I sometimes wonder what my parents would have made of today’s diet, which they would have found mysteriously devoid of meat and two veg. Of course, there are still people (some of my best friends and family members among them) for whom a meal isn’t proper unless it includes some kind of animal-based protein, but, while I am an omnivore, I often go days without eating meat at all.
In the wine trade, however, there’s still a tendency for the back labels to suggest meat and fish pairings, or to restrict vegetarian recommendations to veggie lasagnes or stews. The world of vegetarian and vegan cooking is as broad, if not broader, than meat, fish and dairy-based food, but many wine producers still seem to be mentally stuck in the nut-roast rut.
As I’ve said before, when it comes to choosing a wine to go with a meal, it’s much more useful to think of the way a dish is cooked and the overall intensity of its flavours than simply focus on the main ingredient. If you’re serving your vegetables lightly cooked or raw and crunchy, you want the sort of wine you would drink with seafood: a crisp, dry white or rosé, for preference. Deep-fry them, however, as in tempura or any kind of fritter, and you’d be better off reaching for a bottle of cava or crémant, or even champagne. When vegetables are seared, roasted or, above all, barbecued, meanwhile, they can take the kind of hearty red you’d serve with a meat dish, especially if pulses such as lentils are involved. There’s also the seasonal element that applies just as much to vegetable dishes as to meaty and fishy ones: light, springtime food, for instance, calls for light, summery wines – both red as well as white.
Articles on pairing vegetarian food and wine also tend to overlook that most desserts are vegetarian, if not vegan, which means you can have a field day with sweet wines such as the sublime, orange-blossom-scented Domaine Pieretti muscat from Corsica that features in today’s pick.
Frustratingly, many labels still don’t specify whether a wine is suitable for vegetarians; in other words, that it is not made with any animal-based products (some use milk-based proteins, isinglass or egg whites for fining, for example). Supermarkets have increasingly moved to making their own-label wines suitable for vegans, and clearly indicate that fact on the labels, but I had to check in the case of that muscat. I reckon that sort of information should be standard these days.
Five spring wines to drink with vegetarian dishes
Mimo Moutinho Arinto Vinho Verde 2021 £5.49 Aldi, 11.5%. Brilliantly priced, crisp Portuguese white to drink with raw veg and dips.
Villa Maria Earth Garden Sauvignon Blanc 2020 £10.50 Tesco, 14%. Really vibrant savvy blanc in the classic Marlborough style. One for goat’s cheese salads or asparagus.
Viña Zorzal Garnacha 2020 £7.25 The Wine Society, 13.5%. Bright, juicy, gulpable red that would be perfect with grilled and roast veg. Spain’s answer to beaujolais.
Domaine Pieretti Muscat du Cap Corse 2020 £25 Yapp Brothers, 16.5%. One for the sweet-toothed among you: aA gorgeous, headily perfumed dessert wine from Corsica. Would be heavenly with an apricot tart.
Pierre Jaurant Sud de France Rosé £6.99 Aldi, 12.5%. Crisp, delicate, Provence-style rosé at a decidedly un-Provençal price.