Pairing wine with food when you don’t eat meat

I love wine, it’s a huge part of my life. It’s the one part of my foodie past that I never want to let go of, it’s too important to me. Drinking and talking about wine is a huge part of what my husband and I do as a couple and with our friends. What makes wine even better is pairing it with the right foods. In my foodie days that always meant some type of meat. I don’t miss the meat, but my wine and food experience has not been the same since I changed my diet.

Last night we had a dear friend and very talented chef over for a quiet dinner. We opened some amazing wines, had some food and talked. It was a perfect night. When my husband and Chef R shopped for dinner that night I wasn’t at all surprised by what they came home with. Dead animals and cheese. Because that is what you eat when you drink old wines right?

Although dinner included some vegetables, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eat. On nights like this I usually opt for some sort of Field Roast product and pair that with vegetables, but I didn’t want something so heavy. I had a huge lunch that included lots of beans and vegetable fajitas so I really wanted something light for dinner. I stuck with the potatoes and the green beans that my husband made.

Green beans and potatoes

I had about twice as many potatoes, I needed something to soak up all that wine.

Amazing wine

Speaking of wine, here is what we had. The stars of the whole evening, 1973 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard and 1974 Robert Mondavi Reserve. These wines were so amazing. My husband remarked that he was so proud to see California wines age so well. Back to my problem about the food and the wine.

Although the potatoes and the green beans tasted great they did nothing for the wine. The potatoes actually worked against it. I found myself eating my dinner first then drinking the wine, not the experience I was looking for.  What’s a wine loving veggie eater to do? Later in the evening my husband served crusty bread along with stinky cheese. At this point I was getting a little bit jealous of their experience because the foods they were eating went with the wine and mine didn’t. I still enjoyed the wines immensely, but something was missing.

I asked Chef R why meat and cheese went so well with wine. He said it was the fat and the salt. It was glad to hear that it wasn’t necessarily the meat itself.  I realized with a little thought I could create fabulous vegetable based dished that would work well, as long as they contained some fat and salt. A mushroom dish would have been great with the wine. It opened my eyes and gave me hope that I could experience wine the way I used to in my foodie days without eating meat. I just had to rethink what I made.

I grabbed a piece of bread that was generously brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and took a sip of the Heitz again. He was right. The combination of the salt and fat was magic, it didn’t add that astringent flavor I tasted when I had the wine with the potatoes.


I usually don’t try to pair my food wine when I plan my meals the way the omins do, but perhaps I should. I can have a great wine and food experience if I just put a little more thought into what I make. This is an exciting revelation for me. If you are not a foodie or a wine lover it may seem like no big deal but for me it’s huge.

Cutting out meat and dairy from my diet has been so great for me and has enhanced my life in so many ways. It has never felt like a sacrifice, it just came naturally to me over time and that is why I have been able to stick with it. Now that I figured out how to have a great wine and food experience my life, culinarily speaking, has gotten better.

Robert MondaviCheers!

  • It is the worst when people are eating delicious stuff swooning and you wish you had something as good. Olives and marinated vegetables work well when I’m drinking wine! If you have more time, nut cheeses have come along way too. Have you seen Vegan Appetite’s Vine and Dine series? If not you should check it out! 

    • Thanks for the link, will check it out. Marinated veggies and olives are great suggestions.

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