My wife went veg­e­tar­ian about a year and a half ago and now I tell ev­ery­one that I am a “cheat­ing veg­e­tar­ian.” In my ef­forts to sup­port her, I have had many more veg­e­tar­ian meals as of late and in those in­stances, I have taken the op­por­tu­nity to ex­per­i­ment with veg­e­tar­ian and ve­gan food and wine pair­ing. Now for all you dyed-in-the­wool, triple-meat lovers, I would not stop read­ing here. Ev­ery­one needs ruffage in their lives and read­ing this might even make you a health­ier per­son—greens and resver­a­trol are a nu­tri­tious com­bi­na­tion.

My ex­pec­ta­tion for veg­e­tar­ian cui­sine be­cause it is plant-based was that it would have a lot of bit­ter­ness, the chloro­phyll in plants be­ing the pri­mary source. I try to avoid overly bit­ter things, so nat­u­rally I leaned on white wine for pair­ings. I found that a beau­ti­ful and vi­brant Sauvi­gnon Blanc from the new world such as Twomey by Sil­ver Oak works ter­rif­i­cally well with sim­ple sal­ads, es­pe­cially ones with vinai­grettes. Not only does this Sauvi­gnon Blanc have that fresh pomelo and grape­fruit aro­mat­ics, but its vi­va­cious acid­ity also com­ple­ments the acid­ity of vinai­grettes. If you are sen­si­tive enough, you'll find that there is a touch of that same green­ness in Sauvi­gnon Blanc akin to herbs, grass and

of course, salad greens so they go hand in hand. But it is the fruit that Sauvi­gnon Blanc brings to the party that makes the fla­vors pop!

One of my other fa­vorite veg­e­tar­ian pair­ings is the al­most elec­tric fla­vors of Vou­vray, Chenin Blanc grown in the Loire River Val­ley paired with toma­toes.

Raw, cooked, stewed and per­haps my fa­vorite way to have toma­toes, Gazpacho Soup. My wife makes a ter­rific Span­ish ver­sion that I sim­ply de­vour with co­pi­ous quan­ti­ties of Marc Bredif Vou­vray. This wine smells and tastes like fresh citrus, hon­ey­suckle, honey and mel­ons (all veg­e­tar­ian mind you, maybe the honey is de­bat­able, but I di­gress). Su­per light and it also has a zesty acid­ity that mar­ries so beau­ti­fully with the acid­ity of the toma­toes and vine­gar in this soup. I have not found a bet­ter pair­ing yet.

But if you think that veg­e­tar­ian cui­sine only plays well with white wine you would be wrong. There is so much more.

There are plenty of dense and rich fla­vors in veg­e­tar­ian cui­sine that wel­come red wine pair­ings.

Fresh and earthy mushrooms are a fa­vorite of mine, from Morels to Porcini, Mat­su­take to Ha­makua-grown ali‘i, I love them all and cooked

any which way. I love them in but­ter with garlic, sautéed or grilled, in risotto or even as a sand­wich. And with it you can def­i­nitely get into the deeper reds, even a Bordeaux. A mush­room risotto with a bot­tle of Banfi Brunello di Mon­tal­cino is deca­dence. The earthy good­ness of Brunello en­velop­ing the fla­vors of mush­room and re­veal­ing the beau­ti­ful red fruit of San­giovese is a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. Or a Por­to­bello mush­room steak grilled and basted with but­ter and herbs with a bot­tle of Château de Pez from St. Estèphe. The per­fectly ripe tan­nins play a per­fect foil for the pro­teins of the mush­room and the grav­elly earth­i­ness mar­ries so well with the earth of the mush­room. Dare I say, maybe even a bet­ter pair­ing than a grilled steak.

And with­out a doubt the most un­ex­pected and stun­ningly great veg­e­tar­ian pair­ing I've had is miso glazed grilled egg­plant glazed with ma­ture red Bur­gundy (Pinot Noir from Bur­gundy France). When I say ma­ture I mean Bur­gundy that is at least 25 years or older. Bur­gundies of that age ex­hibit the most com­plex aro­mat­ics and fla­vors: cola, spices, sweet cherry, cof­fee, teas, tof­fee and even truf­fles. The earth­i­ness of the egg­plant em­braces the fla­vors and the salti­ness of the miso helps to lift the fruit fla­vors in the wine. It can be an ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ence.

I cer­tainly look for­ward to find­ing more in­ter­est­ing and ex­cit­ing pair­ings with veg­e­tar­ian and ve­gan cui­sine in the com­ing years. I have opened my mind and my palate to all the pos­si­bil­i­ties. There is no end to food and wine pair­ing. And no an­i­mals were harmed in the writ­ing of this piece.

Stefan John­son photo

Veg­e­tar­ian cui­sine plays well with both whites and reds.

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