How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

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How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby AlexR » Sun Apr 29, 2007 10:04 am

Please don't take this as a troll.

I've only asked a question, and have left the door wide open for people to tell me how this is possible.

Most of the wine lovers I know are also food lovers (for what it's worth, I developed an interest in fine wine *before* becoming interested in more sophisticated food), for whom a special wine calls for special food.

I do not doubt for a moment that there are many vegetarian food options for meals at which fine wines are served.

Where I'm sceptical though - and willing to be proved wrong - is the pairing of a truly fine wine with a meatless or seafoodless meal.
For instance, one of the finest wines I've had in recent years is 1985 Château Margaux.
What would a vegetarian serve with this?
Could a nut roast possibly do the trick?
What would a vegetarian serve with a Bâtard-Montrachet that would marry as well as sole or turbot?

I've served meals at my own home with all sorts of permuations: people who can't eat certain foods for religious reasons, people with allergies (my wife is allergic to gluten and cannot eat anything with wheat), people on diets, people with strong dislikes, etc.
So, I am open-minded about this.
And I also find that most vegetarians are pretty easy-going about alternatives.

I suppose my question reduces to this: is there such a thing as vegetarian cuisine fit to accompany very fine wine?

Hugh Johnson says outright that he does not like to drink fine wine and cheese, finding that cheese denature the taste of wine. He recognizes, however, that he is very much in the minority on this.
While I tend to disagree with Johnson about this, I have difficulty imagining building a whole meal around cheese if special wine is to be served.

I'll be interested to read your comments.

Best regards,
Alex R.
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby Brian Gilp » Sun Apr 29, 2007 10:24 am

I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian for the first 10 plus years of my wine education. I don't think that many will argue that wine matches better with meat based meals but that by no way implies that the wine can not be enjoyed with vegetarian based meals. A fine Bdx will be especially hard to match but a good burgundy will go well with an earthy vegtable ragout.

Not to hijack your thread but the real problem for ethical vegetarians is not matching with food but the inability to know about the processing of the wine in question and if animal products were used as fining agents. This was a real issue for many of my Vegan friends and since few wineries make that information available they essentially did not drink wine at all.
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby Peter May » Sun Apr 29, 2007 10:28 am

I am not really sure I can be arsed because this is one of those personal taste issues that come up here every so often. And food & wine matching is the most personal issue and never gets a consensus. Supposing someone replies that, yes, they find Marguax 85 is perfect with nutcutlet. Where do you go from there?

I am not a vegetarian, I eat meat but I like the accompanying vegetables just as much, and a frequently have meals that don't have meat.

Ratatoiulle is a good foil for a gutsy red, pasta with tomato & aubergine sauce -- super with Italian reds, vegetable curry -- yeah I have St Emilion with this at my local Indian restaurant, a meatless pizza with a Bordeaux Blanc, yeah!

And if you are talking fine Bordeaux wines, I enjoy Sauternes and Barsac with dessert. And my desserts are meat free.

It sounds to me that you are saying that you couldn't envisage enjoying a fine wine with a meatless meal. Fine. No one is saying you have to.

But the only way you are going to know is to try it yourself.

(PS - I've never had a nut roast/cutlet.)
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby Bruce K » Sun Apr 29, 2007 4:29 pm

I'm not a vegetarian, but my youngest daughter is, so most of the meals we eat are meatless. I've found plenty of vegetarian meals that are great matches with high-quality red wines. For example, a wild mushroom risotto with Barolo or Barbaresco, a wild mushroom lasagne (made with bechamel) with good Burgundy, Cuban-style black bean stew with a good Rioja, pesto with a top-notch Chinon, etc. There's one dish I make -- a chick pea and feta cheese casserole that's a variation on a friend's Greek recipe -- that I think goes great both with high-quality Rhones and Bordeaux. Dishes with mushrooms, beans, lentils, eggplant, red peppers, tomatoes (if you've got a high-acid red), and/or certain kinds of cheeses can all lend themselves to red wine, IMHO. There's no need for meat substitutes, either.
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lov

Postby Bob Henrick » Sun Apr 29, 2007 4:57 pm

Alex, I suspect that Stuart Yaniger will be along anytime now to educate you in the ways of wine and veggies....especially Northern Rhone and veggies. :)
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby Sue Courtney » Sun Apr 29, 2007 5:17 pm

Not sure if I am going down the truly fine wine track but think mushrooms and pinot noir - what could be better! SO many ways to cook mushroom even to accompany the finest DRC.
Sauvignon Blanc and salads - esp green salads with lots of leafy herbs, tomatoes, feta style cheese
Cashew nut and coconut curry with some of the gorgeous low alcohol sweeter styled wines - saw this dish on an Indian cooking program (Madhur Jaffrey) and I was just salivating.
Pinot Gris with soy infused, Asian spiced tofu and Asian greens
High acid reds, including some Bordeaux styles as well as Chianti go well with a rich red tomato and roasted red capsicum sauce over pasta. Conceivably you could work on ingredients like this to create fine dining experience.
You could do almost any kind of dish in a filo or flaky pastry - the butteriness of the filo or pastry going beautifully with many classy chardonnays and the pastry napped with a lemon, butter and white wine sauce working beautifully for presentation too. If you think of cashew nuts in the filling, you also have complimentary flavours for nutty, Burgundian chardonnays.

