Vino for Veggies

The food, wine & lifestyle blog for Vegans, Vegetarians, Pescitarians, and other Awesome People.

Is There Meat in My Wine? June 25, 2010

This may seem like a ridiculous question, but actually not all wines are vegetarian and even fewer are vegan.  How is this possible?  Aren’t wines made with fermented grape juice? Why are winemakers throwing animals is our tasty beverages?

Well, there isn’t actually meat in the wine, but a number of animal derived products are used for fining a wine.  Fining is the process of adding a reactive agent to a wine to reduce or remove soluble particles thereby clarifying the wine.  Common products used to fine wines include following:

  1. Gelatin – derived from bones (not vegetarian)
  2. Isinglass – derived from the air bladder of a sturgeon (not vegetarian or Kosher)
  3. Casein – protein derived from milk (vegetarian, but not vegan)
  4. Egg Albumen – derived from eggs whites (vegetarian, but not vegan)
  5. Bentonite – a clay-like material (vegan friendly)
  6. Dried Bull’s Blood Powder – an old school method, banned in the US and EU, but still used in some Mediterranean countries (just gross)

Fortunately, only trace amounts, if any, of fining agents are left in a wine.  During the wine making process wines are racked, which means that the wine is poured from one barrel to another leaving sediment and fining agents behind—consider it an industrial scale decanting.

Unfortunately, in the US, winemakers are not obligated to label their wines as vegetarian or vegan friendly.  So how do you know if your wine is Veggie friendly?  Here is a simple guide:

  1. Look for unfined/unfiltered wines.  This style of wine is becoming more popular as a natural and purer form of wine making.  They also are vegan friendly since no fining agent is used in the wine.  Just be prepared that your wine may be cloudy and throw sediment.  To minimized the sediment in your glass you can decant your wine or set the bottle upright an hour before drinking to let the sediment settle to the bottom.
  2. Drink red wines. Red wines are often filtered (a process that does not involve animal products), but less likely than whites to be fined because clarity is less of a need in reds.
  3. Drink wines from smaller producers. Smaller producers are more likely to make unfined/unfiltered wines.  Larger producers tend to make wines for the mass market, which demands a clearer wine without sediments.  Many consumers mistakenly believe that sediment and cloudiness in wines is a flaw.
  4. Organic and biodynamic wines do not mean Veggie friendly wines. Organic and biodynamic labels only indicate how the grapes were grown.  These wines can still be fined with animal products.
  5. Ask you local wine merchant. Your local wine shop should have an idea of what wines are vegetarian or vegan friendly.  If not, you may need to find a new wine shop that does.
  6. Use internet guides. There are websites that have lists of vegan and vegetarian friendly wines.  Two good sites are Barnivore and this vegan wine guide.
  7. Follow Vino for Veggies wine reviews. I’m going to make an effort on future posts to list whether the wines I review are vegan/vegetarian or not.  Often times this requires contacting the winery directly and hoping you get a response back.

I will admit that I’m not very diligent on this issue in my wine purchases (I know it makes me a bad Veggie).  However, I believe I should be clearer on the Veggie friendliness of the wines I review for my Veggie readership.

Questions for my readers:  Do you care if your wine is veggie friendly?  What if there is no trace of animal fining agents left in the wine?  Please leave your responses in the comment section below.

 

Deconstructed Sushi Bowl June 21, 2010

Do you love sushi?  Ever think, “I could seriously eat a whole bowl of sushi.”  Here it is!  A soul satisfying bowl o’ sushi that has all the clean flavors of your favorite roll but without the fish.  This recipe is a combination/tweak of Heidi Swanson’s Sushi Bowl with Toasted Nori, Avocado, and Brown Rice (Super Natural Cooking) and Deborah Madison’s Caramelized Golden Tofu (Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone).  It has quite a few components but the combination of flavors is really what makes this dish so satisfying.  It is also a highly recommended main course for a dinner party as the plating is just so impressive.

Contributor’s note:
If you are new to the world of tofu, no worries.  Just contact me at nikkivanvino@gmail.com and I will walk you through the tofu preparing process, explain all the different varieties of tofu, and answer any questions you might have.  It is such an amazing food and so easy to work with, so don’t be shy, just drop me a line and I’ll help you out.

