While many Americans won’t be giving up their Ribeyes, New York Strips or Prime Rib anytime soon, some consumers have attempted to reduce their consumption of red meat in recent years.
Many have embraced the plant-based diet based on vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruits. This diet also includes minimally processed starches and reduces the use of refined foods, such as bleached flour, commercial sugar and oils.
This diet can decrease the risk of coronary artery disease, stroke and diabetes while reducing weight and controlling blood pressure.
Healthy choices are always good. However, for the wine lover, this trend has created some wine-selection dilemmas. If you enjoy whites and reds with lots of extract, flavor and power, this lighter menu would be overwhelmed by your favorite wines, most likely making for less-than-pleasing pairings.
There are two solutions. Lighten up your wine choices to match the flavor intensity of your menu, or find flavorful plant-based menu items that stand up to your favorite wines.
Consider the basic flavor profile each food item offers. Fruits, corn, sweet peas and sweet potatoes have a hint (or more) of sweetness, so look for wines that will echo that level of sweetness.
Riesling offers lots of food-pairing flexibility due to its typical hint of sweetness, and cool climate examples often have restrained alcohol levels, which enhances pairing with lighter entrées. Riesling also has firm acidity that allows the wines to keep their flavors when paired with astringent greens and vinaigrettes, one reason the wines pair so well with salads.
Along with the softly-sweet style of Riesling, the varietal’s drier styles from Alsace and the more substantial style found in Australia, or lightly sweet Chenin Blanc/Vouvray and some Gewurztraminers, would all be good pairings for entrées made with these vegetables.
Astringent vegetables can present a food pairing challenge by making wines seem dull and lifeless. Fruity, brightly-crisp whites have adequate acidity to stand up to these vegetables and still show character. Remember the previously mentioned white wines and add Sauvignon Blanc and unoaked Chardonnay. Whites from the Rhone made from Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne would also excel. Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio would be just delightful, and many sparkling wines have the acidity to pair well with astringent vegetables.
Look to France, Germany, Austria, Italy and northern Spain for plant-friendly wine pairings. These countries have cool climates that offer elegance and delicacy perfect for these dishes.
Dishes such as Vegetable Lasagna, Fava Beans and Spaghetti Sauce and Spaghetti Squash with red sauce all incorporate tomato sauces. Based on color and flavor intensity, this suggests a light red for the wine choice. Beaujolais (Villages or cru level), lighter Pinot Noirs, Tempranillo and Sangiovese have adequate acidity to stand up to the sauce without excessive power that might overwhelm the dish. Look for less expensive wines as they are made to drink at the time of purchase. They will have less tannin, astringency and acidity and may work wonderfully with your meal.
There are certainly more flavorful dishes prepared from vegetables. Black Bean Stews and Casseroles, Italian White Bean Burgers, Shepherd’s Pie and Polenta with Curry are some examples of recipes quickly found on the internet. Depending on the spice and flavor intensity, fuller white and red wines can be paired and enjoyed with these dishes.
Reducing the amount of red meat in your diet doesn’t have to mean uninspiring wine choices. Simply open your mind and experiment with the numerous options and wine styles to find your next favorite pairing.