Here’s How to Pair Vegan Food With Wine

by Marta Heacock

Shapeshifting culinary trends are changing how wine and food pairings are approached.

Pairing vegan food with wine involves identifying the dominant flavors in the dish and finding a wine that complements those flavors.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and let your curiosity guide you.

Most people have at least a passing familiarity with the basic building blocks of pairing wine and food. It’s common knowledge, for instance, that red wine is traditionally served with red meat and white wine goes with white meat. But shapeshifting culinary trends are changing how wine and food pairings are approached, and with large numbers of consumers moving toward plant-based eating, standard meat entrées are increasingly off the table. 

Pairing vegan food with wine involves identifying the dominant flavors in the dish and finding a wine that complements those flavors. The important thing is to approach these pairings with a sense of fun and adventure with the understanding that personal preferences play a big role in successfully pairing food and wine. Don’t be afraid to experiment and let your curiosity guide you.

The following pairings are designed to provide inspiration to those dipping their toes into pairing vegan food with wine. 

Fresh Tomatoes and Bright Whites 

Uncooked tomatoes fresh from the vine need something white and bright with vibrant acidity, so consider uncorking a well-chilled Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre. Steer clear of anything oaked — you want those fruity notes taking center stage to complement the crisp garden notes of the tomatoes. 

Cooked Tomatoes and Light Reds

Cooking tomatoes lowers their acidity and brings out the nuances in their flavor, which means they can stand up to the less acidic and more tannic profiles of light red wines. Try a peppery Pinot Noir with classic tomato bisque or anything with marinara sauce. Chianti plays well with pasta with stewed tomatoes in a white garlic sauce. 

Even though tomatoes are native to North and Central America, it wasn’t until they found their way to Italy that tomatoes played a prominent role in any type of regional cuisine, so don’t be afraid to think regionally when pairing them with wine. Good choices include a bubbly Lambrusco and a fruit-forward Primitivo. 

Pair green tomatoes with Riesling, Albariño or a slightly sweet Rosé.

Pesto and Pinots 

Both Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir mix well with the herbal notes of basil-based pesto sauce, depending on the individual qualities of the wine and the other ingredients in the dish. Pesto is typically used to provide definition and flavor to pasta, so if you’re serving a pasta primavera with fresh spring greens, look for a Pinot Gris with grassy green notes. If peppers are part of the picture, think about uncorking a slightly spicy Pinot Noir.

Other wines that pair well with pesto include Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and unoaked Chardonnay.

Related: Food and Wine 101: Whites

Vegan Chocolate and Port 

Whether it’s an elegant chocolate mousse or a simple square of deep dark chocolate, any good vegan meal is worthy of a luxurious grand finale. Today’s vegan chocolate is every bit as creamy and decadent as its dairy-based counterparts, so pour a velvety Port for the dessert course when chocolate’s in the house. Or enjoy the combination as a standalone snack for a decadent interlude on an otherwise average afternoon. 

When All Else Fails, Uncork Something Sparkling

Unlike their meat, poultry, and fish counterparts, many vegan entrées don’t have one dominant flavor to create a wine pairing around — and this makes pairing even more fun. But if you’re expecting guests for a vegan feast and don’t have time to test a variety of combinations, you can uncork something sparkling with confidence — especially if that something is a slightly dry Rosé. This wine goes with everything and adds a festive note to any occasion.



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