Why Natural Wines?

What is “natural wine?” Natural wines have no governing body or official accreditation, but hold themselves to the strictest standards. Many natural winemakers practice aspects of biodynamics and all are at least farming organically.  There’s an argument that wine is inherently unnatural.  We are, after all, just hitting pause on the life of some grape juice that wants to turn itself into vinegar.

It’s worth noting that over 50 additives and processing aids (such as non-wine sugar, various acidic chemicals, beet juice for sweetness and color, something called MegaPurple, oak essence to mimic barrel aging, etc.) can be added to wine in the US and EU without listing them on the label. This fact alone might make you more interested in natural wine.  Wine, to us, is about conveying a sense of place where the grapes are being grown, or terroir.  The more unobstructed the grape, the better the wine.

The best way to consider natural wines is to start with the notion of zero pesticides and zero additives, and go from there. What can be added to wine and still be natural?

The best definition we’ve found of natural wines comes from Isabelle Legeron, M.W. in her book Natural Wines:

“Whether or not it is certified, natural wine is . . . wine from vineyards that are farmed organically, at the very least, and produced without adding or removing anything during vinification (wine making), apart from a dash of sulfites at most at bottling.” (Natural Wines, page 23)

What does it mean to grow grapes organically?

Organic “viticulture” rejects the use of man-made, synthetic chemicals in the vineyard. This means no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or synthetic fertilizers. Organic farmers instead use plant and mineral based products to combat pests and diseases, improve the health of the soil and build up plant immunity and nutrient uptake. It’s estimated that between 5-7 percent of vineyards are now organic or converting to organic. (Natural Wine, page. 33)

It’s important to remember that all farming was organic before inorganic methods were an option.  The industrial revolution saw the development of these methods in the form of tractors, hybrid seeds, and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.  Organic farming as it’s known today is a direct response to those synthetic methods developed in the early 1900s.

An example that is often used is Roundup, a popular herbicide that is allowed by some regulatory boards such as California’s “SIP Certified” (SIP = Sustainability in Practice). There’s also the “Bordeaux mixture,” a fungicide made of copper sulfate and calcium hydroxide, that is permitted by all except natural winemakers who are only self-governed.  I can’t imagine that spraying copper in the vineyard is a great way to encourage more microbiological activity in the soil.

It’s worth noting here that many organic vineyards and farms that are farming organically, particularly the smaller ones, are choosing not to be certified organic because it’s a costly and cumbersome process. Their grapes are no less organic than a certified grape.

What is biodynamic farming?

It’s hard to mention organic farming in the wine world without whispers of biodynamics.  Biodynamics is an ethos started by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920’s. (Yes, the same Steiner who was the brain behind the well known Waldorf Schools. And, yes, the same Steiner who never farmed a day in his life!)

It’s founded on a holistic approach to a self-sustaining micro-ecosystem with perfectly balanced microbial life, soil, grapevines, livestock, insects, and other plants.  The essential principle is that more life in the vineyard and more microbiological activity in the soil will naturally lead to happier and healthier grapes.

 

Bruno Allion Vin de Gamay: a natural wine

Bruno Allion Vin de Gamay.

 “Demeter” certified and no added sulfites

Demeter is the only biodynamic certifying board in the world. Some smaller producers who are farming biodynamically using wild yeast and adding a tiny amount of sulfur at bottling, may not be able to fork over the money necessary for Demeter certification, especially when they’re starting out.

What is natural winemaking?

Wine can be made from grapes alone without the addition of anything else. So, is it okay to add yeast during the wine making process? The short answer is “no.” Yeast is an invisible fungus that consumes the sugar in the grape juice and releases alcohol as a by-product, along with complex flavor compounds. Natural wines are made using the yeast that naturally occurs in vineyards and on the grapes. This indigenous yeast is the foundation of natural wine making because it is part of the terroir, or natural environment, which includes the soil, climate and topography. The decision to introduce foreign yeast into the wine making process severs the relationship between the wine and the place the grapes were grown. This means the terroir is not being expressed in the wine when you drink it.

What does a natural winemaker look like?

Meet Beatrice & Pascal Lambert. They founded their Domaine in 1987 in the Loire Valley near the town of Chinon, in the region of the Touraine, or the “garden of France“. Beatrice and Pascal have been carefully cultivating Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc on approximately 25 acres (soils range between sand and gravel deposits, limestone-clay soils and flint based clay soils) and the estate has been practicing organic viticulture and biodynamic preparations since 2005, becoming certified in 2012. With their draft-horse Isis, they plow the rows between the vines, planting each year different cover crops to assist in the uptake of the biodynamic preparations while adding back nutrients for the following season. They closely follow the lunar cycle from vineyard to cellar, only using indigenous yeasts with fermentation occurring in concrete or wooden vats. They mature and age their wines according to the different terroirs using concrete and wood vats. They also rack and bottle according to the lunar cycles as well. Their success as growers and natural wine makers is based on accentuating the purity of the terroir from which their vines come as well as elaborating on their personalities in the cellar.