Deconstructed Sushi Bowl
1 cup sushi rice
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. black sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. plain sesame seeds
1 sheet of nori (pressed seaweed sheets)

1 package extra firm tofu
1 Tbsp. peanut oil (or vegetable if you don’t have peanut)
1 1/2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
1/4 cup Braggs Liquid Aminos or low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame seed oil
1 Tbsp. chili garlic sauce (optional)

Optional toppings
lightly sautéed vegetables such as bok choy, carrots, snow peas
Raw sliced veggies such as avocado (my personal favorite), cucumber, or bean sprouts
pickled ginger
wasabi
chopped green onions

Instructions
Rice:
Cook sushi rice according to package instructions.  Meanwhile, toast nori in the oven or toaster oven for ~10 minutes @ 250 degrees until crispy.  Toast sesame seeds on the stove top in a dry pan until the plain seeds begin to brown but not burn.  Mix rice wine vinegar and sugar in a small bowl.  When the rice is cooked, transfer to a non-metal bowl.  Toss rice with vinegar-sugar liquid.  Sprinkle and mix in sesame seeds and crumble in nori sheet.  Your rice will be sticky with flecks of sesame and nori.

Tofu:
Drain, press (in a cloth or paper towel for 15 min.), and cube or slice tofu. Heat the peanut oil in a non-stick pan.  Sauté  tofu pieces until they are golden brown.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix brown sugar, Braggs/soy sauce, sesame seed oil, and chili garlic sauce.  Once tofu is golden brown, pour the mixture over the tofu.  Continue to cook on medium heat until the liquid is absorbed and the tofu is fully coated.

Assembling the bowl:
Put you sushi rice in the bottom.  Place your optional sautéed or raw veggies on the sides next to the rice.  Top with tofu and sprinkle with extra sesame seeds and green onions.  Place piles of ginger, wasabi, and avocado on the side.  Enjoy!

VanVino’s Wine Pairing Suggestion


When I think of Asian food, especially sushi, I think of Rieslings.  The clean, crisp nature of Rieslings pair perfectly with the clean flavors of sushi.  Also, the residual sugar in Rieslings have a way of cutting through the heat of the wasabi.

I paired our recent deconstructed sushi bowls with the 2007 Weingut Brandl Riesling Zöbinger Heiligenstein.  This is an Austrian Riesling.  The Brandl has a grassy, herbaceous nose that reminds me of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  On the palate, there are tart grapefruit flavors upfront transitioning to a grassy, mineral mid-palate.  The wine finishes with a dry crispness and petrol-like mouth feel (in a good way, not that I’ve ever drank petrol).  This wine is a very dry Riesling, not your mom’s sweet stuff from Germany.  I scored the 2007 Weingut Brandl Riesling a 93/100.  It is one of the best Rieslings I’ve ever had.  I’m glad I bought two bottles.

The Wine Stats

WineryWeingut Brandl
Type:  Riesling
Vintage:  2007
Appellation: Kamptal, Austria
Retail Price: $34.99
Available Price: Under $25 (I paid under $20 so there are some deals out there.)

Do you like sushi?  What is your favorite wine to pair with sushi?  We look forward to hearing your impressions of this dish?

 

Sweet Potato Spinach Quesadillas June 13, 2010

This soul satisfying quesadilla sounds a little unusual but is oh so delicious.  Many moons ago, my girlfriends and I were walking through Whole Foods (a brand new store at the time) and they were offering samples of this quesadillas.  We have since put our own twist on it making it a staple in our homes.

Tip:  use fresh spinach.  While I am not against the frozen, it just doesn’t cut it in this recipe.

Sweet Potato Spinach Quesadillas

2 large sweet potatoes
1 large bunch fresh spinach (~ 4 cups)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp. red chili flakes
salt to taste
flour tortillas
cheese such as Monterey jack or cheddar (optional)

Peel, cube, and boil sweet potatoes in a large pot of salted water until tender.  Meanwhile, in a large pan, saute garlic in olive oil until soft but not brown.  Add chili powder and  red chili flakes.  In batches, add spinach until the entire bunch is wilted.  Remove from heat.  Once the sweet potatoes are tender, drain and mash.  Add spinach-chili mixture to sweet potato mash.  Salt to taste.

To assemble quesadillas, lightly butter/oil pan on medium heat.  Lay whole tortilla flat in the pan.  Spread sweet potato-spinach mixture on half the tortilla and sprinkle with cheese.  Fold tortilla in half.  Brown tortilla on one side and then flip.  Once both sides are browned and cheese is melted, slip onto a plate, top with your favorite salsa, jalapenos, and sour cream.  Enjoy!

Wine Pairing from VanVino

We usually pair sweet potato spinach quesadillas with an Argentine Malbec or a Spanish Tempranillo (Rioja or Ribera del Duero).  Both of these wines tend to have softer, yet well structured, tannins as well as some nice oaky smokiness that goes well with the sweet potatoes.  In fact, we served appetizer portions of the quesadillas at our Argentine Malbec tasting party last March.  They were a big hit.

