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Go Beyond Meatless – Wine Sauces That Bring Out the Veggies

Make a Wine Sauce for Anything Veggie, Plant-based, Vegan, or Vegetarian

Restaurant menus often have sauces on their menu selections and you’ll find they are not just pasta,  pizza, or steak sauces.  Why? The difference between most cooked at-home dinners and fancy restaurant meals is just a sauce. 

You can easily have good pasta or other sauces by ordering takeout, or even at home by just adding a jar of pre-made sauce from your grocery store. You can even make many of these common sauces at home from scratch with no problem. But as Emeril Lagasse says: ”Let’s kick it up a notch”

With respect for your time, let’s get to the summary. Here are my suggestions for the best wines to use in a wine reduction sauce for vegetables.

My choices for the best goto wines for vegetable food sauces:

Red Wines: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Garnacha/Grenache, Tempranillo, Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo

White Wines: Vermentino, Verdicchio, Spanish whites, Southern Rhone whites, oaked Chardonnay, Viognier

General Wine Pairing Guidelines – https://winetasteathome.com/home/food-pairing/ 

Wine sauces are a great way to add some flavor and zest when cooking vegetables. On its own, wine won’t totally replace butter or sauce made from vegetable oils; however, it does make for an interesting alternative taste in butter, oil, or even in a cheese sauce which you may find yourself using more often than expected.

While I’m not disrespecting the pure aromas and flavors of vegetables on their own. most foods everyone eat have some flavor-enhancing or altering characteristics. It prevents boredom and keeps the excitement in our meals. Try this general recipe to see if it adds to your eating enjoyment.

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about adding wine to a sauce mainly to provide acidity and subtle flavor. That is a subject for a different article. I am writing about using wine as the main base for the sauce by boiling off the alcohol and a lot of the water. This leaves the flavoring chemicals, wine phenolics, as the major taste component.

A Wine Reduction Sauce Recipe for Veggies

For Plant-based, Vegan, and Vegetarian foods

Remember to use small amounts of the sauce to just supplement the food’s flavors and not overshadow them.

Ingredients serve 4 

¼ cup (4 tbl) wine 

2 oz (4 tbl) vegan butter divided in half 

2 tsp minced shallot, onion, scallion, chives, or leek

Salt and pepper (black, green, or white) to taste

1 tbl  vegan egg substitute like Bob’s Red Mill® Egg Replacer, flaxseed meal, or tapioca flour

1 tbl water

Optional: herbs, spices, mushrooms, capers, flavoring liquids such as soy, Worchestershire, etc.

Directions

Put 1 tablespoon of butter (or light olive oil) into a medium saucepan and melt over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, onion, or leek and sweat until tender and translucent but not browned.

Pour in the wine, and bring to a boil, letting it reduce until you have a syrupy liquid. The time this takes depends upon how much wine you start out with but if only using half a cup of wine to start, it should just take about 3-5 minutes. 

While the sauce is reducing, mix a slurry of the egg replacer and water.

Once you have the wine reduction at a syrupy stage, start whisking in the remaining butter in very small amounts at a time. You don’t want the sauce to “break”, forming small lumps. Whisk constantly to keep it creamy. Once the remaining butter is almost fully incorporated, keep stirring until you have a smooth sauce but the butter is not browning.

Add the slurry of egg replacer and stir for another 3-5 minutes. 

Keep the sauce warm and if not immediately serving, put it in a thermos or Yeti® cup to hold it.

Notes: For butter, I like  Country Crock® Plant Butter with Avocado Oil in stick form the best, but the soft tubs of Country Crock® Plant Butter with Almond Oil work well too.

A wine and plant butter sauce almost always “breaks” forming visible particles floating in oil. Don’t worry. The taste is just as good “broken” as not, but it doesn’t look as smooth and creamy as you would expect from a professional chef. If the sauce does “break,” you may just need to warm it again and possibly add a small amount of water. 

The reason you need the egg replacer is not only to keep the butter and wine from separating out (“breaking”), but plant kinds of butter heat up to appear more “oily” than animal butter and you want to keep the sauce appearing smooth, not greasy.

My universal goto wines (if I have them easily available) for a red sauce are Cabernet Franc and Grenache,  but good old Merlot and Spanish reds work well also. Use wines under 14% of alcohol by volume (ABV) and preferably from a cool-climate growing area which will be less fruity and clash with vegetal tastes.

For white wine sauces Vermentino, Vernaccia, an oaked Chardonnay, or a sparkling white are my favorites, but Pinot Grigio/Gris or Rieslings make delightful sauces also.

Tastes matter! Always check your taste frequently while cooking; don’t wait until it’s done. 

