How to pair red wine with plant-based dishes: 7 delicious combinations
The majority of red wine labels say, ‘pair with red meat’, with no clues for vegetarians or vegans who want to drink red wine with a delicious meal. So, what autumnal and wintry deliciousness can we cook up and savour with Château George 7 or Prince? And why do some pairings work better than others?
Both my red wines are 100% merlot, showing its versatility and potential even though single varietal wines are pretty uncommon*: Here is a reminder of their flavours:
Château George 7 is complex and smooth. Because it is fermented in large French oak barrels (500 litres) then aged in small ones for 18 months, it has a wonderful balance of ripe black fruit and secondary flavours from oak – such as sweet baking spices (cinnamon etc), cedar, chocolate and even a tinge of smoke;
Prince de George 7 is a fruit bomb - with bright, juicy red and black fruit and just 9 months of oak ageing. It is concentrated yet fresh, with the fruit enhanced by the touch of wood.
I have been coming up with recipes to enjoy with my wines since bottling the first vintage and here are 7 of my favourite plant-based pairings and why they work:
1. Mushrooms in various guises are firm friends of Château George 7. But why do they work so well with red wine? It is thanks to umami - that savoury flavour which is the 5th of the basic tastes (along with sweet, sour, salty and bitter). Most commonly defined as 'savoury' or, ironically for vegans, ’meaty’, we find it most definitely in mushrooms. Ottolenghi has a fabulous traybake ragu sauce in his book, ‘Flavour’ made with mushrooms & lentils, slow cooked and delicious on pasta or as a base for a veggie shepherd’s pie. Try tasty wild mushroom and chestnut tagliatelle or how about spinach and shiitake mushroom tart ? Pair with a few glasses of Château George 7 for a mushroom match made in heaven.
2. Rich Barbecue Sauce can cope well with a fruity wine such as Prince. For example, barbecue cauliflower florets as part of a vegan barbecue but equally good cooked in the oven for Friday night veggie finger food.
3. Root vegetables cooked various ways are heavenly with red wine. Try hearty soups such as pumpkin or butternut squash topped with a nutty crumble made with crunchy hazelnuts. Swap out the blue cheese in our recipe for an aged cheddar (which has bags of umami) if blue is not your bag. A glass of Château George 7 will be a great accompaniment. Or why not a ‘tartine’ of toasted sourdough bread, spread with hummus and topped with warm roasted carrots, parsnips and red onions cooked with a sprinkling of ‘herbes de provence’. The caramelisation of the veg is just delicious with a glass of Prince for lunch.
4. Beetroot has savoury earthy notes yet also a sweetness when roasted. Try a vibrant beetroot risotto making it with a fruity red instead of white wine. I recently had the walnut and beetroot risotto at Deliciously Ella’s restaurant Plants. Oh wow, roasted heritage beets, crispy kale and walnuts. Or a beet and red onion ‘tarte tatin’ (this one is from bbcgoodfood website) would also be a ‘beetiful’ match with Prince.
5. A vegetable lasagne – either vegetarian or vegan versions and especially one with a layer where lentils take centre stage. See my usual recipe - the lentils cooked up with onions, garlic and tomatoes create a bolognaise-style sauce accompanied by the usual pasta, cheesy and additional veggie layers (depending on what you have in the fridge). Open a bottle or 2 of Prince and feed a crowd.
6. Aubergine with its melting savoury texture is in so many tasty dishes that pair wonderfully with fruity red wines. How about aubergine parmigiana which is a fave of vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. The tomato in the sauce which is sweet from long slow cooking has oodles of that umami flavour again and there are some great parmesan style vegan alternatives around now. Grab a glass of Château George 7 and some crusty bread and head to aubergine heaven.
7. Chocolate dessert is the perfect pairing if you use the right chocolate. Dark rather than milk and the fruitiness of a wine gives the impression of sweetness even if there is no residual sugar and so some big (higher alcohol), fruity wines can stand up to chocolate with 80% cacao without tipping into bitterness. See my blog on red wine and chocolate for more hints. So, try small chocolate pots which are just enough dark, rich naughtiness or poached pears with chocolate ice cream making the most of seasonal fruit, poached whole in red wine with vanilla and cinnamon and served with the winey syrup, a scoop of chocolate ice cream and a glass of Château George 7 to round off the perfect evening.
Do you have a favourite pairing of Château George 7 with a plant-based dish? If so, I would love to hear from you and if you agree, share it with Château George 7 fans and followers. Just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: A shout-out to Stéphanie Bottreau, Lyne Clover & Sandra Hygonnenc for their great work when we started the food and wine pairing journey right at the start!