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12 Wines That Play Up the Texture of Plant-Based Meats

These bottles best bring out flavor in vegan and vegetarian dishes

Janice Williams By March 23, 2022
Illustration of vegetables and fake meats with wine
Illustration by Dante Terzigni

Head to the meat section of the grocery store, and you’ll see it right there: Beyond Meat, chicken-less nuggets and burger patties by Impossible Foods, and other plant-based meat substitutes to cook. Even at restaurants and fast-food chains, menu options for meat made out of plants are steadily growing. 

People are cutting back their meat intake and have turned to plant-based products for reasons of health, environmentalism, or to merely shake up their culinary skills. Sales of vegan groceries increased 27% between 2020 and 2021, according to a report by SPINS, a wellness-focused data and technology company, and the nonprofit Good Food Institute. 

When it comes to pairing wines with these new foods, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

All about that texture

“Texture is super important for plant-based food and wine,” says Sunny Gandara, a wine educator and brand director for Querciabella, a vegan, organic, and biodynamic winery in Tuscany. 

With so many plant-based proteins engineered to taste and feel like animal meat, choosing food-friendly wines that combine elements of acidity, alcohol, tannin, and fruit can go a long way. Those factors can highlight the layers of flavor found in the dish.

“I’m a big fan of Champagne. Bubbles and crispy fried food can make for a dynamic eating experience — even if it’s crispy chicken-less meats or tempura vegetables,” Gandara continues. 

Eat that Boca Burger with a juicy, fruity, high acid red wine, or choose an effervescent and refreshing white wine with a vegan fish fillet. Pairings for plant-based meats should follow general rules of thumb for typical meat pairings like lighter wines with the white meats and more full-bodied expressions with the red meats and hearty dishes.

What about vegan wine?

Vegan wine may be the first thing that comes to mind when determining a wine pairing for plant-based meats, but vegan meals can still work well with wines that aren’t, especially since finding vegan bottles can be pretty challenging. 

For starters, the philosophy of veganism and the eating and lifestyle choices related to it can vary from one person to the next — just as vegan certifications for one winery may mean something completely different to another. Even certifications can be blurry as some only cover wines after grapes are harvested. 

Animal labor and byproducts play a role in winemaking from start to finish. Some wineries employ sheep and goats for brush control, poultry for insect control and soil aeration, animal manure for fertilization, and bone, blood, or fish meal for soil. Horses plow vineyards, and raptors manage rodent and bird populations. Then there are the fining agents, like egg whites, added during the winemaking process that helps clarify the wine and adjust color. 

And even if a winemaker is avoiding using animals and animal byproducts, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the wine is organic. Many vineyards are still sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, affecting insect and birdlife.

Vegan Wines, a subscription club and online wine shop that aims to ensure winemakers are avoiding animal labor and byproducts from soil to bottle, is a resource drinkers can use to search for wines. However, Gandara suggests keeping it simple by searching for wines that are certified organic and biodynamic.

“I am not a fan of complicating it too much,” says Gandara, who has practiced veganism for the last eight years. “The most important thing that I always tell people is to drink what you like with what you want to eat.”

Bottles to try:

bottle of Cvne Rioja Organic 2019

C.V.N.E. Cune Ecologico Organic Rioja (~$13)

C.V.N.E. sources grapes grown organically in Rioja, specifically in Spain’s Haro and San Vicente areas for this blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo, and Graciano. Vineyards aren’t sprayed with herbicides or synthetic pesticides. Instead, grape growers opt for plant-based fertilizers. The final result is a voluminous and complex wine with cherry fruit and floral, juicy freshness complemented by chalky tannins.

bottle of Marani Rkatsiteli Qvevri Orange Wine

Marani Qvevri Kakheti Rkatsiteli 2017 (~$14)

Here’s an organic and natural wine made in the traditional Georgian qvevri with indigenous Rkatsiteli grapes. The wine displays a light amber hue with intense white fruits and herbal aromas. On the palate, the wine is complex with minerality and herbal nuances that match the fragrance. Tannins are fresh and clean throughout the lingering finish.

bottle of Miguel Torres Cordillera Chardonnay 2020

Miguel Torres Cordillera de los Andes Chardonnay 2020 (~$22)

