Putting together an all-vegan wine list was challenging for Shawn Weed, but his effort paid off.
Weed, who is the wine director and owner of The Acre restaurant, worked with sommelier Gabriel Ballantine to develop the list, which recently received a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award.
“(Ballantine ) took interest in what I was doing and said, ‘Hey, let me see if I can learn about this with you and we can work together,’ and he was tremendous help,” Weed said. “We just kept hitting the ground and seeing what we can find, and this year around New Year’s we had a pretty darn good selection.”
Weed submitted The Acre’s impressive vegan wine list to Wine Spectator, a magazine that focuses on wine and wine culture. Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Awards recognize restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers, according to its website.
“I’m pretty proud of it, and I’m still in a little bit of shock that we won a national award for this,” Weed said. “… In the whole world, as of last year, there were only seven restaurants in the world that got wine awards that were either vegetarian or vegan. That’s also why I was, like, I don’t think I stand a chance. Some of these restaurants are in Europe and really amazing places, and to think a little restaurant of 48 seats in New Mexico could get an award like that is pretty, like, holy cow to me. I don’t really have very eloquent words to express how it feels, but it’s pretty awesome.”
Offering vegan wines at reasonable prices was taken into consideration.
“More than half of our wines are what I would consider very affordable,” Weed said. “I mean 80% are less than about $50. If you go to a nice restaurant, you’re going to pay $10 for a glass of decent wine. You know, here, we are passing that same thing forward. It should also match what we do at The Acre, which is making things accessible and affordable, whether it’s our food or our wine”
It was important to Weed to allow diners vegan wine options, because The Acre caters to those with vegan and vegetarian diets.
“We’ve ended up getting some wines in there that are super-sparse, like we have a K Vintners (“The Hidden Syrah”), which got 99 points,” Weed said. “It’s the most expensive wine on our list, but to know there are vegan wines that are getting above 99 points is just incredible. … It goes along with what we do in the community for vegetarians and vegans, but also I think it’s just something that people should be allowed to make their own choices about.”
It may not be widely known that animal product are used in the production of most wines.
“I think the general population doesn’t know that there are animal products in wine. I think that really shocks people,” Weed said. “I know when I first found out about it, I was just kind of floored that they would do it that way. And now that I own the restaurant, it’s become a passion of mine to sort of publicize the fact that there are winemakers out there that are fantastic that are doing this in a vegan, responsible way, animal cruelty-free way.”
Weed said animal product, such as fish bladders or egg whites, are added to remove cloudiness in wine.
“The process of making cloudy wine not cloudy is called fining,” Weed explained. “When you do fining, basically you’re adding something to it that’s going to pull all those tiny particulates to it so that you can basically scoop it out or separate it, and then you have this perfectly crystal-clear product.”
Many vegan wine makers use clay to clear the cloudiness.
“One of the other common ways they can do it that does make it vegan is by using clay deposits, and I believe the word is bentonite clay, and that’s the most common vegan way to do it,” Weed said. “It’s basically minerals to extract that clout, and it doesn’t change the flavor, either, and so I think it’s a more responsible way. Since you’re not losing any flavor or gaining any flavor, I think is the better way to do it.”