Five, and certainly 10 years ago, I didn’t spend much time thinking about what to drink with vegetable-based dishes, not least because, unless you were vegetarian, they were rarely the focus of the meal. These days, however, they very often are, but what are the implications for wine if there aren’t great hunks of protein on the plate?
Just as with meat and fish, it’s not so much about the base ingredient, but the way it’s prepared or cooked – or even whether it’s cooked at all. When tomatoes, say, share the limelight with spicy sausage, to me the combination calls for a gutsy red, but eat them raw in a salad or as crudités, and you’d probably be more inclined to drink a rosé or a crisp white.
Red wine would generally be my choice, too, if there are pulses involved. Personally, I like the slightly drier styles of red you find in Spain and southern France, rather than the big hit of ripe fruit you get from Australian or Chilean reds. I’m not sure I want blackcurrant or black cherry with my veggies, but it’s all a question of taste, isn’t it? And the bigger the flavours, and the greater the charring, the more ripeness and sweetness a dish can take. With cauliflower cheese, for instance, I’d be inclined to reach for a white, but if the cauli comes with black garlic, you might find a red will work better.
Sometimes, however, it’s all about the basic character of the veg. With courgettes and fennel, for example, I more often drink white (braised fennel is particularly good with white burgundy or other creamy chardonnay), while with aubergines and earthy beetroot, especially when they’ve been roasted or grilled, I’m happier with a red. Mushrooms, meanwhile, can swing both ways: reds for grilled, garlicky portobellos, and pinot or a smooth, dry Italian white for creamy risottos. In fact, Italian whites are generally a really useful pairing for vegetable dishes, and there’s a fair bit of well-priced soave around at the moment – Marks & Spencer has one for just £5 (in-store only), and at a modest 11.5%, too.
Even those vegetables that are widely reputed to create difficulties for wine aren’t really that much of a problem. I had the fresh-tasting, citrussy Ciello in today’s picks with an artichoke, spelt and sheep cheese salad the other day, and it sailed through it; chilled fino sherry would be another good option.
Five wines to enjoy with summer vegetables
Casa Santos Lima Lab Branco 2020 £7.49 Waitrose Cellar, 12.5%. An intriguing (and very well-priced) Portuguese white that you’d do well to snap up. It would work well with one of those meals that feature a range dishes.
La Dame en Rose 2020 £6 Marks & Spencer, 12.5%. Made in a similar style to a Provence rosé, but a good couple of quid cheaper, this Languedoc rosé would be perfect for salads and meze.
Mancuso Garnacha Carineña 2018 £12.95 The Wine Society, 14.5%. A gloriously lush, full-bodied red to go with more robust roast and grilled vegetables, especially red peppers and aubergines.
Vin de Corse Sartène Blanc Domaine Saparale 2020 £18.25 Yapp Brothers, 13%. I really love vermentino, so was thrilled to discover how well this Corsican wine went with asparagus. Expensive, but a real treat.
• For more by Fiona Beckett, go to matchingfoodandwine.com