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Vegetable dishes and Austrian wine
Consumers are increasingly coming to value seasonal vegetables and the wide range of ways they can be prepared in the kitchen. “Vegetables have successfully transitioned from being a mere side dish to being the main star on the plate,” explains Sascha Hoffmann from Restaurant Schubert in Vienna. He is always happy to recommend Austrian wines to accompany his vegetable creations. Each method of cooking calls for a different choice of wine. Thanks to their complexity, Austrian wines have proven to be an exciting pairing partner where this new approach to vegetables has been employed. “Often, I think a dish tastes perfect as it is, but when we pair it with the right wine, we discover completely new notes in the flavour. It’s as though the wine gives the dish that final kick. But you have to have the right team players,” says Paul Ivić of TIAN Restaurant, also in Vienna.
Customers are increasingly perceiving seasonal vegetables as precious ingredients. Tubers, leaves, stalks and fresh herbs are the new stars on many menus. When it comes to choosing the correct wine to accompany a particular vegetable dish, however, the method of cooking is a decisive factor: crisp, green aromas pair well with young, fresh wines, although it is important to ensure that the acidity harmonises well in order to avoid a sharp or bitter effect on the palate. Stews containing pulses, mushrooms and hearty herb-based sauces can take a denser or mature white wine as well as red wine. Aromatic white wines with a delicate acidity, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner and Roter Veltliner, pair well with steamed vegetable dishes – or you could even try an Austrian Sekt. For chargrilled vegetables with lightly toasted aromas, a dry red wine or a fruity rosé is a good choice. Fresh, light white wines are the perfect accompaniment for salads.
“Obviously, vegetables take on the main role for us. We use produce that our regional partners deliver to us fresh from the field, depending on the season. At TIAN, we also like to experiment with various methods of cooking and fermentation, in part to extend the shelf life of the produce – often using it several months later,” says Paul Ivić from the TIAN Restaurant in Vienna, explaining his fascination with cooking with vegetables. His sommelier André Drechsel is happy to recommend wines from Austria. “Our wine cellar is mainly stocked with natural wines from Austria. Ultimately, we believe we have a responsibility to support small regional businesses that share our philosophy and have been able to convince us with their quality.”
When it comes to accompanying vegetable dishes, Austrian Sekts and white wines prove to be great all-rounders. The Austrian flagship variety Grüner Veltliner is also an extremely versatile companion for meat-free or vegan dishes, no matter which category of the wine you choose. Thanks to their tannin content, rosé and orange wines can also work well. If vegetables with a high protein content are being served, such as chickpeas, lentils, podded peas, mushrooms or potatoes, then sommeliers frequently turn to light red wines. This also applies to chargrilled vegetables, as the toasted aromas harmonise well with classic-style, fruity wines, such as Zweigelt from Lake Neusiedl or Sankt Laurent from Niederösterreich (Lower Austria).
Vegetables from the cabbage family are known for their high protein content. They pair well with well-balanced tannins, for example with rosé wines, orange wines or light reds. What matters most with kohlrabi, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and the like is that the wine needs a strong “nose”, as these vegetables give off a very strong odour. A good choice here would be a dense Chardonnay from Burgenland or a mature Sauvignon Blanc from the Vulkanland region (Steiermark). Riesling from the regions along the Danube or a Pinot Blanc from Südsteiermark go well with classic vegetable gratins.
When it comes to vegetable dishes, celeriac is a congenial partner. Celeriac really brings wine to life and, when accompanied by young fresh wines, displays a youthful zest on the palate. Carrots, with their underlying sweetness, go well with a Sauvignon Blanc with an alternative method of élevage. In general, sweet kinds of vegetables such as pumpkin and parsnips require a wine with crisp acidity and fruity aromas. With oven-baked pumpkin, a Muskateller or Gemischter Satz from Wien (Vienna) is a good accompaniment.
The bitter compounds in endives, radicchio and other bitter salad leaves are important factors to consider when choosing your wine. Braising removes the bitterness. Bitter-sweet creations can take a good dense white wine with sweet extracts or a residual sweetness, such as a Rotgipfler from the Thermenregion or a Riesling. For young, green vegetables such as leaf spinach or Swiss chard, the perfect accompaniment is a mature white wine from Leithaberg.
“An increasing number of wines are being labelled vegan with the V label (note: European seal of quality; www.v-label.eu). This is not just because almost 160,000 vegans live in Austria today. There is also an increasing demand for this type of wine from flexitarians – people who want to eat less meat,” explains Felix Hnat, chairman of the Vegan Society in Austria. “Vegan wine” means that no animal-based products (e.g. gelatine, albumen from chickens, milk protein, etc.) have been used in the vinification process. “Many of our winegrowers have already turned to vegan production methods. These wines are easy to identify from the label when buying, and they are an extremely versatile accompaniment to food – not just for vegetable dishes!” concludes Chris Yorke, CEO of Austrian Wine (Austrian Wine Marketing Board).