Perhaps you're a dedicated veggie, or you're just a fan of Meat Free Mondays. Either way, choosing a great food and wine pairing can be tricky. And with the often subtle and delicate flavours of vegetable-based dishes, even more so.
Here's a brief guide to picking the best vino for your veggie dish, the perfect tipple for tomatoes, and finding out which grape is ripe for risotto.
A slightly sweeter wine, such as a Riesling or Gewürztraminer can calm the heat of a curry or spicy dish. An oaky Chardonnay or Viognier pairs well with lentils, butternut squash or pumpkin, and the bold flavours of a Merlot, Shiraz, Viognier or Rioja work wonderfully with strong flavours like mushrooms.
Tomato flavoured Italian food pairs perfectly with Italian reds (keeping it in the country is a good guideline) such as Primitivo, Barbera and Montepulciano, while salads and green vegetables go well with a dry Riesling, Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc.
It may seem obvious, but pair bold flavours with bold wines, and subtle flavours with delicate wines. If you drink a delicate white with spicy food, you will lose the flavour of the wine, and no-one wants that. Similarly, if you drink a big red with a subtly flavoured vegetarian dish, you won’t be able to taste that meal you’ve lovingly prepared.
If you want to drink a full-bodied red wine, or a rich white wine, there are certain ingredients you can use to match the power of your tipple, as you don’t have the animal fat or protein which helps to soften the tannins.
With reds use mushrooms, chestnuts or soy sauce to give richness and depth. Bring out the flavours of your vegetables by caramelising them, or by adding warm spices.
For white wine add cream or butter to sauces and purees, or use sweet and full-flavoured vegetables like red peppers or butternut squash. Roasted nuts can also bring out the flavour of oaked whites.
If you’re planning to throw a vegetarian dinner party soon, or just fancy treating yourself, these easy recipe suggestions and wine pairings wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
Starter: Panko breaded goats' cheese with beetroot salad recipe
300g beetroot, sliced
2 tbsps of balsamic vinegar
2 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil
1 finely chopped clove of garlic
30g very finely chopped shallot
1 tsp thyme
2 handfuls of salad leaves (or micro herbs)
Goats' cheese, chilled, cut in half
1 egg, beaten
50g panko breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
How to make it
1. Put the sliced beetroot into a dish with the vinegar, olive oil, thyme, shallot, garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Mix together and leave to marinate, preferably overnight.
2. Arrange your beetroot on the plate.
3. Dip your goats' cheese into the beaten egg, and then into the breadcrumbs. Coat thoroughly.
4. In a large frying pan, heat a small amount of olive oil on a medium heat. Add the goats' cheese and fry for around two minutes on each side.
5. Pat with kitchen paper before putting on top of the beetroot, and topping with the salad leaves/micro herbs. Season and drizzle with a little olive oil.
Wirra Wirra, Scrubby Rise, unoaked Chardonnay, 2013,
£9.95 – Wine Direct
Scrubby Rise Chardonnay is unoaked, which allows the natural fruit flavours of the grape to shine. A nicely bodied and stylish wine, Scrubby Rise has good flavours of stone fruit, and is well balanced.
Jackson Estate, Stich, Sauvignon Blanc, 2014,
£10.98 – Mix and match two bottles at Majestic
A Sauvignon Blanc which is clean and well-balanced. Zingy and lively, with fruity gooseberry flavours, this wine is refreshing but not overpowering.
Main course: Wild mushroom risotto recipe
1 onion, finely chopped
50g dried mushrooms, steeped in boiling water for 30 minutes (save the water), and chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
200g risotto rice
1 glass of white wine
1/2 litre vegetable stock
1 knob of butter
100g wild mushrooms
Grated vegetarian hard cheese to taste
Salt and pepper
How to make it
1. Heat olive oil in a deep frying pan and sauté mushrooms and onions on a medium heat for ten minutes
2. Add the garlic, and cook for a further minute or so
3. Add the rice and sauté for three minutes
4. Add the white wine and stir until absorbed
5. Add the reserve stock from the steeped dried mushrooms and allow to be absorbed by rice, stirring often
6. Add the vegetable stock, a ladle at a time, letting the rice absorb the stock each time (this should take around 20 to 30 minutes)
7. Season to taste
8. Sauté the wild mushrooms in butter and use to top the risotto, along with a liberal serving of cheese shavings
Black Stump, Durif Shiraz, 2011,
£7.99 – Naked Wines
Smooth, fruity and dark, this Durif Shiraz is really easy to drink. Lots of berry and dark fruit flavours, spicy and chocolatey, it easily matches up with the powerful flavour of the mushroom risotto.
Yalumba, Barossa Grenache, 2012,
£9.32 – Mix and match two bottles, Majestic
A fruity little number. Mild tannins and a rounded peppery finish. Red and dark berry fruits with perfumed aromas and a smooth, long finish.
Dessert wine suggestions
Wirra Wirra, Mrs Wigley, Moscato, 2011,
£7.99 – Ocado
Pink, sweet, slightly sparkling and the perfect accompaniment to dessert, Mrs Wigley is delicious with flavours of sweet strawberries, while being creamy and smooth. Really yummy (and a great name).
The Ned, Noble Sauvignon Blanc, 2013/4,
£9.74 – Mix and match two bottles, Majestic
A lovely mixture of acidity and sweetness, with an intense flavour. The nutty and caramel apple flavours in this wine pair really well with fruit flavours in a dessert.