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The Two Elements of Vegan Food and Wine Pairings You Should Know

Wine pairings with vegan and vegetarian dishes have high potential to dazzle, if you keep a few key elements in mind. For example, Jennifer Huether, MS, describes the first time she paired cashew-based Brie with a sparkling Riesling from the Niagara region as “magic.” While she would pair the dairy variety with a rich Chardonnay, she says vegan versions of foods can require special consideration.

The Fat Factor

“While the same principles apply, fats change, from oilier animal fats to…natural fats such as avocados or cashew or coconut,” says Huether.

So, while she would typically pair a dairy-based Alfredo sauce with a white Burgundy from Côte d’Or, for a cashew-based version, “I might go up [north] to a Chablis,” she says.

It’s all about finding that balance of richness and acidity between the wine and the food, she says, and considering the dominant flavor.

“What I am finding with plant-based cheeses is they don’t have as much salt, not as much acid, so I need to bring the acid in the wine.” Many vegan cheeses are also made with coconut oil, she says, “and coconut has an affinity to Riesling.”

For meat alternatives, or any plant-based foods that are smoked, grilled or charred, Huether says that rather than enjoying with a red with bold tannins, as one might with a steak, she suggests a wine with softer tannins or greater bottle age, such as a Rioja Gran Reserva.

Analyzing Acidity

Leslie Durso, the vegan chef for Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita in Mexico, says she looks to the acidity of a plant-based dish when seeking complimentary wines. With something acidic, like a bean salad or plant-based ceviche, she suggests serving with a Sauvignon Blanc.

“Or if you’re going to do a warmer dish, like beans and mushrooms, like a stew, I would go with something smooth, like a Pinot Noir,” she says.

While we may not often think of drinking wine alongside a “casual” food like beans, she says, “they can be very elegant and excellent.” And so, too, can other vegan or vegetarian wine and food pairings. There’s a whole world out there.