I’m a wine loving yet health conscious mother of three and I love to entertain, and for me “National Wine Day” is one of the best days ever! Most people enjoy their wines with a beautiful full fat dairy cheese, but in my home a vegan cheese board is now always front and centre. I will admit, being a wife of a specialty food store owner has its advantages, I always have access to the best vegan cheese on the market. In my eyes, I have become somewhat of a vegan cheese connoisseur as a result. Let’s talk for a moment about wine, did you know that NOT all wine is vegan? I naturally made the assumption that they were but it’s not always the case. For this wine and vegan cheese pairing, I have partnered with Masi wines as they do not use animal by-products, animal derivatives or any allergy causing products in the production of their wines. They also focus on sustainable production and work to preserve the environment. Sounds like my kind of combination, so let’s work out the details on how to pair.
Vegan cheese is created mostly with blended nuts, in most cases cashews, or other plant-based sources to replace the fat content of cream you will find in regular full fat dairy cheeses. Probiotics are often added to mimic the effects of naturally occurring bacteria in aged cheeses. In most cases, there is fermentation that occurs where the probiotics go to work to help create the ‘aged’ flavour, but vegan cheese are not aged in dark and damp cheese caves, developing rich, pungent layers of mold and rind. (1) Having said that, there can still be immense depth of flavour and you may be surprised at the different types of firmness that have been mastered, anywhere from sharp cheddars to light and spreadable creamed cheese. Some of my favourite vegan cheese on the market today are Miyokos Double Chive Brie, Stokes Pub Cheddar (Canadian!) and my newest favourite Culcherd Herb & Garlic Tree Nut Cheese (Also Canadian!).
So, what kind of wines tastes best with vegan cheese? Great question and truth be told there isn’t a lot of research to date but Vegan cheese is becoming insanely popular, so here are 3 tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t Over Power a Delicate Cheese – Some of the simpler vegan cheese are delicate and you don’t want to over-power their flavour with a full-bodied wine but you may want to rely on the wine choice to bring out the depth of flavour. In this case I may choose a light, dry red wine that is simple and fresh. My favourite pairing here is Masi’s Bonacosta Valpolicella Classico, the red wine pairs beautifully with my Simple Cashew Chive Vegan Cheese Recipe. Click here for the recipe.
- Vegan Cheese Can Have Layers of Flavours – Vegan cheese are lighter in general than full fat dairy cheeses, better for the heart and are perfect for layering in multiple flavours. In the shopping aisles, you will find cashew cheeses mixed with dill and truffle, sriracha jalapeno or sundried tomato and olive, there are just so many choices. This is where wine experts say traditional wine pairing rules can be bent. All these flavours allow for discovery, this is where I think the magic of wine pairing with vegan cheeses still lies. I believe experimentation is warranted and some may even say a full-bodied red is the starting point. Full bodied reds are smooth, velvety and most importantly versatile, they can make any flavour that much better.
- When in Doubt – Crisp, acidic wines with clean, bright finishes are the best pairing for any cheese because they cut through any fat and balance most flavours. If you are unsure where your vegan cheese sits on the spectrum of fat or depth of flavour, reach for the Sauvignon Blanc or the crowd-pleasing Pinot Grigio, like Masi’s crisp Masianco Pinot Grigio and Verduzzo. They appeal to a wide range of palates and may also help that non-vegan love their first bite of a vegan cheese.
In honour of my first tip I have created a simple, delicate at home cashew-based vegan cheese that pairs perfectly with Masi’s Bonacosta Valpolicella Classico DOC. This wine is made from a blend using the traditional Veronese grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. It is fresh to the palate, good acidity, with cherries as the dominant flavour and a hint of vanilla. To me, it’s the perfect wine to bring out the flavours of my vegan cashew chive spreadable cheese, served with apples and almond based crackers. If you don’t have access to a store with vegan cheeses, make this simple recipe and serve it up to your next guests, it will be guaranteed a conversation starter. Click here for the recipe.