Written by: Felicia Mangiardi

Tis’ the season for crowded parking lots, long lines, last minute shopping, baking, cooking and feasting! Of course, the best part of the holiday season is celebrating with family and friends around a delicious looking dinner table. Gift shopping can be stressful but dinner doesn’t have to be! We had the amazing opportunity to speak to Alex, an Advanced Sommelier, and Priya a passionate vegan and film producer. Both Alex and Priya were hosts of The Drink on Bell Fibe TV and are current owners of A Vine Romance.

Alex and Priya have served up some tips and tricks on vegan food and beverage pairing to ensure that everyone at the table feels full and well nourished…even the skeptical carnivores!

Did you know most wines are not vegan? In fact, white wine almost always uses animal products such as fish bladder and egg whites in the fining and filtering processes. It is actually cheaper for a winery to go the non-vegan route, but don’t worry, Alex and Priya have us covered! When looking for a vegan wine it is important to read the label. Sometimes the label will say vegan-friendly but if it doesn’t have the vegan certified sticker then look for the terms ‘unfined and unfiltered’ on the back.  The LCBO (in Canada) have vegan-friendly wines and so do some local Ontario wineries. In fact, Karlo Estate was the first certified vegan winery in North America and they ship their wine everywhere! If you are in the States check out your local liquor store and or your local wineries. There is also a great website recommended by Priya and Alex called Barnivore, which gives you a list of vegan-friendly wines.

Now that we know vegan wine exists, and where to find them, we must learn how to pair them!  Paring a wine with a vegan dish can be much more difficult because you’re not relying on meat or dairy-rich dishes to absorb the tannins. We’ve all heard the fallback of ‘red win goes with red meat, white wine goes with white meat.’ 

It’s important to select a wine that won’t overpower a vegan dish. Alex to the rescue! Here are some general rules when pairing vegan wines with vegan dishes.

  • Vegan dishes tend to use a lot of seasoning and or spices, so a wine that is more acidic will help buffer the spice, salt and or sweetness of a dish.
  • Tart wine will help to counter out a bitter dish.
  • You can pair a light wine with a light dish, sweet with sweet, or go the opposites attract route.   For example pair a sweet Riesling with a spicy dish.

Remember, you don’t need to get a wine for every dish on the table and if you don’t know what’s being served, simply go for a Chardonnay or Pinot Noir which Alex calls the ‘hero wines’ of food pairing. 

Not sure what vegan dishes will please everyone? Priya is here to save the day! It’s important to remember that veganism is one of the fastest growing food trends.  It’s not always necessary to serve meat or have it be a part of every dish. Instead of singling out the vegan at your dinner table, TRY incorporating vegan choices into your MEAL TO satisfy everyone! Here are some of Priya’s favourite holiday vegan dishes with Alex’s recommended wine pairings!

Wine Pairing:
Mushrooms abound, a wine-based sauce and the rich texture generated by the puff pastry call for a wine of similar character. Choose a French Pinot Noir from the Cote de Nuits for the heft and acidity to balance the dish. An Oregon Pinot will work as well. Or to showcase richness a Cotes du Rhone Villages from the south of France, and with 3-5 years bottle age will make up a star pairing with its savoury richness and developed mushroom notes. Recipe here.

Wine Pairing:
Here is an opportunity to compare or contrast. For comparison a moderately oaky Chardonnay works but an exotic French Viognier or Greek Malagousia makes for a more exciting match, lending stunning aromatics and a velvety texture to bring more excitement to the dish. As a contrast to cut the weight a gently herbal and brightly acidic French Beaujolais is magic as a red option. Recipe here. 

Wine Pairing:
For sticky toffee pudding the nuttier the wine the better! As with all wine and dessert pairings the best matches occur when the wine is sweeter than the dessert. A tawny port at 20 years of age will be the easiest wine to obtain but not the best pairing due to 20% alcohol. Try to find Italian or Greek vinsanto, both loaded with rich nutty tones and toffee galore! Recipe here.

If you are in Toronto, Alex and Priya can take you on shopping trips and share some of their wine knowledge to ensure you pick the best wine for your next event! If you are not in the Toronto area, don’t worry, you can always email Alex and Priya at avineromance@outlook.com with any questions you may have. They are also working on putting together an online course so stay tuned for that! In the meantime you can check out their websites and social media handles linked below!

Thank you to Alex and Priya for sharing your knowledge with us this holiday season! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!