Recently we served the 2007 Viña Alicia Malbec Paso De Piedra with the quesadillas.  This wine had some serious structure.  I didn’t have time to decant the wine so I poured through a Vinturi in order to aerate it before drinking (this softens the tannins and opens the wine).  It had complex aromas of plums, dusty earth, tobacco, and a little iron.  On the palate, the wine  had flavors of plums upfront transitioning to licorice on the mid-palate and finishing with black pepper.  The Viña Alicia displayed solid, smooth tannins and wonderful food friendly acid all the way through.  I scored this wine a 92/100.

The Wine Stats

WineryViña Alicia

Type:  Malbec

Vintage:  2007

Appellation:  Mendoza, Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina

Retail Price: $18.99

Available Price: Under $18 (I know the average purchase price on Cellartracker is about $14.50)

Does this sound like a recipe and pairing you’d like to try?  When you do try it, what were your impressions?  What wines do you typically pair with Tex-Mex foods?

 

2006 C. Donatiello Winery Chardonnay June 4, 2010

My internet (and cable) is down at home.  I wanted to post a recipe today, but this technical hitch, thanks to Time Warner, won’t be corrected until Thursday.  Thursday! Outrageous!  As a result, this effectively puts recipes on hold until then.  Anyway, I thought I would do a quick wine review during my lunch just to whet your palates (pun intended).

The 2006 C. Donatiello Winery Chardonnay is a tasty, summer white that I enjoyed over last Memorial weekend.  It sells retail for $23.99, but I was able to pick it up on sale for $13.33 from www.winelibrary.com .  Current wine-searcher.com prices show that it can be found under $20.  Unfortunately for my peeps in MI, you can’t purchase wines from an out-of-state retailer, but I bet you can find it locally.

Here is my tasting note:

“Aromas of sour apples and butter. On the palate, butter popcorn jelly bellies (in a good way) upfront, a little sour apple on the mid-palate and finish.  Nice acidity for a chard with a fairly long finish.  Excellent QPR!  VanVino Score 91/100.”

I enjoyed the C. Donatiello chard with a new Nikki creation of mashed potato, spinach, and feta stuffed crepes with red wine sautéed Portobello mushrooms on top.  The acid from the chard balanced perfectly with the mashed potato, spinach, and feta stuffing.  Also, the buttery popcorn flavor went well with the mashed potatoes.  I was concerned that the red wine flavors imparted in the mushrooms were going to clash with the wine, but they worked well together.  Overall, it was an excellent pairing.

The Wine Stats

Winery:  C. Donatiello Winery

Type:  Chardonnay

Vintage:  2006

Appellation:  Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California

Retail Price: $23.99

Available Price: Under $20

When was the last time you had a chardonnay?  What kind of chard?  What did you pair it with?  Your comments and feedback are always welcomed, nay, desired.

 

The Veggie’s Guide to Basic Food and Wine Pairings June 2, 2010

Filed under: pairings,wine education — VanVino @ 6:02 pm
Tags: ,

Now we’ve all heard that red wines go with dark meats and white wines go with white meats and fish—so where does that leave the herbivore inclined?

It has been a long time practice to pair wines with the main protein of a dish. However, this doesn’t work for most vegetarian dishes. Vegetarian food gets most of its flavors from the seasoning, sauces, and vegetables used with the protein, not from the protein itself. In the past, wine experts have had a limited view of vegetarian cuisine as salads or green beans—leaving many to assume that only white wines can pair well with vegetarian foods.

Well, I’m here to offer a better guide to pairing vegetarian food with wine.