 

natural wine makers

 

 What about added sulfites?

In conventional wine making, sulfites may be added during various stages of wine making to control risk factors inherent in wine production. Sulfites are useful for slowing oxidation and knocking out harmful bacteria, and are a common preservative found in wine. However, natural wine makers believe sulfites mute the nuances of vintage or vineyard. Significantly, there are naturally occurring sulfites in wine that aid the natural wine maker. Added sulfites are one of the key distinctions between commercial and natural wines, but it’s not all or nothing.

Some natural producers will not add any sulfites at all, while others will add a dash at most, usually at the bottling stage. For natural producers, the decision to add even a dash of sulfites is an economic decision related to the quality of a vintage, ripeness of grapes when picked or worries about transportation or storage.

How much sulfite can be added to still be considered “natural”? In order for a wine to be USDA certified organic, the grapes must be grown organically and no sulfites can be added to the wine. By the current USDA Organic Standard, any wine, foreign or domestic, can contain only naturally occurring sulfites (less than 10mg per liter) to be marketed and sold as an “organic wine”. In the US, naturally occurring sulfur dioxide (which is often at undetectable amounts) is permitted, but not in excess of 20 parts per million (or “ppm”), which is the same as 20mg per liter of wine. Wine “made with organic grapes” can have the addition of sulfites up to 100 ppm, but are generally much lower (around 40 to 80 ppm). In contrast to the US, in the EU, organic wines can have up to 150 ppm of added sulfites.

Whether sulfites are naturally occurring in the grapes or added by wine growers and producers, all wines containing more than 10 ppm must state “contains sulfites” on the label.  Just to put this in perspective, industrial wines can be as high as 350 ppm, way more than any natural wine maker would consider adding.

Side note on sulfites:  According to the Cleveland Clinic, only asthmatics are predisposed to have a reaction to sulfites, and even then it is only 1-5% of all asthmatics.  Luckily, for those select few, we do now have delicious wine made without the addition of any sulfur whatsoever. However, if you don’t think twice before eating a couple of raisins (which can contain sulfites well exceeding 100 ppm in one serving), then the addition of 70 ppm of sulfur at bottling should be of no concern. Remember, conventionally produced wines can have up to 350 ppm.

Our final take on added sulfites and natural wine:  the addition of a dash of sulfites at bottling does not disqualify a wine that is otherwise made from organic or biodynamically grown grapes from being considering a natural wine. In the EU, natural wine advocate Isabelle Legeron has set limits for added sulfites for her RAW Wine Fair:  70 ppm of added sulfites for natural wine (compared to 100 to 150 ppm for certified organic wine and 350 ppm for conventional wine).

How do natural wines taste?

Some natural wines just aren’t very good. Farming organically or practicing biodynamics doesn’t guarantee a quality wine.  What it does ensure is that you’re ingesting something that is healthier for you than something produced from commercially farmed grapes that have been sprayed with herbicides and pesticides. But if it doesn’t taste good, what’s the point?

There are two main issues that low intervention wines face in a finished product, both of which can have extremely varying levels of influence on the wine. The first one, volatile acid, is a result of bacteria in the wine creating acetic acid at any point in the wine’s fermentation process. Bacteria are everywhere, but they thrive with more oxygen and in warmer temperatures. Ethyl acetate can be described as a glue-like or nail polish remover smell.  In small doses, under certain conditions, in certain wines and with certain foods, this quality is extremely desirable.

The second pitfall of natural wines is a recently coined term, “mousiness.”  Mousiness affects unsulfured wines, and is an infection caused by a strain of the lactobacillus bacteria family.  It is something you can only detect on the finish, and is described as dog’s breath, sour milk or dead mouse. Yuck!  However, it can be instantly stopped with the addition of a small amount of sulfites.

Low intervention wines that avoid these two potential dangers can be mind blowing.  They are not created to taste a particular way, but taste a particular way because of where the grapes come from, how the grapes are being treated and how little the winemaker has to do to alter the “sense of place” the grapes convey to us.  If you taste enough, you can tell when a wine has been acidified, chaptalized (sugar added), or over-sulfured.  The resulting wines are not harmonious.

Natural wines that come together without additives can sing, tell a story, and take you on a unique journey you will never forget!

