The Veggie Challenge

“Eat your vegetables and drink your wine!”

Isn’t that the instruction we received from our moms each night at the dinner table when we growing up? We’re pretty sure it was something like that…

For those of us who grew up to love our veggies and to love wine, pairing the two can be challenging. This is particularly true of vegetables with assertive flavors, asparagus being a prime example. Other than a blanc de blanc sparkling wine with a basically neutral flavor, we’ve yet to find a wine that really complements asparagus.

Other vegetables present similar pairing challenges in varying degrees. As a general rule, your best shot at making the combination work is to opt for a wine that is tangy and fresh. That eliminates most red wines, as well as most whites that are more than three years old.

Fortunately, that still leaves us with a number of options, including youthful renditions of Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muscadet and Gruner Veltliner.

But perhaps the most versatile of all wines with veggies is Sauvignon Blanc. It’s the go-to variety to accompany salads, whether they’re made exclusively from greens or have chopped veggies tossed in.

Keep in mind that when other flavors are introduced to a vegetable dish, the wine pairing parameters change. Examples include carrots that are maple glazed, corn on the cob brushed with melted butter, and green beans sprinkled with bacon bits.

All of those “condiments” fundamentally change the flavor of the dish. And when choosing a wine, we pair with the dominant flavor.

Much like with main courses—meat, fish, fowl—each of us tends to have favorite vegetables. Your best bet when it comes to identifying complementary wines for your favorite veggies is to experiment.

Half of the fun of food and wine pairing is discovering surprising successes.

P.S.: If you really prefer red wines to whites, and are now completely bummed about the veggie-pairing possibilities, there is one red that works quite nicely in many cases: Chianti Classico (made primarily from Sangiovese grapes), a red noted for its zippy acidity.

Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes
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