Why Orange Wine Might Be The Best For Vegan Food Pairings

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Most people know that red meat pairs well with red wine, and white wine is the most obvious choice for lighter proteins like poultry and fish. But what wine should accompany a vegan meal of grains, pulses, and greens? The upsurge in vegan fine dining is forcing wine experts to write new rules to help wine drinkers perfectly complement a meal free of meat, eggs, and dairy with the ideal wine.

Sommelier Jennifer Huether, MS describes the first time she had a Riesling paired with a cashew-based cheese as "magic." She admits that it's essential to look closely at the wines served with vegan foods as their composition differs from the animal-based versions they are developed to replicate (via Wine Enthusiast).

Today's vegan dining isn't all tofu and tempeh. Many vegan chefs like Matthew Kenney and Chad and Derek Sarno have elevated the cuisine to an art form. Chef José Andrés, in his book "Vegetables Unleashed: A Cookbook" says chefs "need to show the world just how sexy plants can be." You need a wine that can properly bring out the flavors of those sexy vegetables.

What is orange wine

Fiona Beckett, a wine critic for The Guardian, has some advice for vegans. Beckett suggests pairing orange wine with plant-based cuisine. Orange wine isn't made from oranges as the name suggests but is made from white grapes fermented with intact skins. Most white wines have the skin removed right after the crushing process, but in orange wine, the grape skins become part of the winemaking process. This slight difference completely changes the color and flavor of the wine. This process results in an intensely flavored wine with an orange tint (via Wine Folly).

According to Beckett, the robust tannic flavor from the grape skins holds up well to the intense flavors of eggplant, mushrooms, beans, walnuts, and other staples of plant-based meals. Sommelier John Avelluto says orange wines should be served alongside "foods that are as symmetrically layered as they are, like noodle dishes with aromatic spices, fruit flavors, and vegetables" (per Gourmet Insider). Many vegan meals fall within that description.

An expert's advice

Think about serving orange wine to your guests at your next gathering alongside a collection of complementary foods. For ideas, turn to an expert: Fiona Beckett. Think about what kinds of snacks she would put on a vegan charcuterie board. Beckett says nuts, tahini, and mushrooms pair well, so walnuts, hummus, and stuffed 'shroom caps would go beautifully with orange wine or serve spicy Buffalo tofu wings that will stand up against the wine's robust flavor. Culture Cheese Magazine suggests serving orange wine with strong-flavored cheeses, so consider vegan smoked gouda or feta. Most are available at larger supermarkets or online.

If you are strict about following the vegan lifestyle, you will want to ensure your wine isn't produced using animal products. Some winemakers use egg whites, gelatin, casein, or fish air bladders known as isinglass to filter wines (per Wine Spectator). If you want to see if your alcoholic beverage is vegan-friendly, check out Barnivore's database.