The Fundamentals of Food and Wine Pairings does of course apply to Vegan Food and Wine Pairings as well, but there are also some other factors that has to be taken into consideration when you wish to pair wine with vegan food. Vegan food and especially Plant Based food, generally have different Taste and Texture Components.
Overall, vegan plant-based food tends to be far higher in bitterness than traditional food. Bitterness derived from sources like artichoke, broccoli, radicchio, arugula, brussels sprouts, chicory, asparagus, endive, kale, and many more plant-based sources, can be complicated to deal with. The easiest way to work with it, is to choose a wine appropriate for the dish. If the food has a high bitterness level, a high acidity, low alcohol, and low tannin wine tends to be the way to go. Salt and texture components like fat and protein can also help to diminish the experienced bitterness.
Here is where the real difference comes out. Whereas traditional dishes often are focused around one main protein source, Vegan food on the other hand have different plant-based components sharing the spotlight. And since we, when choosing the pairing, have to take everything on the plate into consideration, this makes vegan food a bit more complicated to pair.
For a traditional dish, let us use the example of a baked salmon with dill and lemon, with a potato-based salad on the side. The main texture to take into consideration would be the salmon. The high fat content, the protein and the delicate cooking method would all be of importance. As for the spices and sides, they would be more relevant to consider in relation to taste and flavour components.
For vegan, plant-based dishes there are often more textures to take into consideration. There is not just one main event, everything on the plate is there for a reason. And since vegan food, especially plant-based, does not have the same levels of fat and animal-based protein, it will react differently to wine. While traditional dishes high in fat, animal protein and salt can withstand even heavy, full-bodied, astringent red wines, this sort of wine quickly become complicated to pair with plant based dishes, since they generally are lighter and far lower in all things needed to balance a heavy red wine. There are of course ways around this, but one has to be conscious of it.
Things you can do to make your vegan plant-based food more wine friendly:
- Add more richness in the form of vegetable fat and/or protein. For example, plant-based cream, oil, and heavier protein alternatives like tofu and beans
- Add salt (which goes against every health advice out there, so be careful and preferably look into low sodium salt alternatives)
- Be careful with Wine Enemies like brussels sprouts, asparagus, and other ingredient high in bitterness. If you use them, make sure to choose the right wine and add texture component (fat, protein, salt) to help minimise the adverse reaction
- Be carful with spices. While traditional dishes have the texture of the animal-based protein to help neutralise this reaction, vegan food rarely has that advantage. Meaning you will have to find other ways to work with spice. The easiest alternative is to simply choose wine with some residual sugar, to help give the pairing a better balance