Having recently visited the Furleigh Estate in Dorset to sample some of their delicious English wines, it goes without saying I brought some home. Whilst my heart may have yearned to buy them all, I had a limit of two: Sea Pink (a rosé) and the unusual, rather exquisite, white Pinot Noir.
At the tasting, it was sipped alongside the usual palate cleansers – water and plain crackers- but it got me thinking about food pairings for Pinot Noir. A white wine from the black Pinot Noir grape isn’t impossible, or even really harder to achieve than the traditional light red wine, but it is a lot rarer to find. Pinot Noir as a grape is quite precious – it likes specific conditions and cooler climates, which is why Germany and Northern France do so well with it. And now Southern England, where it’s the second most-grown grape!
Pairing Wine With Vegan Food: White Pinot Noir
Understanding how to pair wine with food starts with identifying the flavour characteristics of certain grapes – Pinot Noir, for example, is well-known for its unusual flavour notes; young Pinots have beautiful, light, summery smells of raspberries, strawberries, cherries and red apples. Older Pinots, however, go on to develop animal and vegetal flavours, which sounds a bit gross, but is actually stunning when you find a good one.
White Pinot Noir specifically is a richer style of white wine because it’s made from red grapes. It will have a deeper colour- ranging from pale white gold, to deep yellow. Furleigh’s was a nice golden yellow colour. You’d be right to expect sweeter, richer flavours to go with the colour; almonds, baked apples, stewed pears, honey. It’s refreshing acidity, which balances the cooked fruit flavours, comes in the form of red apples, ginger spices, quince, or orange zest. It’s a lovely wine, quite similar to Chardonnay, so should definitely be taken seriously.
White Pinot Noir goes well with:
- Meaty fish like crab and lobster (I’d be interested to try it with vegan fish-style products… watch this space)
- Sweet onion / shallots
- Creamy foods: soups, avocado or cashew cream sauces
- Earthier vegetables: quinoa, lentils, beans, sweet potato
- And, in all scenarios, mushrooms! Mushrooms are quite a meaty vegetable, and Pinot Noir in all forms goes well with it.
And so, vegetable quinoa, with its risotto-like texture and earthy flavours, seemed like a good shout. This was served alongside chilli and garlic kale with plenty of mushrooms, and mashed sweet potato. The result? A pretty delicious food match, if I do say so myself.
Creamed sweet potato with a little vegan butter and black pepper enhanced the richer side of the Pinot, whilst the wine’s refreshing edge of blood orange, red apple, and stone fruits cut through it nicely. The earthier flavours of quinoa cooked down in vegetable stock complemented the richness well, too.
The only thing that didn’t work was the chilli and garlic kale. I didn’t expect this to, to be honest; chilli spice, unlike a lot of spices, has a tendency to make wine taste bitter. So that was in the dish for the sake of the meal, and avoided when take a sip of the wine.
All in all, a very enjoyable, very filling and very nutritious vegan meal to make, and super easy, too! It also had the added benefit of allowing me to use my new marble wine cooler, which I was very excited about.
Vegetable Quinoa with Sweet Potato and Kale:
For the quinoa:
- 2 cubes of vegetable stock + water
- 180g dried tri-colour quinoa
- 1 can of butter beans
- 1 pepper
- 1 red onion
- 1 leek
- Handful of mushrooms
Cooking this is so simple, you just put everything in a pot and boil it down until the quinoa absorbs the water, or it’s cooked. To be honest, I’m a lazy cook, one that has a tendency to wing recipes, and generally chuck as many vegetables in as possible. So this recipe would basically work with whatever you want it to contain. My initial plan was mushroom and asparagus but, unfortunately, my poor wonky asparaguses had been neglected a little too long (I’m also a forgetful cook) so I went for colours; bright red pepper, purple onion, green leeks, white beans. The only thing I can really advise is to add vegetables in stages; onions first, as they can’t really overcook, then peppers 5 minutes later, followed by the beans maybe 10 after that, and mushrooms at the latest possible time, as they only take a minute or so to cook.
For the sweet potato:
375g of sweet potato, boiled until soft, and then mashed with butter and black pepper to taste. Easy! Unfortunately it loses a lot of the vibrant orange colour and goes a little grey, but it tastes a lot nicer than it might end up looking.
For the kale:
- 2 cloves of garlic (or however many you like – I love garlic so will put loads in)
- Enough kale to fill your frying pan
- Handful of mushrooms
- Chilli flakes are my favourite, but you can use chilli powder, paprika…
- Salt and pepper
Fry the garlic first, then the mushrooms 1 minute later, then added the kale 1 minute after that. Then, simply fry until the kale is the desire texture, and the mushrooms are soft and a little meaty.
I am quite sensitive to salt, so rarely add any to cooking. My partner did add salt to his portion, however, so maybe that’s worth keeping in mind if you try this recipe.
Serve up a portion, fridge up the rest, and enjoy alongside a glass of white Pinot Noir. Simple, delicious!