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The basic rule of pairing wine with food is that both must compliment each other. As most of the time the food that is paired with wine is non-vegetarian, what are the chances that a vegetarian gets to enjoy his meal as much as his counterpart? Fortunately they are plenty. Here are a few tips which can help you pair your delicious vegetarian starters or main courses with various styles of wines.

At a recent wine and food-pairing event, I was offered a sangiovese bianco (white wine made of sangiovese grape) alongside my main course, an interesting preparation of citrus risotto with roasted cherry tomatoes. The citrus notes of the risotto went perfectly well with the mild acidity and tannins of the sangiovese bianco. Some how it felt like a match made in heaven. Being inspired by the same I experimented with a few more vegetarian dishes that can be paired with wine.

1)  Crunchy Feta cheese and tomato salad with a sauvignon or chenin blanc

½  ciabatta bread loaf

2 tablesppon olive oil

4 small tomatoes chopped

½ cucumber, roughly chopped

Pitted black olives 5-10

100 g feta cheese

Fresh basil leaves

Dash of balsamic vinegar

Cut the ciabatta into small bites, spread it on grill pan, drizzle olive oil and grill for 4 minutes just till the bread turn golden brown. Set aside for cooling. Now mix the ciabatta in a bowl with tomatoes, cucumber, feta and olives. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and drizzle balsamic vinegar and olive oil. This makes for a perfect summer brunch.  

Now, pairing this salad with a wine can be done keeping in mind the flavours of the salad. A salad’s acidity is not just in its dressing, but also in its ingredients like the saltiness of feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, olives. A sauvignon blanc or chenin blanc goes perfectly well with a salad like this. You can pair the salad with either sauvignon blanc or a Chenin Blanc. Both could work magic.

2)  Roasted Gobi masala with Riesling

2 tablespoons curry powder

½ teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cauliflower (break into small pieces)

1 spoon olive oil/ vegetable oil

½ teaspoon dry mango powder

Coriander leaves as per taste (just for flavouring)

Place the saucepan over low heat, add oil, curry powder, salt and sugar and toast it. Once ready add dry mango powder, sprinkle some water and mix it well. On a separate pan or over toss the cauliflower in oil and roast them until tender. Add the roasted cauliflower to the mix and stir it well until it is crispy. Garnish with small chopped coriander leafs.

Pair this delicious starter with a Riesling from Alsace (Trimbach wines) or Australia (Hardys stamp of Australia), both available in India. The Alsatian wine with prominent stone fruit and citrus flavour goes really well with the starter.

3)  Veg biryani with merlot or cÔte du rhÔne wine

1 cup basmati rice

1 onion

1-2 green chillis  

2 ½ spoon ginger garlic paste

1 tomato

Vegetables mix (carrot, cauliflower, fresh peas and potatoes)

Mint leaves

Coriander leaves

Lime juice

Powder (turmeric, red chillis, coriander- 2tbsp, biryani masala – 2tsp)

Salt 

Also for flavour and seasoning whole garam masalas (cloves, cardamom, cinnamon)

To garnish cut onions into thin strips and fry it until golden brown and add to the top just before serving.

Heat oil; add whole garam masalas, onions and sauté till golden brown. Add ginger garlic paste and sauté for few minutes. Add green chillies, vegetables, chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder, biryani masala, mint and coriander leaves. Add 2 cups of boiling water, drained rice and lime juice. 

Put everything in a cooker and once done mix slowly and garnish with fried onions, cashew and raisings. You could also add some saffron on top.  

A veg biryani is a perfect main course to be paired with a not so heavy red wine. I a paired it with a merlot wine though I would also prefer a gamay or cÔte du rhÔne. If you garnish the biryani with fried cashews and raisins, another option is to pair it with a Gewuztraminer wine.

Pairing vegetarian food with wine may seem intimidating at first but the key to perfection here is in understanding the character and flavor profile of both.  Acidity, body, sweetness and tartness are all important. I personally know the pairing has worked if the food and the wine create a fusion in my mouth and ends up with a smooth creamy finish.




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