In the year 2000, as a younger writer eager to nail a book deal, I was sitting at dinner with a very successful editor. She had a reputation of being terrifying, but I hadn’t seen the evidence. She asked me which Bordeaux I enjoyed. “Not many,” I said.
“You are a vegetarian?” she asked with a terrifying sneer. “How could you understand Bordeaux without eating steak.” Then she stabbed her fork into me even harder, “How dare you call yourself a wine writer. Irresponsible!”
All dreams of pitching her my book vanished. But at the same time I knew the truth: The idea that only a sizzling slab of meat will complement hefty wines was as faulty a notion as the belief champagne and cake are natural companions. Plant-based foods are easily matched with wines of all kind. Period. I know, I’ve been a vegetarian most of my life, and wine is my avocation.
My new wine book, The Dirty Guide to Wine tracing flavors from ground to glass, is packed with recommendations that harmonize with plant-based recipes. The wines I drink-- and you should too-- are organically farmed. They have no additives except for perhaps a tiny bit of sulfur.
Here are seven of my favorite dishes paired with wines featured in The Dirty Wine Guide
Peppery and lively slaws
A so-called orange wine, a white wine made like a red wine so it looks amber colored and has some tannin would be awesome. Look for one from the country of Georgia.
Pheasant’s Tears rkatsitelli, Iago’s Wine chinuri or Mandili mtsvane.
Roasted eggplant in pomegranate molasses
For the exotic flavors I’d go for a robust, acidic nerello mascalese from Mount Etna, Sicily, such as Calabretta’s Etna Rosso.
I make this with onion confit, a mix of wild mushrooms and some walnuts. Look to a rosé from Austria. Martin and Anna Arndorfer Vorgeschmack Rosé is terrific. The grape is zweigelt, plenty of acid and a hint of florality.
Pasta with chickpea and dandelion greens
Eric Texier’s entry level priced wine, grenache-based Chat Fou, is warming and comforting. A pinot noir from Oregon also works, look for Eyrie Reserve or Beckham Estate’s amphor- raised,Creta.
With little more than sautéed onion, zucchini flavored with parsley, this soup is vibrant. I love it with very earthy Loire Valley cabernet franc. My current love is Domaine Guion, inexpensive and chalky. Also look for any from producers Domaine de la Chevelerie or Catherine et Pierre Breton.
I really like a fully structured wine with some peppery punch and the Guímaro Tinto from Ribeira Sacra, Spain is perfect foil for the complexity and heat of vegetarian Morocco-inspired food.
Olive-oil roasted root vegetables
The organic, inexpensive Château le Grolet or the biodynamic, the divine Château Le Puy, will convince any steak eater that Bordeaux and the vegetable kingdom can be a match made in heaven.
Countryman Press (W.W. Norton & Company Ltd.), £20.00