Author’s Note:  Working as the sommelier for Manhattan Fruitier, I curate a collection of natural wines from small producers around the world. Manhattan Fruitier will deliver Champagne and wine in New York State, including NYC, and Washington, D.C. Also for delivery in NYC and DC, I  pair natural wines with Manhattan Fruitier’s gourmet gift baskets – cheese, cured meat, chocolates.

7 Tips for Buying Wine

wine glasses and bottles

Pretty much everyone will admit to discomfort, and perhaps even anxiety, when purchasing wine. And why not? There’s so much to know … so many varietals, so many wine regions, so many makers, and so many so-called experts. The important thing about wine is enjoying it! And there are many levels of enjoyment.

For most people, it’s about liking what you drink. Knowing more about the wine may enhance your pleasure, but it’s not necessary. My advice is to enjoy it first and learn more about it if you think it will add to your pleasure. Fortunately, you have a lot of resources for good and great wine here in New York State, and particularly in NYC. Whether it involves eating out at a restaurant or having wine delivered to your New York or NYC home or work, there is no shortage of opportunity to sample and enjoy wine.

1. In a Restaurant, Talk to the Sommelier
Talking about wine in a restaurant setting can be nerve wracking. In front of a date, family, friends, or colleagues it can be intimidating choosing a wine that will not only please everyone but will also be within your budget. The sommelier or server knows the wine list best and wants to please you. Remember, you pay the same for the wine whether you get a recommendation or not, so why not take full advantage of the in-house expertise?

One additional benefit to choosing wine in a restaurant with the help of a sommelier is that you can often sample a couple of bottle selections if they are also offered by the glass. Even if you taste only one or two wines, your feedback will really help the sommelier recommend something you’d like or even love.

Just so you know, even wine experts ask for wine recommendations when they go out to eat. The surest way to have a new and exciting wine experience is to ask the resident expert. For example, the owners of Manhattan Fruitier excitedly told me about a sommelier’s recommendation at NYC’s Boulud Sud of a bottle of 2015 Schäfer-Fröhlich Blanc de Noir Trocken, a lively, lightly fruited white wine made from Pinot Noir grapes. They were surprised and delighted by this unusual wine!

A final note about ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant: there’s a bit of psychology at play when wine lists are constructed. Diners don’t like to order the least expensive bottle on a wine list, so we tend to order the bottles in the tier just above the least expensive wine. Restaurants know this and often slot higher margin, low surprise wines in this group. If you can increase your budget slightly to get above this tier of wines, and then ask for a recommendation, you’ll likely be in for a nice surprise.

2. In a Wine Shop, Don’t be Shy – Tell the Merchant About What You Like
Wine shops can also be intimating, and/or extremely hard to fathom. There are so many selections, even of the same varietal. How does one make sense of all the choices of unknown producers, unfamiliar grape varieties, and difficult to decipher labels? And the task is made no easier by the fact that Old World wines often have labels that do not indicate the grape variety.

Tips for Buying Wine
Don’t be drawn to fancy labels, alone

You’ll be missing out on some truly enjoyable wines if you choose only bottles that have eye catching labels. This is why you want to ask for a recommendation. There are incredibly knowledgeable people in wine shops across the country who love what they do and want to share bottles they think are delicious with you. And, they are just waiting for you to ask. It’s as easy as saying, “I’d really like to explore some new wines.” This will lead to a conversation about what you drink now and what you like and don’t like.

The experience for a wine expert shopping in a wine shop is admittedly a little different. I’m like a kid at a candy stand when browsing the wine store. Even so, I’ll narrow it down to a couple of things I find interesting and then ask for advice. I almost always refuse assistance from a sales person while shopping for anything else, but with wine I always accept!

Once you discover a few wines you like, it’s easy to stop in your wine store, in NYC or elsewhere, and order a case to be delivered to your home.

3. Share Your Price Point
I think the easiest way to start the conversation is to first set a price point and then talk about styles and characteristics that might interest you. The price point is important because it narrows the options the sommelier will consider, both on the high end and low end depending on your budget. Wine shops offer much gentler markups than restaurants, which is all the more reason to be more adventurous in your choices in a wine shop.

You shouldn’t be embarrassed to request less expensive wines. In a wine shop, bottles starting at $10 to $12 can show a wine’s typicity (the degree to which a wine reflects the signature characteristics of the grape from which it was produced, i.e., how much a wine made with Syrah grapes reflects signature Syrah characteristics). At this price point, you are also beginning to see wines made from grapes grown in a specific area (i.e. the wine is made from grapes that all come from Monterey County, not simply California), and it is labeled as such.

