Put a vegan wine tasting at Bean Vegan Cuisine on your vegan bucket list of things to do in Charlotte, NC!
(I know, I know, I know. Vegan bucket list and Charlotte in the same sentence? What an oxymoron, right? But, actually, Charlotte is becoming evolved enough for a small vegan bucket list which I’ll be posting at the beginning of the new year. Bean already holds three slots.)
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend two wine tastings at Bean with members of my VegCharlotte meetup group. The wine tastings cost $10 in advance, $15 at the door – not bad for the equivalent of two full glasses of wine plus hearty vegan snacks!
(NOTE: Bean is also hosting some full dinner and wine pairings, $40 per person. This review is for their standard wine tastings.)
Wine consultant Tami Vogel, who works for Global Wines Distribution, leads the wine tasting. She’s a graduate of the International Sommelier Guild and the Society of Wine Educators, so she’s extremely knowledgeable and informative.
Tami started both wine tastings by explaining that many wines, beers, and spirits contain honey or dairy, and that wine is especially likely to have been filtered with egg whites, gelatin, fish bladders (a.k.a. isinglass), and crustacean shells. (If this is news to you, see my post, Raise Your Glass to the Veggie Life for more info.)
She then poses the question, “How many of you knew that?”
Both times, the results were the same.
About half knew wine could be iffy for vegans. In fact, some of them were surprised that there were vegan-friendly wines available.
The other half had absolutely no idea wine could be non-vegan!
Both times, at least several tasters thought that if a wine was organic, it was vegan!
Tami then talks about Bean owners Charlie and Roy, who are both vegan, and their strong commitment to having only vegan-friendly wines and beers. Accordingly, when compiling the wine selections for Bean, Tami went through the extra steps of actually checking with each winery personally, instead of just taking the word of the importer. She brings the sheaf of verification letters with her to prove it! Some of the letters are pretty funny … one winery, which has several dogs on the grounds, wrote, “We can guarantee you there are no animals products in our wine … but we can’t guarantee you there is no wine in our animals!”
Then the wine tasting begins. Tami is generous with her samples, and if you need another swig just ask! At the end of each tasting she also offers each wine again.
Tami doesn’t bother doing the silly snobby wine tasting things some people do … asking you to swirl it and hold it up to the light and look at the legs and inhale the aroma imagining yourself standing in a mossy forest full of trees eating cherries … Instead, she talks about how the wine is aged – what percentage of time the wine spent in oak versus steel, for example. She describes how different climates influence the same grapes – why, for example, a Chardonnay from California will taste quite different from a Chardonnay grown in the foothills of the Andes mountains.
At the second wine tasting Tami seemed to be getting more into her groove. She was more relaxed and informal, and following her lead, the wine tasters seemed more relaxed, too. There were more questions and commentary from the tasters and also more conversation among ourselves.
And the food? Did I mention the food?
The food is pretty damn awesome! (Well, this is Bean after all!)
At the first tasting, there was really too much food. There was crabby patty dip (didn’t pair that well with the wine but lawd have mercy it was yummy!) There were little cheezy crackers that really did taste like cheddar cheese. There were little crab puffs. There were BBQ tofu fingers. There were ginger cookies (totally, totally awesome with red wine).
At the second tasting, there was less food but it was better matched to the wines. The little cheezy crackers. Popcorn, paired with a sparkling white wine – a surprisingly good match! Individual plates of fancy house-made vegan sausage – former omnivores should think of specialty Christmas sausages from Harry & David or Hickory Farms – served with grapes and cubes of Daiya jack style wedge cheese. And, again, those wonderful little ginger cookies!
If you want to purchase any of the wines, discounts are offered – $20 off a case purchase (12 bottles); $10 off a half-case purchase (6 bottles). If you don’t want to purchase wines, that’s ok, too – no pressure!
The only small suggestion I would make to Bean is maybe try having one of these wine tastings at the bar, instead of the community room. That might encourage a little more interaction and mingling.
UPDATE 10/29/2012 – Forgot to mention one very interested tidbit Tami shared. For so long, the trend has been toward very clear, clean, filtered wines. Now, there is a growing movement toward non-filtered wine – a rising sentiment that yes, you do get a very pure wine by filtering, but you also remove a lot of the taste, character, and personality of the wine! If filtering continues to fall out of style, that means many more vegan-friendly wines on the market!