As someone whose idea of comfort food involves two quarter pounders and a bottle of Zinfandel, going to My Vegan World* at Ralph’s Wines and Spirits along Arnaiz Ave. was the last thing I thought I’d be doing.
It happened like this: An old friend of mine – whose products were featured at MVW (Diwata Chocolates) – invited me to catch up. Since the event also doubled as a celebration of another friend’s birthday (belated happy birthday, Jorge!), I knew I definitely needed to go.
It was my first foray into vegan food since becoming a wine professional (I love that I get to call myself that now!), and my immediate assumption was that I’d be drinking white wine all night, given what I assumed to be the obvious nature of most vegan food—plain, green plant-based cuisine.
But boy, was I happily mistaken! Chef Isi Laureano’s food had me enjoying every bite, because even the free-flowing vegan-friendly red wines married perfectly with her menu.
People are probably wondering, “Aren’t all wines technically vegan-friendly?” As it turns out, animal-derived fining agents (such as fish bladder and egg albumen) are used to remove proteins, yeast, and cloudiness during the winemaking.
The wines below were fined using either bentonite** or plain gravity, which is what makes them vegan-friendly:
Yalumba “The Y Series” Sauvignon Blanc 2018
The Y Series Sauv Blanc was crisp and racy with high acid that elevated its citrus notes, dried mangoes, and passionfruit. This made it an excellent wine to accompany Chef Isi’s Eggplant Salad with oranges, tomatoes, and scallion-ginger-garlic sauce. The wine’s high acid matched the salad’s acidic components. Pairing the two was like squeezing real lemon and passionfruit juice onto the salad (note: NOT something people would want to physically do in front of the chef that made the food!).
Yalumba “The Y Series” Chardonnay 2017
Next, we were treated to a heaping plate of Okra Nachos. With the freshness of cucumber with creamy Brie from In a Nutshell, this was an intense – albeit well-balanced – plate of nachos. I thought the Sauvignon Blanc could work well with this, but I wanted to see if anything else from the wine list would work with the appetisers.
To my surprise, the Y Series Chardonnay was just what I needed. With its medium-plus acidity and creamy mouthfeel (read: textured, but not buttery at all), it matched the fattiness of the Brie and quaffed this dish’s spicy components with its refreshing white peach and lemon flavours.
Oxford Landing Estates Merlot
First, a little context: I was sat with a table of red-wine drinkers, and was introduced as “someone who works in the wine industry.” Naturally, I was tasked to select the wine at the start of the evening. I wasn’t sure which red wine would work well with vegan food, so I picked what I thought posed the least risk—the Merlot.
Now, if it ended up being a wine that merely justified the “low-risk”, “safe” theory I had, I wouldn’t have included it here… But the Oxford Landing Merlot more than pulled through when the main course came out. Its bright and fruit-forward palate with notes of raspberries and plums, coupled with its soft, supple medium tannins, beautifully matched the smoky and savoury features of the Adobong Mushrooms and Sitao – which by the way, was my favourite dish that evening.
Oxford Landing Estates Shiraz
To accompany the main course, Ginataan with Sigarilyas and Squash was also served. Creamy, mild and subtly aromatic, this paired well with the Chardonnay from the Y Series range… But since I had a list of other vegan-friendly wines to work with, I figured I’d go completely left field and choose another red.
I decided to go with the Shiraz. On its own, the medium-bodied wine was inoffensive, with notes of blackberry, plum, and sweet spice. With the food, its creamy texture was brought centre stage… An effect that I really enjoyed. The best part was that its mild, spicy components worked in tandem with the squash. Plus, I do love all things squash and pumpkin.
People who would like to learn more about My Vegan World could visit their Facebook page for more details, most importantly, the next dinner event. A little insider info: It looks like the next one will feature a sake and vegan pairing.
*Featuring delicious local vegan food paired with vegan-friendly wines, MVW is a community for both vegans and non-vegans.
**Bentonite is commonly used to clarify wines, as well as remove protein haze and any off-putting aromas.