Red wines can be more expensive than white wines for the simple fact that red wines may spend a little more time in the cellar before bottling. Also, red wines may be aged in expensive oak barrels. For this reason, it’s more likely to find a white wine from a lesser known region that’s able to convey a sense of place than a red wine within the $10-$15 range.

The $15-$20 range opens up many more doors. Eric Asimov, Wine Critic for the New York Times, thinks that $15 to $20 a bottle is the sweet spot for great wine values. You’ll find more than a few options from almost any region you can think of. Also at this price point, you’ll find producers who are consciously farming or sourcing grapes and making their wines with very minimal interventions in the cellar, allowing the grapes to show some terroir (or “sense of place,” encompassing the unique geology, topography, climate, plant and animal life as well as history and culture of people in the region).

Wines over $20 should display even more of what a vineyard and producer can do. These wines should come from producers who have proven they make good wines consistently vintage after vintage. Scarcity also affects price, and smaller productions and more hand crafted wines will always be slightly more expensive.

At Manhattan Fruitier, we offer wines ranging from the $20s on up. This is because we want to be sure that the wine a customer sends as a gift, either individually or as part of a wine gift basket in NYC, is exceptional.

A note about very inexpensive wines: the wine industry, like the food industry, is basically divided between producers who make vast quantities of drinkable wines for cheap prices and those who make smaller amounts of wine with the intention of delivering wines that reflect the grape and their craftsmanship. Predictability and homogeneity in the cheaper wines is often achieved by mixing grapes from different vineyards, industrial farming of grapes, and the use of additives to eliminate variation from year to year. While there are sound wines below $10 per bottle, by paying a few more dollars a bottle, you’ll likely be rescued from boring wines and instead experience wines that are surprising and delightful.

4. Color or Type of Wine
First, the good news: telling a wine expert the color or type of wine (red/white/rose/sparkling), price point and one or two characteristics that you like in a wine such as grape varietal (e.g. Chardonnay, Merlot or Pinot Noir) or taste descriptors (such as light or full-bodied, sweet or dry, oaky or no oak, or level of tannin) should be more than enough for her to give you something fun and delicious that she’s excited about. If not, you might be in the wrong store or restaurant.

Because taste is always subjective, it’s helpful to share a common language to communicate your preferences helps. Your wine vocabulary will only get better with the more wines you taste and the more you talk about them with experienced tasters. Just knowing a few distinguishing characteristics of the wines you really like can help tremendously with making a good recommendation.

5. Build on Your Preferences
The other easy way to ask for suggestions is to tell the wine steward about a specific wine you’ve enjoyed. If you tend to frequent the same wine shop or restaurant, feel free to share your impressions of wines they have previously recommended to you. For instance, “That Chardonnay you recommended last time was too fruity or too smoky.” Don’t write off Chardonnay just because you had a bottle you didn’t enjoy. There’s plenty of variation within wines made from the same grape varietals.

Take pictures of wines you like (or don’t like) with your cell phone. Then the next time you’re shopping for wine you can remember what you liked and even show the label to the expert. You can do the same for wines you don’t like since this is also a good guide for what not to recommend.

A quick note: You might be shocked by how much you paid for a wine in a restaurant, particularly more expensive NYC restaurants, compared to a retail wine store. Remember, there’s a lot that goes into serving a bottle of wine in a restaurant, and it’s no secret the wine and alcohol sales are critical to the financial success of many restaurants.

6. Keep an Open Mind
Keep an open mind and be willing to try wines from different varietals and from different areas of the world. For instance, many non-experts have the opinion that German Rieslings are sweet because that’s all they’ve tasted. Well, there are some amazing dry Rieslings that may have you opening this wine again and again. Also, great wines are being made in unexpected places around the world: Sicily, Sardinia, Jura (France), Moravia (Czech Republic), Burgenland (Austria), and Corsica, just to name a few.

7. Free Wine. Why Not?
Many wine shops have weekly wine tastings where you can discover something new. Free wine with the possibility of discovering a new favorite sounds like a good deal to me!

And then there’s Manhattan Fruitier
I’ve assembled a highly curated selection of natural wines at Manhattan Fruitier. With fewer than 100 wines, you can be assured that any wine you choose will be exemplary and reflect the varietal, wine region and unique skills of a particular small wine maker.

Tips for Buying Wine
Manhattan Fruitier Farmhouse Cheese Basket with biodynamic Chablis

In addition to individual bottles, I have also paired Manhattan Fruitier’s artisanal food gift baskets with complementary wines so that the experience of both the food and the wine are enhanced. For example, I’ve paired the Farmhouse Cheese Basket with Brocard Chablis Sainte Claire 2015, a fine biodynamic white wine from Northern France, because it is an intense, mineral driven wine built to cut through the creamy cheeses while also having enough ripe lemon and green apple to stand up to the sweeter cheeses.

