If I had to name my favourite white wine, I’d probably say Riesling. I am fond of German wine in general, especially after doing the bulk of my wine travel research grant there last summer, but Riesling in particular…it’s such an admirable grape. So versatile, so well-balanced with sweetness and acidity, so all-round food-friendly. So when a friend of mine gifted me a bottle of Tesco’s Finest Riesling, it called for an equally exciting food experiment: vegan scallops.
Riesling from Rheinhessen
This particular Riesling is from Germany’s largest wine-growing region, Rheinhessen. On the label it declares itself a Qualitätswein – a quality wine from a specific region- which sits below the classification Prädikatswein. Although the Prädikatswein classification is more prestigious, many top-end Q wines are more than capable of being classified Prädikat.
Expect a Dry German Riesling to offer a highly fragrant nose, high acidity, and a nice fruity character. Not that it tastes acidic – this is balanced by flavours of apple, pear and even some tropical fruit. Tesco’s ‘Finest’ label Riesling, for example, offers sweet baked apple flavours, fragrant white peach, and mango.
It’s VERY good, in fact- and it’s a wine under £10. Pale-gold lemon in colour, it offers a lovely fragrant nose of peach and freshly-picked flowers, which linger through the first sip. First you get the sweet fruit medley culminating in ripe apple flavours, which grow crisp and tart as the fruitiness dissipates under Riesling’s classic acidity. Underneath, it has a lovely, steely mineral finish which echoes that of a Sauvignon Blanc- but better, because it’s Riesling!
Vegan Food Loves Riesling!
Rieslings are incredible wines that perform well across the spectrum. They start at dry, light, and mineral, like a Sauvignon Blanc with some tropical fruit (like this bottle), and slowly increase in sweetness until eventually you get Eiswein, or Ice Wine- a gorgeous dessert wine that involves freezing the grapes to give the wine layers upon layers of complex sweetness, which far surpass what many would consider a ‘sweet’ wine.
A good Riesling has minerality, fruitiness, and acidity. When it comes to food, this makes a remarkably easy-going wine to put on the dinner table. Its high acidity and fruit softens the zing of ginger, lime, and chilli in Asian cuisines, whilst its minerality compliments spring greens, and contrasts the richness of creamy sauces. Combine that with a slightly sweet edge, and you’ve got the perfect companion for medium-hot Indian food, Thai curries, seafood, risotto, and more.
Vegan Scallops with Dry Riesling
A wine that offers so many different characteristics deserved a food pairing that offered just as much variety. With their mild flavour, sea scallops are a blank slate when it comes to culinary creations – and vegan-friendly scallops are no different. These beautiful creations were made using the stems of King Oyster Mushrooms, which have the look and feel of a real scallop when cooked.
Preparation-wise, it’s around the same cooking time for sea scallops – within 5 or 6 minutes, you’ve got yourself a plate of very realistic vegan seafood. Easy vegan food is my favourite kind – so whilst I was on a roll, enjoying my very drinkable vegan Riesling, it seemed only right to make two recipes for the mushroom scallops; each designed to bring out different qualities in the wine.
As already mentioned, Riesling is a great match for Asian food; the sweetness and acidity in the Tesco bottle held up nicely against the vibrance of Asian-inspired scallops; marinated in a heady mixture of ginger, chilli, garlic, and soy sauce, then served with pak choy and sesame.
Spicy Ginger and Chilli Scallops:
Next, the wine’s crisp minerality provided welcome refreshment alongside the classic scallop recipe; pan-fried in butter. Well, dairy-free spread, but that doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Pan-fried Scallops with Crispy Shallots and Minted Peas
All in all, the evening was a hit: a very lovely vegan white wine from Tesco, at a decent price for a weekday evening, and fake scallops are now officially top of my list of easy vegan starters for extra-special dinners.
With so many delicious easy scallop recipes to begging to be tried, the options for vegan seafood and wine pairings have only just begun.
Sip sip, hooray!