Research suggests that there are about half a billion vegetarians on the planet – and that number is on the rise; a fringe movement is becoming mainstream due to a focus on health, animal welfare and climate change – or so they say.
From my doctor friend who talks about the benefits of a meat free diet to the Generation Z daughter of another friend who promotes animal welfare to a recent Uber driver who did his darnedest to convert me from my ‘sinful’ animal eating ways, it is on trend to follow a plant-based diet.
So what does this trend mean for wine pairing?
Will sommeliers have to retrain their palates if tannic styles of red are no longer needed to cut through the fat of a highly marbled wagyu sirloin? Will revered vintages of Grange and Hill of Grace Shiraz be destined to accompany a Tasmanian cheese platter rather than a plate of twice cooked beef spare ribs?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to a vegetarian meal from time to time, and I do enjoy a spinach and ricotta ravioli as much as an Italian nona …. but, if we all become vegetarians, what does that mean for my own private red wine collection?
Without a rib fillet on the barbie or a slow cooked lamb shank served on a bed of mint pea mash, what will the fate be for my favourite Coonawarra cabernet or Tumbarumba Shiraz?
The whites on my wine racks downstairs, like Hunter Valley Semillon or Clare Valley riesling, will still be put to good use with plates such as a fig and Camembert salad or even a broccoli and cranberry salad served with a Greek-yoghurt sauce. However, will this vegetarian movement be the death knell for my investment in long lasting reds?
The jury (of one) has voted and, for collectors of fine wine, a trend away from red meats should not be a cause for concern. Relief!
Over the weekend, I spent some hours researching the food pairing options with vegetarian dishes before doing my heart (and the environment) a favour. I prepared a couple of vegetarian dishes to serve with quality aged reds from my cellar – and what a pleasant surprise.
A porcini mushroom and parmesan-infused risotto handles a 1999 Langmeil Freedom Shiraz (Barossa Valley) with aplomb … while an aubergine and ricotta lasagne was superbly complemented by a 2005 Taylors St Andrews cabernet; Mitchell Taylor himself would have approved.
My more-than-positive experience with plant-based dishes has me enthused enough to continue the experiment next weekend (I don’t normally find time to cook during the week). Mmmm, I’m contemplating Mornington Pinot with zucchini fritters and pine nut broccolini. I’m actually salivating at the prospect of pairing Craggy Range (Hawkes Bay) Merlot with Gnocchi, served with a Roma tomato sauce, sprinkled with mozzarella and lavender.
While I may not yet be converted to a Gandhi-esque existence, at least I can rest easy knowing that my cellar won’t go to waste if red meat is, quite literally, off the table …