I'm not a vegetarian, but I do get sick of meat from time to time and like to experiment.
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby Dave Erickson » Sun Apr 29, 2007 8:11 pm

First, know that just about ALL Austrian wines work well with vegetables. The white Gruner Veltliner, in particular, can conquer even the mighty asparagus and brussels sprouts. I can't really say for sure, but my guess is that Austrian cuisine is influenced by Middle Eastern cuisine (didn't the Turks take Vienna at one point?) and the wines follow suit.

Second, what is it that makes a great Chianti sing? Partly, it's rare Chianini beef. But it is also bitter greens: broccoli rabe, dandelion greens, etc.
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby Mark Willstatter » Sun Apr 29, 2007 8:16 pm

Brian Gilp wrote:This was a real issue for many of my Vegan friends and since few wineries make that information available they essentially did not drink wine at all.


I think your vegan friends must not be trying very hard. I suspect a simple phone call to many wineries, particularly smaller ones, would yield the information they seek.
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby Paulo in Philly » Sun Apr 29, 2007 11:11 pm

Alex,

Don't think your post is a troll at all. I see your point as I have had great wine moments while having some sort of meat with my meal (with red wine, of course). I am not a vegetarian, but just don't eat meat that often. However, I have found that when I do enjoy a wine without meat, some key ingredients that I must have to help match it up the wine is garlic and olive oil, most likely with a strong and earthy vegetable/green like arugula in tomato sauce, or very earthy mushrooms. 8)
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby Rahsaan » Mon Apr 30, 2007 5:20 am

Well aside from the fact that one could quibble with the use of the word "reconcile" in the title, as a non-meat eater I agree with most of what has already been said, although I would add that Bordeaux and other tannic red wines from the Southwest of France are probably among the most difficult to match with meatless cuisine. Which perhaps explains why they are not my favorite, although I like to think my preferences also have something to do with the nobility of Wines Further North.

Still, would be interesting to hear from people who are both vegetarians and Bordeaux/Madiran freaks.
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Apr 30, 2007 8:15 am

I am dedicated to living at the top of the food chain, but I love vegetables, and have frequent meatless meals. Red wine works just fine.

In fact last night was a mushroom & green pea risotto, and it was a good match for the rest of my '95 Cepparello. I would have preferred a Burgundy or Barbaresco though. This mushrooms brought a lovely earthiness that needed a partner.

One thing I have noticed is that if I just barely cook mushrooms they seem even more meaty & accompany reds all that much better.
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Apr 30, 2007 8:52 am

AlexR wrote:Please don't take this as a troll.


Joining in late, I'll line up with David and other carnivores who nonetheless have a considerable interest in matching wine and meatless fare and who often indulge in a meal in which no animals were harmed in its production. ;)

Your question might not be a troll, but I think the answers already coming in suggest that it was a surprisingly uninformed question. While it's certainly true that wine evolved in meat-eating Western cultures and thus works most easily with animal flesh, it doesn't take much exposure to vegetarian cuisine to learn that its range and diversity of textures, flavors and cooking styles extends far, far beyond bowls of greens or nut cutlets. (Although that being said, one local brewpub offers a spinach-and-walnut "burger" that's remarkably good, and that would go well with quite a few wines.)

I suspect that a "vegan," who shuns all animal products including eggs, butter and cheese as well as meat, might have a harder time with wine - I'm sure they thank their particular deity for creating mushrooms - but frankly, I don't think vegans <i>like</i> to eat and drink, so this question rarely comes up in the real world. Assuming eggs and dairy are on the bill of fare, then in my mind, the question of difficult wine-matching goes away, particularly when you consider the wine-friendly benefits of roasting and browning and how they work with vegetables. As I think I once heard Stuart say, "The Maillard reaction is your friend."

One local place offers a vegetarian main course called a "Vegetable Wellington," assorted roasted vegetables - red bell peppers, mushrooms, eggplant and such, edges caramelized and browned - layered with goat cheese in a puff pastry shell, baked, and served with a deeply flavored tomato sauce. I wouldn't hesitate to pair it with a Bordeaux.
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby Brian Gilp » Mon Apr 30, 2007 9:49 am

I think your vegan friends must not be trying very hard. I suspect a simple phone call to many wineries, particularly smaller ones, would yield the information they seek.


This really depends on who answers the phone and how serious they take the question. Some times tasting room staff do not understand that issinglass (sp?) or egg whites are even used in production or that some people would find this objectionable. Also it is hard to call the winery while browsing the menu or wine shop. So you find one or two that you know are safe and you stick with it.
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby Brian Gilp » Mon Apr 30, 2007 9:53 am

Just noticed that Charlie Trotter has a vegetable tasting menu http://www.charlietrotters.com/restaurant/cuisine/ and that their are wine pairings selected to go with either the vegetable menu or the grand menu. That seems to be an endorsement from at least one well known chef that you can pair wine with vegatarian food.
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Apr 30, 2007 10:00 am

Brian Gilp wrote:Just noticed that Charlie Trotter has a vegetable tasting menu http://www.charlietrotters.com/restaurant/cuisine/ and that their are wine pairings selected to go with either the vegetable menu or the grand menu. That seems to be an endorsement from at least one well known chef that you can pair wine with vegatarian food.