Fortunately, our wines and wine gift baskets are available for delivery throughout New York State, including NYC.

Introducing Wine Gifts

We are delighted to introduce you to Manhattan Fruitier’s very own collection of wines! Wine is a natural extension of Manhattan Fruitier’s gift offerings. We hope you are as tantalized as we are by the possibilities. We are currently offering individual bottles of wine and wine gift baskets for delivery in New York State, including, of course, NYC.

Prosciutto & Parmigiano Basket with a Tuscan Chianti wine

Our Prosciutto & Parmigiano Basket with a Tuscan Chianti

We know that buying wine can often be intimidating. There are so many choices and so much to know about wines from around the world. I recently tasted delicious bottles from Sardinia and Lebanon. Wherever grapes will grow, good wine is likely being made. It’s hard for even a wine expert to keep up.

That’s why we put so much attention into creating a highly curated wine collection that won’t overwhelm you.  Instead of thousands of wines to choose from, we offer fewer than 100 wines that reflect the highest standards in grape growing and winemaking. It’s the ultimate indulgence to enjoy a bottle of high quality bottle of wine from a small producer half way around the globe. And delivered as a gift in New York City, it’ll be prized and remembered.

Whether you are purchasing an individual bottle of wine, or pairing wine with one of our gourmet food gifts, we will guide you like a sommelier in a restaurant. In fact, our wine selection is curated by sommelier Ryan Burkett, who trained as a sommelier in fine restaurants in Charleston and New York City. Ryan has a passion for introducing people to the wines and producers he believes in.

Here’s the bottom line:  Any wine you buy from us will be exemplary. We want your experience of buying wine, whether for yourself or as a gift, to be stress-free and fun.  And we’ll deliver to your home or work anywhere in New York State.

The Wines

We offer wines of all tastes and styles with one very important thing in common: they are made by people who care. The wines we offer best express their creator’s intentions. We choose wines from grape growers and winemakers (often one in the same) who want to convey their sense of place, or terroir, to us through the grapes grown on their land.

Wine making is part art and part science. It involves working with an unstable product (fermenting grape juice) which has to be monitored and sometimes gently massaged to ensure that it stays on the path to become an enchanting libation. The best wine makers gently guide the fermentation process, without heavy handed interventions.

wine gift basket with red wine

Our Organic Cheese Basket with a bottle of organic red wine from the Loire Valley

We have a special affection for “natural wines,” namely, wines made from grapes that are grown organically or biodynamically, and made with no or very few additives. The idea is to let the grape speak to us through the wine. This is the magic of wine:  You can be mentally and emotionally transported to France, Italy, Spain, Australia, California, Sicily … while sipping wine in your NYC apartment.

We will be blogging regularly about wine so that you can travel to amazing places and share the stories of people with a passion for what they do.  Wine is geography, history, culture, language, and countless other facets of life.  But really, wine is about the pleasure of drinking it. Enjoy!

10 Gluten Free Gift Ideas

These days pretty much everyone has heard of gluten-free diets and seen a myriad of gluten free products in health food stores as well as on mainstream supermarket shelves. Many of us also know someone who has a gluten sensitivity or is gluten intolerant (also known as Celiac Sprue or just Celiac Disease), or we may, in fact, suffer from these conditions ourselves.

People with celiac disease or with gluten sensitivity need to avoid foods that contain wheat and that includes wheat protein, wheat starch, wheat flour (or bleached flour), wheat grass and wheat germ. Barley and rye are also considered “gluten grains”. Other grains that have gluten are bulgur, malt, couscous, semolina, farina, seitan, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).

Reading ingredient labels carefully is essential. Sometimes it’s not obvious that a product may contain gluten.  Some products that say they are “wheat free” on the packaging may still contain other ingredients that could have gluten such as vegetable protein or vegetable starch (which can come from wheat), or natural or artificial flavorings (which can come from barley).

Sometimes you may find a product that contains no wheat, but is manufactured in a shared facility that makes other products that do contain wheat. Unless it can be specified that there is a dedicated gluten free area in the facility where only gluten free products are made, and that the strictest gluten free protocols are followed, the product must be considered suspect for those who have Celiac Disease. Smaller producers often have to share commercial kitchens so it can be especially difficult to find artisanal foods made in dedicated gluten free kitchens where no other products are made.