Familia Torres has produced wine in Spain for more than 150 years. Miguel Torres Chile was founded in the Maipo Valley region in 1979 and, like its Spanish counterpart, has made the switch to certified organic farming over the years. Miguel Torres Chile is one of the most prominent wineries certified with fair trade. This aromatic Chardonnay offers juicy acid, peach, and lychee characteristics.

bottle of Two Vintners Columbia Valley Syrah

Two Vintners Columbia Valley Syrah 2018 (~$26)

If it’s a wine with funk, earth, and fruit that you’re looking to pair with your plant-based meats, this is the one. Produced by Two Vintners in the Columbia Valley region of Washington state, this wine features earthy aromas of mushroom and forest floor backed with flavors of black fruit and olives. The finish is persistent with refined tannins.

bottle of Vie Di Romans Bianco Flors Di Uis 2018

Vie di Romans Flors di Uis Friuli Isonzo 2018 (~$31)

This wine is a blend of Malvasia, Friulano, and Riesling. It hails from the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of Italy and displays floral aromas and a saline quality reminiscent of the nearby Adriatic Sea. The wine is bright and fresh with stone fruit flavors that get a lift from vibrant acidity.

bottle of Querciabella Chianti Classico

Querciabella Chianti Classico 2018 (~$31)

This wine packs power while remaining light on its feet. Made with 100% Sangiovese grapes, it’s “fresh and bright with a lot of tension,” says Gandara. Certified vegan and organic, this wine is fragrant with cherry and tobacco aromas, while the palate is drenched in red and black fruit nuances and velvety tannins that linger throughout the lengthy finish. 

bottle of 2019 Lingua Franca "Avni" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Lingua Franca Avni Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2019 (~$36)

Pinot Noir made by Oregon winery Lingua Franca in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA has been vegan since 2017, and well before that happened, the winery practiced organic and biodynamic farming. This wine is plush with red fruit and rose petal aromas, and the palate is juicy and spicy with raspberry and cherry notes framed by sturdy tannins.

bottle of 2019 Cooper Mountain Pinot Noir Life

Cooper Mountain Life Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2019 (~$40)

Yet another ripe Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this wine from Cooper Mountain Vineyards is organic and sulfite-free. Smooth and easy-drinking with pronounced aromas of blue fruits and cherry cola, the palate of the wine exudes flavors that match the fragrance backed by hints of ground coffee and round, supple tannins.

bottle of Tablas Creek Vineyards Paso Robles Grenache Blanc

Tablas Creek Vineyard Paso Robles Grenache Blanc 2019 (~$43)

Biodynamic farming has been a practice at Tablas Creek in Paso Robles, California, since 2010. The winery took its environmental measures a step further in 2020 when it became the first regenerative organic certified vineyard in the U.S. “The people at Tablas Creek are pioneers and always ask how we can do better?” says Gandara. This particular bottle is made with 100% Grenache Blanc grapes. The wine is full-bodied and fresh with acidity, citrus, and green fruit nuances.

bottle of Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs Zinfandel

Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2020 (~$46)

Sustainability and organic farming are at the forefront of winemaking at Ridge Vineyards, a Sonoma winery that’s existed for more than 60 years. This bottle is every bit of a classic old-vine California Zinfandel, robust and powerful with luscious red and black fruit. Woodsy leaf and briar elements mingle in the background while the finish is as rich as the first sip and lingers with firm tannins.

bottle of Champagne Legret Brut Rosé

Legret & Fils Champagne Brut Rosé NV (~$55)

This vegan certified blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir hails from Champagne, France. Produced by Champagne Legret & Fils, the wine is dark pink and lively, with bubbles as fine as a pin needle. Aromas of fresh red berries evolve into sour cherry on the palate, and the finish is long and lingering.

bottle of Vietti Barolo Castiglione

Vietti Barolo Castiglione 2017 (~$57)

Ruby red and explosive, this organically-made Nebbiolo from Italy’s Barolo DOCG is elegant with aromas of red and blackberries, red flowers, and tobacco. The wine is rich with herbal notes on the palate, while leather is detected on the back end. Full-bodied and complex, this wine has well-integrated tannins that provide structure throughout the long, lengthy finish.