How to Pair Wine With Vegetable Dishes

Eating Mixed Salads and Drinking Red Wine
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Trying different types of wine with strictly vegetable dishes can be a lot of fun. Vegetable dishes may not have the richness or proteins of meat-based dishes, but they aren't as wine-averse as we've been led to believe. It does take a little experimentation, however. Vegetables have a fantastic depth and variety of flavor, and they are rarely cooked alone. That variety can make it difficult to find a wine that complements all those flavors.

Because of their natural sugars, many vegetables come across as sweet, and some people prefer to balance that with a dry wine. Others like to complement the sweetness with a fruity wine. The point behind pairing food and wine is to elevate them to something better than either is alone. But since you rarely sit down with a plate of peppers and a glass of wine, the question often comes down to how the vegetable is prepared and what accompanies it. In short, there is no simple answer to what wine to pair with vegetables. There's no quick tip, like red with red meat, white with white meat.

The good news is that this means you get to try a lot of different wines. You may wind up puckering now and then, but here's a tip from master sommelier and trained chef Andrea Immer: You can make just about any dish wine-friendly if you season it with wine-friendly ingredients. At the top of the list are shallots, garlic, thyme, and olive oil. Now, what dish wouldn't be improved by one of these?

Experiment With Wines and Vegetables

Red Wines:

Go for lighter, softer reds that tend toward either spicy or fruity.

White Wines:

Most whites will work with vegetables, especially the brighter, non-oaky wines. Save the oaky Chardonnay for richer dishes.

Pair Wine With Prepared Vegetable Dishes

Since you probably won't be pairing wine with raw vegetables, it's more helpful to focus on the way the vegetables are prepared. Some preparations, like ​roasting, can make vegetables even more wine-friendly.​

Tips:

  • Roasting and grilling will caramelize the sugars in vegetables and give them an almost meaty richness. Roasted vegetables can stand up to rich reds, like Merlot, Syrah, or Zinfandel.
  • Cream, butter, and cheese add richness and body to vegetable dishes, and they tend to pair well with oaky wines, like Chardonnay.
  • Spicy dishes can go two ways. They can be balanced with a fruity wine, like Gewürztraminer, or enhanced with a bolder wine, like Merlot.
  • Greens and herbal dishes tend to have a grassy freshness that can be easily overpowered, but pairs well with an equally herbaceous wine, like Sauvignon Blanc.

Pairing Cheat Sheets

White Wines
 
Chardonnay
Chenin
Blanc

Gewürztraminer
Pinot
Grigio

Riesling
Sauvignon
Blanc

Sparkling
White
Zinfandel
Asian
Dishes
  x x x x x   x
Beans x             x
Cilantro, dill, parsley, basil   x       x    
Citrus   x       x x  
Corn x x            
Curries   x     x      
Dairy x              
Eggplant x         x    
Garlic       x   x x  
Mexican Spices     x   x      
Mushrooms x              
Onions       x     x  
Potatoes x         x    
Roasted Vegetables     x   x      

Tomatoes, Raw

          x    
Vinaigrette   x     x x x  
Red Wines
  Chianti Merlot Pinot Noir Syrah Zinfandel
Beans x x x x x
Mexican Spices         x
Mushrooms     x    
Roasted Vegetables x x x x x
Rosemary, bay, sage   x   x  
Spices, Hot         x
Tomatoes, Cooked x x      
Tomatoes, Raw x