In our series 5 Bottles I Sold Last Night, sommeliers and wine directors talk about the bottles that they’re selling, giving tips and context for making the sale.
A yearlong pop-up that launched in September 2018 in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Sans serves exclusively plant-based vegan cuisine. When I was approached with the opportunity to create the wine list, it was important to me to have a wide range of prices (with most bottles priced from $35 to $55) and styles, all while ensuring that the wines paired with the flavors and textures presented on the menu. Chef Champ Jones—a vegetarian and former sous chef at Eleven Madison Park—was an engaged collaborator. The food is both racy and pure, which is a good combination for exciting pairings.
A fun aspect of pairing wine with vegan food is that there are different types of fat involved, which react with wine according to a somewhat different set of rules. Without butter and animal fat in the kitchen, wines are perceived as much larger, so bottles that might not be able to stand up to a normal menu can work with vegetables. The range of flavors and textures that can be created in plant-based food is endless because of plants’ cellulose fibers. Since these fibers can seem bitter with wines that are too blown out, like super-buttery Chardonnays, “big boy” Cabs, and old-world Bordeaux, I kept this in mind when creating the 16-bottle list at Sans, where options are available by the glass as well as by the bottle.
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The list has a heart that’s centered on sustainable winemaking, with producers that show a real sense of place and time. Like the sense you get from the smell of great sourdough bread, I want to give guests a sense that the yeasts are still alive when they take a sip of these wines. I want to showcase healthy and well-grown grapes that absorb the essence of their well-tended surroundings, that over-deliver and leave a lasting impression alongside an impressive menu.
Following the route of clean acidity and pure, simple fruit, here are five bottles I sold last night —along with the bottle price as it appears on Sans’s wine list.
1. Sidónio de Sousa Colheita 2013, Bairrada, Portugal; $35
This is ounce-for-ounce one of the best values on the market right now. The Baga variety kind of has it all: bright acidity, rich fruit, earthiness, and drinkability. It’s a crowd-pleaser while still being a little explorative, and it pairs well with vegetables, as it often has a note of shishito peppers. A four-top consisting of a vegetarian, a flexitarian, and two vegans came in for an early dinner last night. They started with the Maitake mushroom flatbread, and I poured this as a taste while they perused the list. The flavors of oregano and garlic confit go great with this wine. Halfway through the meal, the group requested a second bottle. (Sans also sells this wine by the glass for $11.)
2. Movia Rebula Ribolla Gialla 2015, Brda, Slovenia; $55
Last night, a woman dragged her boyfriend in to show him that eating plants can be delicious too. I recommended they start with a glass of this wine. The label is like David Bowie, both iconic and glam, soft yet powerful, classic but also from the future. Its pairing partner is also “from the future”—the couple drank this wine with our Sans “Burger,” a seitan mushroom burger with homemade “cheese” sauce and pickled shallots. The structure of the wine stands up to the richness of the sauce, the delicate, volatile acidity peaks just right with the pickled shallots, and umami meets concentrated, ripe apricot–like fruit, all of which immediately convinced the apprehensive boyfriend. ($16 BTG.)
3. Forlorn Hope Queen of the Sierra Estate White 2016, Lodi, California; $42
This trifecta-like white blend expresses a complex array of quince marmalade, petrol, and vanilla custard. It’s got Chardonnay, which gives hints of California sun and neutral oak, creating harmony among the flavors. The Verdelho’s acidity adds lift to the tropical fruit, along with a subtle hint of green herbs. And the Riesling fills the gap with white peach and petrol aromas. A regular, who has been a vegan for six years and is a creature of habit when it comes to his order, wanted to make a switch from a go-to rosé to something new. I introduced him to this label to accompany his usual—caramelized sunchokes, parsnips, and a dandelion-cashew pesto—and he became an instant fan. ($14 BTG.)
4. Renardat-Fâche Cerdon du Bugey 2017, Savoie, France; $50
Notes of brilliant blueberry and candied violets, along with delicate sweetness and a mere 8% ABV make this bottle a palate pleaser. Two friends who came in last night just for dessert were looking for something to sip alongside a sweet treat. Sans’s free-form doughnuts come with sipping cocoa that’s made with chocolate and tamarind, and this wine was an ideal complement. ($14 BTG.)
5. Michel Savel with Hervé Souhaut Les Marecos 2016, Northern Rhône, France; $55
Last night, a guest from Manhattan with a discerning palate came in and immediately asked to see the sommelier. After introducing myself, I told a brief story of Hervé Souhaut. He’s one of the most adventurous winemakers in the Northern Rhône, riffing and remixing the classic terroir of the region like no one else. This is Banksy-level wine before the cameras show up. It’s a savory and restrained style of Syrah that’s ready to drink now, due to a subtle touch of plush Merlot. I served this with our mushroom farce (think mushroom meatloaf) to bring out the sanguine notes of the dish and to impress that Manhattanite. ($16 BTG.)
—As told to Shanika Hillocks
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Daniel Beedle began his career in hospitality by scraping fermentation tanks in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Grape-stained and eager to learn, he decamped for New York, where he began his studies with the Court of Master Sommeliers; he currently holds the Advanced Sommelier title and is working toward the Master Sommelier Diploma. He served as a sommelier at The NoMad before taking over as wine director at the Michelin-starred Betony and then Juni. Beedle is currently the owner of Sage Beverage Consulting—through which he serves as sommelier for projects like Sans—and is the beverage director at Scarpetta Restaurant and The Seville in New York City, both owned by LDV Hospitality.