Q&A: Meat-Free Wine Pairing
I'd like to kick off a new, hopefully regular feature here on the Binny's Blog: The new Q&A feature, where we Binny's Bloggists can get at the questions you really want answered. I received the following question via email, regarding meat-free wine pairing options:
After noticing that you were a vegetarian, had a question for you... Simply, being a vegetarian, how do you pair wines and food? Specifically with bigger more tannic wines, that are often paired with red meats--how do you finagle a pairing?
- David H.
When it comes to pairing food and wine, I'm in the camp that believes that it isn't about finding that one 'magic bullet' pairing, but about discovering what generally works. I'd say about 90% of wine pairing is knowing which parings to avoid because of overtly conflicting tastes, and knowing which foods and wines are best for the target audience.
I know many of my colleagues here at Binny's will disagree with me, suggesting the perfect pairing can be picked from centuries of regional and gastronomical tradition. I myself am especially fond of pairing full-bodied white wines with cream sauces and vegetable purees it's almost always a perfect pairing to me. But it seems to me that limiting your pairing experience only to tradition is ultimately just that limiting. The joy of wine is in discovery.
Big, tannic red wines pair well with red meats both because of the fat content and the savory flavors of red meat (I might be a vegetarian now, but as a kid growing up in Iowa and Nebraska, I ate more than my share of beef). The fat works by masking the tannins, making the wine seem more plush and round.
As an ovo-lacto vegetarian (I do eat eggs and dairy), I tend to pair tannic reds with foods containing cheese, oil, and savory herbs and vegetables. I avoid light foods that would be lost under the weight of the wine, and avoid spicy foods that would conflict with the aggressive tannins.
I cook up a mean sauteed mushroom dish involving extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, garlic and Balsamic vinegar. Serve it over noodles, with bread and butter and a good California cab and I'm in heaven. I also like pairing heavy reds with roasted veggies with rosemary or sage, also with plenty of olive oil. Or a cheesy frittata with thin-sliced peppers and spinach. And I know it's not too classy, but I'm a sucker for a fat, greasy slice of Chicago deep dish cheese pizza. It's a good cabernet pairing to be enjoyed on the couch.
It rarely hurts to try new things, so I try to keep an open mind about pairings. There's plenty out there. It doesn't always have to be about meat.
If you have a question you'd like us to consider for a Binny's Blog Q&A, post a comment, either below or on the Binny's Facebook page, or email me at gversch [at] binnys [dot] com. Thanks for reading!