Pam 17

    Thanks for the very informative post. I am going to print this out to keep handy when hosting dinner parties.

  18. Is it ok if I have the Gewurztraminer & skip the brussel sprouts?

  19. Biz 19

    Love all the wine tips, even from this box wine girl!

    Although I did pick up a pinot grigio/chanin blanc blend yesterday that I had with my garlic shrimp and polenta – it was really good!

  20. Very intersting stuff! Thank you!!

  21. Wow, there is so much to know about wine, besides just drinking what you like! I live very close to the Long Island vineyards (actually my sister in law lives in between them!) and I love to do a vineyard crawl every year and check out all the new and old favorites. I think I have seen some of the vineyards offering classes about wine tasting and pairing…sounds like a good idea to me! I have a lot to learn!

  22. Awesome. I want to find some good rieslings…not those sweet ones, but the nice dry ones. They are so wonderful!

  23. Very informative!

  24. Great post! I’ll keep this in mind!

  25. This is a great post, since I obviously love vegetables. I”ll have to pdf this for future reference. I feel like the more I learn, the more I need to learn.

  26. Louise 26

    Your clear wine tips are greatly appreciated! As for adding fat to veggies, it sure is a guilty pleasure, isn’t it?

  27. What about beets? Seems like wine is not their friend…but maybe we just haven’t found the best pairing.

  28. Noble Pig 28

    I would try Riesling (Kabinett) or Merlot.

  29. Linda 29

    Thank you … very informative. I hadn’t given it much thought before but now it all makes sense.

  30. Fantastic tutorial and information. I am not good at pairing wine and food so this will be a great go to list. I agree that tomatoes are really hard to pair. Does beer count then?

  31. You see, THIS is why I check your site every day.
    Thank you.


    Thank you. That was a very informative article, and you’re right – the veggies so often get overlooked, but they’re such an intrinsic part of every meal that I make.

    I have to ask though, you didn’t address any root vegetables. What about carrots, parsnip, squash (likely a dry white, and the varietal would depend on how they’re prepared, but I’m still not sure) and…dare I ask….beets? I love beets, but I’ll be hancocked if I know how to pair a beet dish….can you help?

  32. i think i’m going to print this out and put one in my kitchen, one in my wallet and i may give as a gift to someone else and pretend i wrote it (kidding). great post!

  33. Cheryl 33

    As always, this is wonderously helpful…of course, I’d just as soon keep my shiraz ans sacrifice all veggies! ;)

  34. KathyB. 34

    Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you! I really have wondered about the wine and veggie pairings and am so happy to see I need Pinot Noir to accompany my favorite veggies. This is a wonderfully helpful post!

  35. Liz C. 35

    You have no idea how you’ve changed things at our house with your wine pairing lessons. I now feel somewhat knowledgeable about wines & at least know it’s not our parents’ wine anymore. It’s a whole new wine world out there now & thanks to you, I can find my way around in it.

  36. Egghead 36

    Oh good another one to print out for the wine files. The farmer loves these.

  37. Lo! 37

    Great info, Cathy.
    I’ve decided most of the meals we eat at our house are decidedly challenging when it comes to wine pairing (particularly due to the wide variety of veg we manage to eat). But, this will be a huge help!

  38. Thanks Cathy. I’ve bookmarked this page for reference. This information is such a big help.

  39. Laura 39

    I learn something EVERY time I visit this blog.

  40. Bunny 40

    This really looks good cathy, I think my picky hubby would really enjoy this!

  41. Jude 41

    Very nicely explained. Thanks! I’m a complete idiot when it comes to wines and pairings.


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