Fortunately, many packaged foods now have gluten free certifications on the front and produce their foods in dedicated facilities that are not shared so that it’s easier to know that the product can be trusted to be gluten free. But gluten free is relative. The FDA allows products to state that they are gluten free if they contain less than 20 pppm (parts per million) of gluten. The Celiac Sprue Association, on the other hand, has the strictest certification requirements. Their seals indicate that the product contains less than 5 ppm of gluten. Other seals such as that from the Glucose Intolerance Group certify that products with their mark contain less than 10 ppm. People with extreme gluten intolerance will need to adhere to the strictest criteria for their health.

So what do you do if you need to send a gift to a gluten free person? Don’t be afraid to send a fun food gift!  There are plenty of great options out there that can satisfy the requirements of a gluten free diet. Here are 10 gluten free gift ideas to consider next time you have to send a gift to a gluten free person. And check out our new and expanded gluten free gift  page for more ideas.

Gluten Free Cheese Gifts

Who doesn’t like cheese??? Well, maybe someone who is vegan! But people who are gluten free can enjoy most cheese freely. The only exception may be cheeses that have mold such as blue cheese and Roquefort. That’s because some mold may be grown on bread or another type of wheat based culture medium and then injected into the cheese.

Most blue cheeses are produced naturally, and those are perfectly safe for someone with gluten intolerance, but unless it’s clear from the label on the packaging, you can’t be sure. If you decide to send a cheese gift to a gluten free eater, just be sure it includes gluten free bread or crackers!

Award winning cheddar cheese basket with gluten free crackers and spicy plum chutney.

Gluten Free Baked Goods Gift Baskets

If your gift recipient has a sweet tooth, you won’t fail to please them with a gift basket filled with gluten free baked treats! Local gluten free bakeries are simply burgeoning and the variety of yummy options is larger than ever. Honestly, it’s hard to impossible to tell a gluten free cookie from a wheat based one!  We recently developed a new line of gluten free gifts to send including our “Gluten Freedom Supreme” which is our largest and most extravagant. This gift contains fresh fruit (naturally gluten free) and baked goods made by two different gluten free bakers: Tu-Lu’s Bakery and Las Delicias Patisserie in New York City.

Gluten Freedom Supreme —  the quintessential gluten free gift idea!

Gluten Free Beer Gifts

Beside bread and other baked goods, beer is probably the next most longed for item that a gluten intolerant person has to give up. But just the way inspired bakers have developed tasty gluten free alternatives, so have the brewers! There are Brew-It-Yourself gifts for the industrious or “delivered to your door” subscriptions to gluten free beer clubs. Check out Spirited Gifts for a nice gift basket selection of gluten free beers.

Note that other alcohol may also not be gluten free. Vodka is especially tricky since many are wheat based and although the gluten should be removed during the distillation process, apparently some gluten may remain. UrbanTasteBud.com is good to use as a reference for gluten free spirits, but nothing beats calling the company to confirm.

Gluten Free Cookbook

If you want a gluten free gift idea for a person who likes to cook, consider a gluten free cookbook. We cooks always love scrutinizing a new cookbook to bring some fresh ideas into our culinary repertoire! And if you know their taste, you can spare them the shopping by bringing the ingredients to make one of the meals. That way all they have to do is conjure up the magic in the kitchen!

Gluten Free Mixes for Baked Goods

Think about it. If you can’t eat wheat-based flours, does that mean you can’t have bread, muffins, cakes, cookies, brownies, pancakes and waffles? Not anymore! There are so many gluten free mixes for all kinds of baked goods that use rice, chickpea, tapioca or even coconut flour among others. To make it a gift with a theme, include all the utensils, pans or griddles needed and even a matching pot holder, dish towel or apron as well. Another great gift for the do-it-yourselfer gluten free cook!

Gluten Free Restaurant

Everyone enjoys a meal out. Think about finding a gluten free restaurant near-by (or at least commutable) and treat them or get a gift certificate to one. Many restaurants now offer “gluten free” options. But if your friend, business associate, or family member has Celiac Disease, you may want to find a restaurant with a dedicated gluten free kitchen to be sure to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.

Hire a Personal Chef to Cook a Gluten Free Meal

Imagine having a gluten free meal prepared by a chef in your very own kitchen! Shopping and clean up included! This is a really special treat and makes a lovely gift for gluten free people.  If you want to spend more, you can give them the gift of a dinner party with a meal for 8!

Magazine Subscriptions for Gluten Free Living

Just look at the magazine racks in your local health food market or in the health section of your local bookstore and you will see that there is a plethora of subscription options that focus on living gluten free. While you may pick one up for yourself on occasion, most people don’t have subscriptions to magazines, even if it’s one they really like. So a gift of a magazine subscription is a really nice gesture.