Have your jar or glass of clean, tasting spoons alongside your stove. You know that feeling when you’re putting together a dish, then at the very end realize there’s something amiss?

http://www.chefscloset.blog/tasting-spoon-controversy/ 

Taste before and after adding salt and pepper as many times as you need to to get it to your liking.

When you taste the sauce, there should be a good balance of acidity from the wine and creamy richness from the butter. If it tastes too astringent or tart, add more butter to your liking. If it’s not astringent or tart enough for the flavor of the food you are adding it to, then spice up your flavor with some extra ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar!  Season according to your personal taste with salt and pepper, and add any extra flavorings like zest, chopped herbs, mushrooms, capers, etc. And remember: this dish requires your tastes to make these flavors come alive on their own.

To make a great sauce, you need the right balance of liquids and fats. For my personal wine reduction recipe, my ratio is 6 wine : 3 butter or other oils : 1 aromatic allium. So if you wanted to use a cup of wine (16 tablespoons), you would use 8 tablespoons of butter (one stick) and 8 teaspoons (2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons) of minced allium. Find the ratio you like and stick with it for your personal wine reduction recipe.  Do this in small batches of several trials before moving on to larger amounts since all recipes are built differently depending on how much liquid was originally used at the start. It usually takes about 5-7 trials of ratio experimenting to find your taste niche. You may like more or less wine, butter, or allium. While this recipe sounds like it uses a huge amount of butter, a wine sauce needs to be rich. Only a spoonful or so will be going on the plate. 

You can use any type of wine, but to enhance the taste experience, think about what type of veggies you are putting the sauce on. Onion and garlic give the strongest allium taste and work well with red wines. However, you may wish to use lighter allium tastes (shallots and leeks) with white wine sauces. You can get by using dried onion, garlic, or shallot flakes, but they do not taste as interesting to me. If you do substitute dried aromatics or herbs, be sure to start out with ⅓ the amount as fresh ones and then taste from there before adding any more.

Would a Wine Sauce on Asparagus Made with Sauvignon Blanc or Albariño Make Your Day?

Here’s a good guide for wine pairing with veggie dishes. Plant foods made with:

Beans, peas, grains, and nuts – red or white wine sauce

Why – Beans and peas are packed with saponins which give them their signature flavor when simmered in broth, sauce, or even just water. Saponins are considered to taste bitter, but in the wine-tasting world, I would say the better term is vegetable; vegetables’ bitterness is only very slight. These same substances can be found also in grains such as rice, nuts like pistachios, or even chestnuts! 

Grapes grown in cooler climates often have more vegetal tastes. Examples might include Cabernet Franc (Chinon) or Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley or from the Fingerlakes region of New York. Wines from very sunny climates such as Central Valley California or Australia have fruitier tastes which tend to clash with vegetal tastes.

Mimicked beef or pork meats – red wine sauce

Why – Mimicked vegan meats often contain increased amounts of leghemoglobin from the roots of plants. This compound has a meaty taste somewhat like beef. It’s heavier, more substantive body goes better with wines that are medium-plus to full-bodied such as the heftiness of red wines.

Mimicked chicken or seafood meats – white wine sauce

Why – These foods mimic and are, lighter-bodied foods. They pair better with lighter white wines. You want a sauce that doesn’t overpower the food it is on.

Tofu – white wine sauce

Why – Tofu is similarly very light in density and while it absorbs flavors easily, you don’t want to overshadow them with the sauce; just compliment them.

Roasted root vegetables – oak-aged white wine or oak-aged red wine sauces

Why – roasted vegetables, even if from the oven rather than a grill, always have a browned, maybe slightly charred umami flavor. Its aromas go with firewood and thus go with the oak used to age many wines. Whether you pair it using an oak-aged white or red wine, depends upon the body (light or heavy) of the dish and whether you want to add a light or more intense flavor.

Vegetable, noodle pasta, or rice dish with sauce – in this case, you don’t want to add another sauce, but you may want to incorporate a red or white wine in the sauce already being used. 

Why – Too many sauces confuse the palate and detract from the main flavor theme since a pasta, noodle, or rice dish is often a “one-pot” meal with no sides, or at the most has only one side dish with it.

Once you get the hang of making wine reduction sauces for vegetables, get adventurous. Use sweeter wines for dishes with spicy, capsaicin hotness that need balancing or aromatic floral wines (think Gewurtztraminer, Traminette, Torrantes, Muscadine, Vignoles) for foods with lots of different spices. 

With some fun cooking trials, you can become a wine sauce pro in no time and cook your way to wine sauce greatness!