A Quick Guide to Plant-Based Wine Pairings

A laid table with three SPIEGELAU glasses at each of the places. On the left place, a with red wine filled Authentis Burgundy glass, an empty white wine glass and a with water filled Authentis Casual tumbler. On the right the Bordeaux glass is empty but the white wine glass is filled.<br/>

When pairing wine with meals, we're used to hearing the classic recommendations of 'full-bodied red wines and red meat' and 'white wines and seafood,' but what about when we want to enjoy wines with our plant-based meals? In this blog, we cover key pairing concepts that will help you choose what wines to enjoy with your plant-based meals, plus some specific recommendations for each concept.

Four SPIEGELAU Lifestyle red wine glasses on a wooden table. One of them is filled with red wine.<br/>

Richly flavored ingredients and medium-high tannin red wines

Why it works

There's a reason why fuller-bodied red wines are often paired with rich meats such as steak and lamb leg – it's because the food needs to be able to stand up to the high tannins and bold flavors of the wine. To achieve this with plant-based dishes, opt for dishes based around rich ingredients such as lentils, beans, aubergines, or mushrooms. If you enjoy indulging in the many meat-replacement burger and hot dog options that have grown in presence in recent years, they also pair well with medium to full-bodied red wines as they mimic the qualities of beef, pork, and lamb.

The richness of your plant-based meal isn't only affected by the ingredients you use; a critical factor that impacts its richness is how you cook it. For example, roasting is known to caramelize fruits and vegetables, enhancing and intensifying their natural flavors and making them more able to match the characteristics of bold wines. If you're cooking richer ingredients in a manner that doesn't exaggerate their richness as much, consider pairing them with a lighter-bodied red wine, such as Pinot Noir, or even a fuller-bodied white wine. Note that whatever ingredients you use for your meal, the cooking method will always influence the characteristics of the final dish, so it's a crucial factor to consider when choosing a wine pairing.


Example pairings

  • Lentil and mushroom-based stroganoff with a bold Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Roasted aubergine and red pepper dish with a Merlot.
  • Black bean burger with a hearty Shiraz.
A group of SPIEGELAU Festival Tasting glasses on a table. In the foreground two of those glasses are filled with white wine.<br/>

Spicy dishes and sweet white wines

Why it works

While ingredients like legumes and root vegetables play a big part in a meal's overall qualities, so too can spices, especially for meals that use a lot of them. Tofu, for example, has minimal flavor on its own, but it will take on the flavors of the spices you add to it. Likewise, when you consider popular curries, many contain the same main bulk ingredients but differ considerably in outcome due to the different mix of spices used.

When sitting down for a meal that utilizes a lot of spices, we recommend pairing it with a sweet white wine. Have you ever enjoyed a spicy dish at first but found that it started to get a little much as you progressed through the meal? Sweet white wines work well here because their sweetness provides a pleasant, refreshing contrast to the heat, helping cool your palate between mouthfuls and balance the dish's spiciness. Sweet white wines can also highlight a spicy dish's flavors, adding a new layer of complexity and enjoyment to the meal.

If you're more of a fan of fragrant, dry white wines, you can still try them alongside spiced meals. The lack of sweetness in these wines means they're likely to provide less relief from notably spicy meals and can be overwhelmed by the intensity of the spices. Still, they can be particularly suitable for dishes with lighter spice levels, so it's always worth experimenting to find out what works best for you.


Example pairings

  • A spicy Thai green curry with a semi-sweet Riesling.
  • Spiced tofu stir-fry with a fruity rosé.
  • Indian vindaloo with a Gewürztraminer or Moscato.
Two SPIEGELAU Definition glasses stand on a wooden table with two other Definition glasses in the background. One of the glasses is filled with white wine, in the foreground as well as in the background.<br/>

Raw salads and vibrant white wines or dry rosés

Why it works

Raw salads, with their fresh, crisp ingredients, pair beautifully with vibrant white wines and dry rosés. The lightness and acidity of these wines complement the natural flavors and textures of the salad, enhancing the overall experience as each sip and bite seamlessly follows the other. Crisp, vibrant wines work particularly well with salads based around green vegetables, citrus fruits, and fresh herbs. If you enjoy salads with a more substantial root vegetable or nut presence, consider pairing them with a fuller-bodied white wine like an Oaked Chardonnay or a lighter-bodied red wine like a Nebbiolo.


Example pairings

  • A garden salad with a zesty Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Caprese salad with a crisp Chardonnay.
  • Citrusy avocado salad with a Pinot Grigio.
Six SPIEGELAU Definition Champagne glasses of which two are filled with sparkling wine are standing on a table.<br/>

Fatty foods and sparkling wines

Why it works

The effervescence and acidity of sparkling wines, such as Champagne or Prosecco, make them fantastic companions for fatty and indulgent plant-based dishes. The effervescence and prominent acidity of these wines cut through the meal's richness, balancing the food's heaviness and cleansing the palate with each sip. And besides, who doesn't love the celebratory atmosphere that a bottle of sparkling wine brings to any meal?


Example pairings

  • Deep-fried cauliflower wings with a dry Champagne.
  • Vegan tempura with a sparkling Chenin Blanc.
Image of two Spiegelau Definition Glasses

Sweet desserts and dessert wines

Why it works

Unsurprisingly, dessert wines are designed to complement sweet dishes, making them an ideal match for plant-based desserts. These wines are often even sweeter than the desserts themselves, creating a harmonious blend of flavors. Ensuring the wine and dessert have similar sweetness levels allows the wine to bring out your dessert's nuanced characteristics, creating a more enriching overall experience.


Example pairings

  • Fruit tart with a late-harvest Riesling.
  • Chocolate mousse with a port wine.
  • Apple pie with an ice wine.

This list is far from exhaustive, but try applying some of the above recommendations, and we're sure you'll find some new go-to pairings for your plant-based feasts. If you're opting for a plant-based wine pairing because you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, remember to double-check that the wine you're drinking doesn't contain any animal products. Most wines are fine, but some wines use animal-derived fining agents such as collagen and egg white during the winemaking process, so be sure to read the label if this would be an issue for you.


Cheers to delightful plant-based wine and food pairings!