Louisville's Oakroom in the Seelbach Hotel, which is doing a sort of Trotter/Keller thing under its excellent current chefs, does the same thing: Regular and vegetarian tasting menus with wines paired to each. Last time we went, my wife tried the vegetarian while I had the regular (actually, we just got one of each and shared everything), and it was remarkable. You absolutely did not even notice that meat was missing from the vegetarian dishes, and the wines were fine (given that the sommelier is a little more oriented toward <I>Wine Spectator</I> ratings and New World wines than I would be if I were wearing his tastevin).
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby AlexR » Mon Apr 30, 2007 11:17 am

Robin,

People ask questions *because* they are uninformed...

So is it really that surprising, especially seeing what a small percentage of the population is vegetarian?

Best regards,
Alex
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Apr 30, 2007 11:36 am

AlexR wrote:Robin,

People ask questions *because* they are uninformed...

So is it really that surprising, especially seeing what a small percentage of the population is vegetarian?


Alex, I don't mean to sound argumentative, but it almost seems as if you haven't read the responses to your question: Most of the people who have responded in this thread with a variety of suggestions, and support for the notion that wine does match well with meatless fare, have been food-loving omnivores, not vegetarians but simply lovers of good food and wine who understand that vegetables and wine can mesh nicely without the help of meat.

I would agree with you that vegetarians are in a minority in most Western cultures, but again, most of the responses here have not come from vegetarians.
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It may sound wierd but give it a try.

Postby Richard Fadeley » Mon Apr 30, 2007 11:59 am

One of my favorite ways to enjoy a really nice Bordeaux is with a Caesar's salad. When you want "the wine to be the picture and the food to be the frame" a nice salad gives just the right balance to showcase a really nice (91-95pts) wine, particularly Bourdeaux. I will agree that meat can help and we often have shaved NY strip on top of the salad, and like others have said the Pinot Noirs do just fine with portobellos, etc.
Give it a try with the '85 Margaux, and if you don't like it, I'll come over and help you finish the bottle.
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Apr 30, 2007 12:15 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
AlexR wrote:Robin,

People ask questions *because* they are uninformed...

So is it really that surprising, especially seeing what a small percentage of the population is vegetarian?


Alex, I don't mean to sound argumentative, but it almost seems as if you haven't read the responses to your question.


I think you are reading too much into his reply Robin. You questioned how informed his question was. How could he be "informed" prior to asking the question is all he was saying in his reply. The responses follow the question.
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Apr 30, 2007 12:19 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:I think you are reading too much into his reply Robin. You questioned how informed his question was. How could he be "informed" prior to asking the question is all he was saying in his reply. The responses follow the question.


Okay, I'm sorry, I'm not trying to start a fight here. :)

I'm just trying to make the point that one need not be a vegetarian to have a serious interest in vegetarian cuisine, or vegetarian food matching, as one option among many on the table.
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Apr 30, 2007 12:20 pm

Robin Garr wrote:I'm just trying to make the point that one need not be a vegetarian to have a serious interest in vegetarian cuisine, or vegetarian food matching, as one option among many on the table.


And that's a very valid point. And now back to my club sandwich.
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Re: It may sound wierd but give it a try.

Postby Paulo in Philly » Mon Apr 30, 2007 12:32 pm

Richard Fadeley wrote:One of my favorite ways to enjoy a really nice Bordeaux is with a Caesar's salad. When you want "the wine to be the picture and the food to be the frame" a nice salad gives just the right balance to showcase a really nice (91-95pts) wine, particularly Bourdeaux. I will agree that meat can help and we often have shaved NY strip on top of the salad, and like others have said the Pinot Noirs do just fine with portobellos, etc.
Give it a try with the '85 Margaux, and if you don't like it, I'll come over and help you finish the bottle.


Ceasar salad with or without anchovies? Or anchovie paste? there's a big kick there.....
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Re: How does one reconcile being a vegetarian and a wine lover?

Postby Shaji M » Mon Apr 30, 2007 12:52 pm

While an omnivorous diet lends itself to a wider range of food-wine pairing, it is not that difficult to enjoy wines with vegetarian foods. It also depends on the cuisine. In Indian and South East Asian cuisines, I find it relatively difficult to match certain wines (Cabernet Sauvignon for instance) while most whites and Rhone reds and Zins do just fine. But with French and Italian veggie dishes, marriage with a wider selection of reds seems achievable. I am still not sure if there are any wines that go only with meat/fish.
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Re: It may sound wierd but give it a try.

Postby Richard Fadeley » Mon Apr 30, 2007 2:06 pm

Just depends on what you like. It would obviously not be vegeterian with anchovies, but I usually put them in my salads.
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