Gluten Free Makeup

Why is there gluten free makeup? Well, many people who eat gluten free diets also like to live gluten free and just feel better knowing that what they put on their body as well as in their body is free from wheat and other gluten products. However, it can be a real issue for lipsticks and lip glosses. For example, sometimes Vitamin E, a common ingredient in lip balms, is derived from wheat germ. If a person is sensitive to trace amounts of gluten, a tiny amount could be ingested if it is applied to the lips. There are quite a few cosmetic companies that certify that their makeup is gluten free and some good websites that rate brand name cosmetic companies for the gluten composition of their products.

Gluten Free Apparel

Another fun gift is clothing such as aprons and t-shirts, or hand bags and shopping bags. Being gluten free is being part of a group, and some people like to advertise their membership! The slogans can be really creative and funny, while others are just downright silly. But there are lots of options so you will be able to find just the right expression to capture the personality and sentiments of your gift recipient!

Even if you don’t know much about living gluten free, don’t be afraid to consider a gluten free gift! We’ve given you 10 great ideas to start you off. Remember that your gluten free gift will show that you know them well and care enough about their dietary restrictions and preferences to have taken the time to do a little research to find the perfect gluten free gift for them!

Vegan Gift Ideas for Him and Her

Veganism used to be a positively mystifying concept. People could grasp vegetarianism and could readily explain the foods that vegetarians could and could not eat, but vegans were perplexing. What was the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian? Why would a vegan consider it wrong to eat an egg or drink milk? Why do vegans eschew down pillows and leather boots?

Today, veganism is no longer judged to be an eccentric dietary choice. Increased awareness has come from many sources. Celebrities flaunt their veganism, the health benefits of a plant-based diet are well documented, and the campaigns of organizations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have become more established and widespread.

And as a result of that increased awareness we have seen an increased interest in veganism. Exclusively vegan restaurants are becoming much easier to find, even outside of big cities, and more and more restaurants are catering to vegans by offering explicitly vegan menu choices. Even mainstream food markets are setting up vegan grocery sections and with greater variety than ever. Companies producing really good vegan food products are proliferating.

So it comes as no surprise to us that there is a demand for vegan gifts! Manhattan Fruitier has offered a collection of vegan foodie gifts for a number of years now, and because our customers have proven the popularity of these gifts, we are very excited to announce that we recently expanded and updated this category.  Check out our entire vegan gift collection.

We have identified some vegan friendly gift ideas for him and for her that will be sure to please your vegan friends and family. We divided our gift ideas into Vegan Gifts to Eat or Drink and Vegan Gifts to Wear and Use.

Vegan Gift Ideas — To Eat or Drink

1.  Fresh and Dried Fruit Gifts: There is nothing simpler than sending a gift basket of luscious and beautiful fresh and dried fruit to a vegan colleague, friend or family member. Fruit is an unquestionably vegan food and when artfully arranged in a basket with leaves and flowers, it makes a perfect vegan gift for her or for him.

gifts for vegans - fruit basketsFresh Organic Fruit Basket

One caveat about fruit: some vegans will not eat figs. That is because some figs can contain the decomposed bodies of wasps. Figs are pollinated by a very specialized fig wasp and the natural symbiotic relationship between them is used in biology as a perfect example of co-evolution and/or mutualism. Since the figs could not exist without the fig wasp and fig wasps could not survive without the figs, many vegans feel that it is OK to eat a fig. By the way, most commercially produced figs are grown in California and are self-pollinating, so not much need to worry but it’s good to be aware of the potential issue.

2.  Vegan Cheese Gifts: Dairy products, whether made from cow, sheep, goat, or camel milk, are not acceptable food for a vegan. Vegans do not eat any meat (including fish), but they also do not eat any animal by-products and that includes milk, eggs and even honey! Vegan cheeses are generally made from nuts such as cashews. There are vegan cheese options available for parmesean, mozzarella, ricotta, cheddar, Monterey Jack and more. Unfortunately, the majority of the store bought brands don’t taste very good. In fact, the more the makers try to produce vegan cheese that looks and tastes like real diary cheese, the worse it is!  Vegan cheeses definitely taste different than cheese made from animal dairy, but vegans understand that and aren’t expecting vegan cheeses to taste the same.

 We foraged high and low to find the best vegan cheese available and found it in Dr-Cow: a Brooklyn-based husband and wife run business that lovingly makes hand-crafted aged vegan cheeses in a variety of cool flavors that look gorgeous and taste simply divine! This cheese is so special that we decided to design a gift around it. Introducing our new Strictly Vegan Cheese Hamper with three of Dr-Cow’s exceptional cheeses (Cajun, Smoky, and Reishi flavors) with all the natural accompaniments. Bring this unique vegan gift to your next dinner party (vegan or not) and it will be a hit!

