Pairing Off: Boca Vegetable Burgers

Each week, Pairing Off attempts to find just the right bottle of wine to go with ordinary food.

There's nothing better than a pound or so of ground beef slapped on the grill...except maybe the same, topped with bacon.

Of course, some people are content--or so they say--to deny themselves life's culinary pleasures...although I must admit, Boca does a surprisingly decent job turning soy, wheat gluten, corn oil, disodium inosinate and such into sturdy fabric with a pan-browned flavor.

Finding the right wine to go with a real burger is never much of a problem. But soy-based vegetable burgers present something of a challenge. Instead of dripping fat, after all, there's a strange coating from sesame and corn oils. In place of the rich, meaty flavor, Boca's burgers present nutty and bitter background notes.

So what the hell works best?

The guy at Crush in Knox-Henderson first poked around the Cabernet Sauvignon area. Then he pointed to a South African rose from the same grape. Which would be better?

"Either way," he shrugged.

Mulderbosch's 2008 rose comes across the nose in weak wafts of grapefruit and varnish--that sweet-sour tainted smell. Thankfully, it's a more interesting sipper: splashes of grapefruit, lemon, ginger and spice sweeping across the palate, followed by a lingering wash of citrus.

In pairing with the vegetable burgers (I had three), however, a strange thing occurred. The "burger" flavors embedded in Boca's soy jobs retreated quickly in the face of the wine. Retreat? Hell, it ran like Braxton Bragg's rebels at Chattanooga...although the ashen charred character eventually crept back.

The wine, however, is unperturbed. Maybe there's a little flicker as the ginger flavor takes on the burger's acrid bitterness, but that's it--no change in the wine as it completely routs the meatless patty.

Personally, I consider that a good thing. But if you happen to enjoy those frozen soy burgers, you'd be rather disappointed.

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