The 30 Second Wine Advisor

Vol. 1, No. 26, July 12, 1999
© Copyright 1999 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

30 Second Wine Tasting Tip:
Seeking a match for vegetarian fare

Who's not a vegetarian, at least every now and then? While full-time vegetarianism may be a commitment that it's tough for wine lovers to make -- the natural affinity between wine and meat, poultry or seafood is so good that it would be hard for me to give up -- I suspect that most of us enjoy an occasional meatless meal, whether it's for the sake of cutting calories and fat or just for the change of pace.

But what do you do when it's time to choose the wine and suddenly realize that the old truism about "red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat" in no way applies?

I put this question to a practical test one night last month, when the first harvest of fresh young beets from our garden inspired a cool, meatless dinner with a taste of the Pacific Rim.

It was a simple but hearty meal with a lot of earthy flavors: I simmered a few small, tender beets, peeled and diced them into smallish cubes, then whacked an 8-ounce block of firm tofu into similar dice. A 2-tablespoon dab of miso (Japanese soybean paste) simmered in 1/4 cup of the strained beet-cooking water made a quick sauce, and we quickly heated a 4-ounce batch of soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles) in the rest of the beet water, cooled the noodles and tossed the ingredients together, topping them with a bit of chopped parsley and cilantro leaves.

Clueless about a wine match, I experimented with both a cheap Italian red and a California Sauvignon Blanc (details below). Somewhat to my surprise, the red was the better match, its natural earthiness and fruit making a natural marriage with the beet and miso and buckwheat flavors. the acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc came across as almost unpleasantly sour when taken with the food.

If you'd like to read more about matching wine with vegetarian fare, you might enjoy my article, "Red wine with beans?" on The Wine Lovers' Page. And as always, if you've played around with matching wine and meatless menus, I'd love to hear about what you learned. Drop me a note at And, as always, don't hesitate to drop us a line if you'd like to comment on our topics and tasting notes, suggest a topic for a future bulletin, or just talk about wine.

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30 Second Tasting Notes
Red wine and beets
Ocone Ocone 1996 Vin Giocondo Vino da Tavola Rosso del Sannio Beneventano ($7.99)
Clear garnet, with spicy black-fruit and pepper aromas with a whiff of caramel. Ripe, juicy and tart, simple but fresh and clean. Lemony acidity provides structure and serves it well at the table. U.S. importer: Vin di Vino Ltd., Chicago. (June 21, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: It makes a surprisingly good match with a vegetarian dish of beets and tofu over soba (buckwheat) noodles; the earthy flavors of the food play in harmony with the "rustic" and fruity red wine.

Lava Cap Lava Cap 1996 El Dorado (California) Fumé Blanc ($11.99)
Clear straw color, with a light lemon-lime scent and a delicate, pleasing touch of hazelnut. Full, fruity flavors follow the nose, crisp and long. (June 21, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: Although the wine is fine, it doesn't work with the dish, an unexpected result since I'd normally think of a crisp white as a reasonable choice with meatless fare. In this case, though, the strong flavors of the beets and miso overwhelm the white and bring up its acidity, yielding a tart, sour impression that's not present when the wine is sipped alone.

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