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.
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