Red Wine with Lighter Fare
Eating less meat? You can still pair your favorite wines with savory, sumptuous cuisine
Traditionally when red wines are paired with food, it’s with beef, bison, venison or other red meat. But at the winery we’re hearing from more and more customers who’re either cutting back on meat or eliminating it from their lives altogether. They still want to enjoy red wines with this lighter cuisine and the question is, can it really work? Annette Shafer, author of The Wine Sense Diet, assures us it can work beautifully.
“Increasingly we’re seeing fleshy root vegetables, flower buds such as purple cauliflower, and spicy greens front-and-center on the plate rather than as an afterthought,” says Shafer. “And today these creations offer more complex flavors and are more interesting to the palate than ever before.”
Certain vegetables and herbs virtually always complement wines, Shafer says, such as shallots, leeks, corn, peas, fava beans, and mushrooms. Among herbs and seasonings, good choices are thyme, sesame oil, and a hint of lightly cooked garlic.
How your vegetables are cooked can direct your pairing choices, which is how wine matches with food – including meat or fish – are traditionally determined.
Roasting vegetables in a hint of olive oil adds a rich quality that makes wine a good partner. One of Shafer’s favorites is butternut squash roasted until just tender.
“Add a pinch of fresh thyme and it’s a dish in itself. Or, how about adding it to a basic Farro risotto – which contains shallots and reduced white wine. Add a touch of ginger. Finish it all off with a bit of shaved asiago or manchego and you can enjoy any wine in the gamut from a lively Chardonnay to a rich, bold Cabernet,” she suggests.
Grilling your favorite vegetables over charcoal or gas creates a savory quality with toasty caramelized flavors that can match deliciously with wines such as Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel and even a less tannic Cabernet.
Shafer’s go-to wine and vegetable matches: