It all started with being invited to a wine tasting party to celebrate promotions in my friends’ lives. One of the doctor’s I used to work with was hosting a “blind wine tasting party” for our honored guests. Immediately I had pictures of us all walking about in blindfolds. Managers were to bring a Zinfandel and a Sauvignon Blanc and a cheese and fruit pairing to go with white wines and the Doctors were to bring a Pinot Gris and Cabernet along with chocolate item to pair with red wines.
As someone who knows very little about wine and even less about wine pairings, I had some exploring to do. As a vegan who is learning about compassionate choices, I wanted my choices to reflect that. I Googled a few things, but wasn’t getting much help with wine pairings, so I reached out to my community of vegan bloggers to see what advice they may have to offer and bingo, I got a wealth of support and ideas!
Julia Moran Martz from Snarky Vegan reached out to suggest some of her favorite vegan wines and began to kick around ideas for food pairings. She linked me up with Barnivore a site that allows you input your beer, wine or liquor choice and find out if it is vegan or not. Most people, myself included, assume that wine of course is vegan…there’s no meat or dairy in there! It just grapes, oak and some yeast, right? Here is what Barnivore has to say.
Is your booze vegan?
It might seem weird at first, but your favourite drink might have more than just alcohol in it.
Brewmasters, winemakers, and distillers may include animal ingredients in their products directly, or they might use them in the processing and filtration.
When making the product, dairy, honey, and other things are ingredients in the final recipe.
When filtering the drinks prior to bottling, companies can use things like isinglass (from fish bladder,) gelatin, egg whites, and sea shells, among other things. These products grab onto the impurities and make it easier to catch them in the filters, though there are many animal-free alternatives in use.
These ingredients don’t usually show up on the label, so the only way to find out is to ask.
Julia suggested a Girasole Vineyards Zinfandel that she likes and it is not too pricey at under $15 a bottle. She also said she had more Cabs or Syrahs to suggest, but that wasn’t the category that I had, so we moved on to a great recipe she shared for Curry Kale Balls that made it to my final list of items that I brought. More about the great balls later!
Nicole Axworthy from A Dash of Compassion chimed n that it was her friend who created the Barnivore database and she suggested Bonterra Organic Chardonnay as being good choice. Bonterra’s white wines are vegan.
Jill Nussinow, RD, “The Veggie Queen” jumped in to confirm that generally wine and artichokes are not a good match. Thanks for confirming that…good save!
JL Fields from JL Goes Vegan suggested any Schug Pinot Noir after 2008 for a good price, great vegan wine! Schug’s red wines are vegan. She also shared a vegan wine tasting article that listed wines and food pairings. From that site I pulled off a Pure Olive Dip recipe that I used.
And the day prior I had seen a recipe on Facebook that caught my eye for Raw Vegan Goat Cheese. So I added that to the items I was bringing.
So I went to my local store with my list of suggested wines and got a Frey 2009 Zinfandel. I had some challenges finding a Sauvignon Blanc that was confirmed vegan, so I defaulted to my old methods of “buying the wine based on how the label makes me feel.” I got a CMS 2011 Sauvignon Blanc which from Washington which is not listed in the Barnivore site, though some of their previous wines are vegan. I knew at the wine tasting I could either participate or not. I made the conscious choice to use this as a learning experience and to taste all wines (regardless of if they were confirmed vegan or not). If I had more time, I would have hunted down a confirmed vegan Sauvignon Blanc, but I did not.
I had a blast in the kitchen making the various items and tasting them. By far my favorite was the Curry Kale Balls that remind me of wine itself with the complexity of flavors that melt in your mouth in such an inviting way! You really have got to try them. The Raw Vegan Goat cheese was my 2nd favorite with it’s variety of flavors, though I would use more nuts or less water next time to try to get the “cheese” more firm. The Chickpea Chipotle Dip was my 3rd favorite and the Pure Olive Dip was 4th. All items tasted good and there certainly were no bad ones, thank goodness!
As I arrived at the party, I realized that we were not going to be blindfolded, but rather the bottles were covered. I think my way would have been more fun! We used score sheets to rank the various qualities of each wine and I did OK, but as the night went on, my ability to distinguish got worse and worse. Perhaps this is a sign of a good party!
I got to see dear friends who I haven’t seen in a while and I met some of their partners for the first time. It reminded me how important companions are in life in general and also on the home front. I always love to meet people’s partners as it gives me insight into them even more and it helps provide more perspective.
My two dearest buddies from work are making changes, and this is on the heels of my own retirement. We have been a great trio who worked through some unique and tough challenges together. That hard work bonded us in a way that goes deep…beyond titles and politics. And so I see my work community changing, taking new steps towards our next lessons. I see these changes as good and I welcome them even when at times they are not always easy.
I would like to propose a toast to Mandi and Susan for their hard work, their tireless effort, to Mandi for that precious two year old who loves to come out and play and to Susan for her ability to be real, to be bold when necessary and to focus on practical ways to make improvements. I miss our daily connection, as I know you do too. I wish the best for each of you in your new positions and know you will do well as that is just who you are!
And to my vegan bloggers, thanks for your quick response and great ideas, I believe I added more compassion to the party thanks to you! I am new on the learning curve with lots to explore. There’s a whole world out there waiting for me!
Here is how the wine tasting came out going left to right as first place to last.
I looked up the wines we had at the party and it appears that only 1 is certifiable vegan (Frey), whereas five of them were not listed on Barnivore (Jones, CMS, Heydon Road, Easton and Kings Estate) and the remainder are not vegan friendly. Many vineyards vary their practice and do not keep track of those that are vegan. See the Barnivore website for notes on each wine.
What I learned from this is that one does need to do their homework if they wish to ensure the wine is vegan. Next steps would be to learn best locations to obtain vegan wines and then to taste for favorites. The Frey wine scored 4th out of 4, so the hunt for a better vegan wine continues. I want to know some good vegan wines and have them on hand even if wine is not my passion. I also want to explore vegan beers (which is my passion) and learn more about them.