Wine and cheese soirées are the epitome of classy yet affordable social gatherings, and vegans should not be excluded. Don either your cocktail dress or dinner jacket, invite over your fanciest friends, and swirl vegan vintages around with abandon while turning up your nose and discussing the latest in modernist architecture.
Wine is the ideal accompaniment to an extra special social gathering. Even if you suspect you might not personally be much of a wine connoisseur, do keep tasting reds, whites, and rosés until you find your personal favorite. Due to the refining process, and the use of animal products like isinglass and eggs, many wines aren’t vegan. Rest easily, because the vegan wine and beer guide Barnivore will help you out with a frequently updated and confirmed list of vegan vino (along with beer and other spirits). Favorites include Charles Shaw Reds, selections from Deerfield Ranch Winery, whites from Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Frog’s Leap Winery’s Rose, Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz, and virtually all the selections from Hip Chicks Do Wine, Jackson Triggs Winery, Red Truck, and Quail’s Gate (from the 2008 vintages on).
Blind wine tastings are great fun, help you develop a discerning palate, and can help you find a new discounted deal that you prefer to pricier favorites. And yes, you can always combine the wine tastings with a chocolate, olive oil, or vegan cheese blind tasting to keep your teetotaler friends in on the fun. Choose one or more varietals like zinfandel, merlot, or chardonnay, get everyone to bring one bottle, and let the tasting begin!
If you haven’t had the chance yet to taste Dr. Cow aged nut cheeses, here is your chance. The tangy raw cheeses are complex, intensely flavored, and vary largely from variety to variety, and they are without comparison the best vegan cheese pairing for wine. If Dr. Cow isn’t available, there are other delicious options such as Cheezly and Sheese, but you can really show off by making your own.
Vegan Chef Heather Haxo Phillips teaches classes on making raw vegan cheeses in San Francisco’s Bay Area through her site Raw Bay Area, and she has provided VegNews with a recipe for her raw Almond Cheese, which can be tinkered with to feature different nuts, additions, and even seeds. When it comes to nut cheeses, Phillips recommends cashew and macadamia nuts for the richest cheeses, almonds for everyday nut cheese, and pecans and Brazil nuts for extra gourmet varieties. Not so into nuts? Try seeds, such as sunflower and pumpkin, for a nut-free cheese.
Phillips also recommends experimenting with add-ins such as miso, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, kalamata olives, caraway seeds, fennel, dried garlic and onion powders, scallions, date paste, and hazelnuts. Phillips’ recipe requires fermentation time, so the cheese will age and develop a sharpness and depth that you won’t find in vegan store-bought melty cheeses.
For a more instantaneous fête, fire up your fondue pot. Try Cashew Fondue, pairing it with dipping instruments in the form of bread cubes, assorted raw or sautéed mushrooms, blanched broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, or asparagus, roasted peppers, onions, eggplant, and zucchini, boiled or roasted potatoes, or grilled tofu, tempeh, or seitan. Fondue pots are frequently found dirt-cheap at garage sales and flea markets, and chances are one of your friends has one waiting to be put to use.
Other edibles perfect for wine pairing include crackers, olives, crusty bread with balsamic vinegar and quality olive oil for dipping, Marinated Mushrooms, veggies dipped in Chimichurri Sauce, and Must-Make Muffalata. For dessert, nothing goes better with wine than chocolate, so try splurging on the brands you’d normally avoid, or do a chocolate fondue. All you really need for a fondue is chocolate and optional add-ins such as coconut milk and liqueurs, with plenty of fruit for dipping.