  1. Drink what you like. No matter what advice I or anyone else gives you—always drink what you like. As an example, I’ve read over and over again that Gewurztraminer pairs wonderfully with Thai food. However, I don’t like Gewurztraminer with or without Thai food and I’m not going to drink it. So please remember, this list is a guide—not veggie law.
  2. Think of flavors and sauces, not proteins. This should seem like a no brainier, but for the longest time wine experts have been so focused on matching wines to proteins that it was overlooked. Rick Bayless of Frontera fame (FYI – I love their salsas) first opened my eyes to this idea. His website, www.rickbayless.com, offers a “Guide to Classic Mexican Food & Wine”. I refer to this site often when looking for a wine to pair with Mexican dishes. I hope one day to make a similar guide for the many styles of vegetarian cuisine—maybe I’ll start with Indian food.
  3. Look for balanced acidity. Acidity refers to the refreshing, tart, and sour qualities in a wine. The key for good acidity in a wine is that it balances with all the other elements (fruitiness, tannins, alcohol, sweetness, etc.), but generally speaking more acidic wines are more vegetarian food friendly than less acidic wines because they refresh the palate and work well with many vegetarian ingredients and a variety of spices. White wines with good, food friendly acidity include Rieslings, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gruner Veltiners. Red wines include Sangioveses (the primary varietal in Chianti) and Barberas.
  4. Look for low alcohol levels. Low alcohol levels allow a wine to pair easily with almost any dish. It also means that you won’t get too loopy by drinking a couple of glasses. High alcohol wines can become astringent, bitter, and out of balance when paired with spicy food. On the other hand, high alcohol can also overwhelm more subtle dishes. Unfortunately, the trend today is to make high alcohol, fruit bomb wines (more about this in future posts). My general rule of thumb is to look for wines with 14% ABV or less. If I can find a 12.5% ABV red wine, I jump on it. Alcohol level is always located somewhere on the label.
  5. Beware of tannins. Tannins are not a bad thing, but beware that young, tannic red wines can clash with vegetable based dishes. However, I do love many tannic red wines. Tannins can be tamed by letting young red wines breath by either pouring the wine into a decanter or into the wine glass an hour or two ahead of the meal (sometimes even longer). Some of the most tannic red wines varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon (used in most Bordeaux reds), Nebbiolo (used for Barolos and Barbarescos), and Syrah/Shiraz. Red wines with gentler tannins include Barberas and Grenache (primary varietal used in Southern Rhone wines).
  6. Pair with the wine recommended for the meaty version. If you are having black pepper seitan cutlets, have it with the Syrah recommend by the wine critic for black pepper steak. Generally, I’ve found that if I’m making a faux meat dish I can pair it like the real meat version. I used these kinds of dishes to drink Cabernet Sauvignon based wines that I would otherwise rarely have an opportunity to drink.
  7. Ask your local wine merchant. Local wine shops are your key to learning about wine (after this site of course). If you want to know what wines have good acidity, would pair well with Tofu Pad Thai, and are under $15, a good wine merchant should be able to hook you up. If they can’t, look for a new wine shop. The Huffington Post has recently posted a good article on this topic. See “How to Go to a Wine Store”.
  8. Drink what you like. Again, it all comes back to this. People’s palates are different. Ultimately, the only way to know what food and wines pair well for your palate is by experimenting. I’m just offering a basic guide for veggie beginners.

Are there any veggies or wine people out there have suggestions they would like to add to this guide? What recommendations do you have for basic vegetarian food and wine pairings? Also, please leave any general feedback about this post in the comments below.

 

Welcome to Vino for Veggies! May 25, 2010

Welcome to Vino for Veggies!  The vegetarian food and wine blog dedicated to vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians, and those that just like to take a break from meat once in a while.

I decided to develop this site after finding very little information dedicated to wine pairings for vegetarian meals. Those that I did find were usually created by meat eaters.  While this makes little difference in cheeses and most Italian foods, it makes a huge difference in something like sweet potato spinach quesadillas (a specialty of my wife’s that will be featured on this site the next time she makes it).  I also found equal frustration when visiting wine review blogs or reading wine magazines.  I would read a wine review that sounded tempting, but only to see at the end that the wine critic recommend pairing it with Filet Mignon with Dices of Foie Gras and Mixed Mushrooms (wow, they’re going for three different meats with that one—where’s the greens?).

This blog will offer wine education and pairing tips from a vegetarian for vegetarians.  This site will not judge any individual’s reason for being a vegetarian or interest in vegetarian food and wine pairings.  Some people become vegetarian for ethical reasons, some for health reasons, and some for environmental reasons.  Others might still eat meat and/or fish, but like to have a balanced dietary lifestyle.  These are all good reason to visit Vino for Veggies.

In addition to wine education and pairing tips, this blog will provide tasty—sometimes innovative—recipes, wine reviews, vegetarian and wine related book reviews, restaurant and wine bar reviews from around NYC, and many other fun food and wine related “stuff”—all from a vegetarian’s perspective.

Finally, I would like to make wine as unpretentious and approachable as possible.  I have never bought a bottle of wine that has cost me more than fifty dollars and rarely drink wines that cost more than twenty.  I will truly make an effort to focus on high quality value wines as well as talk about wine in a fun and relaxing way.

So, please site back, have a glass of wine, and learn how wine can make not eating meat even more enjoyable.

Cheers!

Jon “VanVino” VanOeveren

 

 
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