Veganuary Wine Tips: Plant Based Pairings
A season of two halves, winter is first festive then frugal with many people spending January watching both their waistlines and pennies. The idea of Dry January makes me shudder to my core, but veganuary is quickly gaining in popularity, with more and more of us focusing on plant-based dining this month.
January is bleak enough without forgoing company. It is one of life’s great pleasures to enjoy good food and wine around the table with friends, but we do not often think about vegetables when it comes to wine pairing. I spoke to author and wine educator Wendy Narby and Bordeaux winemaker Sally Evans, founders of recipes site www.wineand2veg.com to get their advice on wine-pairing for veganuary.
When researching her book “The Drinking Woman’s Diet”, Narby wanted to focus on a healthy approach to wine and found that drinking with a full stomach of food was key. An advocate for the health benefits of cutting down on meat she teamed up with her friend Evans to explore the idea further.
Evans became vegetarian during lockdown, inspired by her son who was cooking all their meals, but as a Bordeaux winemaker she noticed everyone recommended pairing red wine with red meat. “When it comes to wine everyone starts out by asking if you are having fish or meat, but with the rise of vegetarianism – and veganuary – we need to talk more about wine and plant-based food, so I started putting a link on my bottle labels to my website with some recipe ideas”.
The most easy to pair vegetables are mushrooms, because of their earthy umami flavours often mirrored in wines, as well as aubergines: “think of an Italian parmigiana” adds Evans, who also recommends replacing the lamb in moussaka with slow cooked lentil, mushrooms and tomatoes. “It really all comes down to preparation” says Narby “you can match almost anything with a red if it has been grilled, to give it that smoky, toasty flavour, or use sauces, spices, herbs to create rich flavours”.
What about the trickier flavours though, like the bitterness found in asparagus or fennel? These would typically pair best with a white wine, Sauvignon Blanc for example is known to compliment asparagus and again it is about the preparation “you can grill or stew fennel to get rid of that bitterness” suggests Narby “but I think it is served best with a sweet white wine, not necessarily a dessert wine but something off-dry to balance it”.
Wineand2veg.com is seasonal and has just launched their winter recipes, designed to help readers along the road to plant-based discovery. When asked for their own favourites, Evans suggests her roasted medjool dates for a perfect appetiser, stuffed with goat’s cheese and topped with a combination of walnuts, orange zest and rosemary. A celebratory nibble like this is ideal with some fizz, such as a crémant, which would cut through and lift the sticky date and creamy cheese. Nardy recommends the chickpea curry which is “super easy and uses store cupboard staples” and would be delicious with a lighter, fruitier red like a young Merlot.
“People may be moving away from meat but we don’t want them to move away from wine,” says Evans. “It is important to focus on what we are consuming for our health, our wallets and for the planet, but equally we need to ensure that making these choices does not impact our ability to join together with others and enjoy special moments with friends and family.”