Matching Wine With Vegetarian Fare

When I was growing up, vegetarians were hippies. That’s what my Dad said, so it had to be true.

Of course, it wasn’t true then (at least, not in all cases), and it isn’t true today. Being a vegetarian is considered just as “normal” as recycling—another exclusive domain of hippies back in the day, according to Dad.

I remember the first time I looked inside a vegetarian friend’s refrigerator. There were vegetables of various kinds, of course, but there also were things I’d never seen before and could not have identified were it not for the labels on the packaging.

Marinated tofu.



Granted, there’s nothing unusual about any of them, but at that time, they were new to me.

Over time, I became more open to trying a wider array of vegetarian dishes, and this opened up a whole new world to me. I had no idea how well one could eat sans meat. Take a look at this list, and you’ll see what I mean.

These days, I’m a weekday vegetarian. Unless there’s some kind of special get-together during the work week, I reserve my carnivorous tendencies for the weekend.

Most people embrace the vegetarian lifestyle for health reasons or ethical concerns over eating meat. For me, I’ve found being a weekday vegetarian helps control my weight, so that I can still enjoy the fatty foods (meats, desserts) I love a couple of days per week.

Initially, finding wines to drink with vegetables was a challenge. But with a good deal of experimentation, I was able to identify pairing partners for most veggies—mostly white wines, and more often than not, Sauvignon Blanc.

If I just had to have a red wine—and I do love red wine—I found that Pinot Noir was a decent go-to choice.

The key to matching wine with veggies is the acid level of the wine. More acid is better, which is why Sauvignon Blanc works so well. Among reds, you want to stay away from the big tannic monsters, like Cabernet Sauvignon can be. (Thank goodness I can still enjoy a good Cab on the weekends.)

One challenge vegetarians constantly face involves maintaining the quality of their lifestyle while on the road. Although vegetarian-friendly restaurants are growing in number all around the country, there remain pockets where the best solution is simply to go to the local market and prowl the produce section.

Napa Valley, the wine capital of America, used to be that way.

No more, however. Today, most of the restaurants in the valley include at least one vegetarian entrée on their menu, and some offer several.

But as far as I’m concerned, no place in the valley comes close to matching Ubuntu in the town of Napa. It is totally focused on vegetarian fare, and also embraces the concepts of local sourcing, biodynamics, sustainability and interconnectedness among providers and the local communities.

Better still, the food is delicious, and the wine selection is inspired, constantly changing with the seasons and the menu. You can read more about Ubuntu’s approach to food and wine here.

I’d love to hear about your favorite wine with vegetarian fare. What’s your favorite dish, and what do you drink with it? Please share your experiences in the comment box below.

When I look back on the viewpoints that my Dad shared with me when I was growing up, and then think about how I eat today—five days per week, anyway—one thing becomes apparent: I would have made a pretty good hippie.

Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes
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