 Strictly Vegan Cheese Basket. A unique vegan gift is as fun to send as it is to receive!

Another fun vegan gift to send for any occasion is our “Strictly Vegan Bagel Brunch”. This is an authentic  New York-style Sunday brunch complete with old-fashioned water-boiled bagels (made without using egg products to make the tops shiny), a spreadable vegan cream cheese with scallions made by Treeline, capers and an organic blood orange juice.

Strictly Vegan Bagel Brunch. A vegan friendly gift perfect for any occasion.

3. Vegan Snacking Gifts: Sometimes it’s easy to identify a food that is appropriate for a vegan to eat, such as fresh fruit and vegetables that can make a vegan friendly gift. But once you start looking at packaged foods, it becomes a little trickier. Not all packaged food that is vegan is labeled or certified as vegan. That can mean that even though the ingredients are vegan, that food could have been produced in a facility that uses the same equipment to make products that contain dairy or meat or their by-products, such as casein and whey. And just because a snack is made from a plant source, such as a potato in a potato chip, there can be additives or preservatives that are not kosher for a vegan (sorry, couldn’t help myself!) such as lecithin and gelatin. There are several really good websites that have lists of food additives that may not be vegan. Check out veggieglobel.com, vegan.org and/or peta.org if you are interested in learning more.

At Manhattan Fruitier, we make it easy for you to find certified 100% vegan gifts to send. We offer a variety of fun vegan snacking gifts perfect for him or her, and large or small parties. Think falafel chips with fresco salsa, popcorn, roasted chick pea snacks, peanuts in the shell and organic maple-glazed nuts — all vegan and all delicious! One of our premiere vegan snacking gifts is shown below. And it’s gluten free as well. Sure to delight!

4. Vegan Chocolate and Sweet Gifts: The good news for vegans is that yes, you CAN eat chocolate, provided, it’s not milk chocolate of course! Do not be deceived by the ingredient “cocoa butter” from which chocolate is made. Even though it has the word “butter” in it, cocoa butter does not contain any dairy. Cocoa butter, along with cocoa powder, is extracted directly from the cocoa bean: cocoa butter, a fat, is first squeezed out of the cocoa bean and then cocoa powder is made by pressing together the remaining substances.

However, do be cautious about the sugar in the chocolate. Dark chocolate contains varying amounts of sugar: the darker the chocolate (i.e. 75%), the less the sugar (i.e. 25%). Although sugar itself is not animal-based, the bleaching or refining process may be contaminated with animal bone char. Unless the sugar is specified to be raw or unrefined, or the chocolate is specifically labeled with vegan certification, it will be hard to know.

Vegans can be more or less strict about consuming small amounts of refined sugars. If you are sending a chocolate gift to a vegan, and you are not sure of his or her position, you will want to err on the side of caution.

Strictly Vegan Deluxe is the perfect vegan food gift for him or for her.

Our new “Strictly Vegan Deluxe” gift features the most delectable vegan chocolates made by Rawclates in Brooklyn, NY. Using only raw and organic ingredients, Rawclates makers create smooth and creamy chocolates that are as nutritious as they are delicious! We have found a new love in these chocolates. This gift also includes our famous “Choc-A-Bloc” cookies baked by Berenice Hurtado at our beloved Sweet Leaf Bakery in Long Island City that are made especially for us. These over-sized cookies are loaded with vegan certified coconut flakes, dark chocolate chips, almonds, banana and peanut butter. Rich and moist and a veritable feast for the taste buds. You can’t get these blockbuster cookies anywhere else!

 5. Vegan Beer and Wine Gifts: Bringing beer or wine to a dinner party is customary, and the same is true when the dinner menu will be vegan. However, it may be a little harder to find a vegan beer or wine. Animal by-products, such as dairy and honey, can be added directly into beer, wine or spirits (think Bailey’s Irish Cream or Dogfish Head Brown Honey Rum). That can be fairly easy to identify. But breweries, winemakers and distilleries can also add things during processing and filtration that are much harder to detect such as casein (from milk proteins), isinglass (from fish swim bladders), albumen (from egg whites), sea shells (from mollusks) or gelatin (from bone).

 Don’t make the assumption that a wine is vegan if it’s organic! Organic wine production processes do not necessarily exclude using animal by-products. Kosher wines are a good bet to be vegan, unless they include honey (like Mead or Honey Wine).

 The best way to be sure that a beer or wine is vegan, is to go to a website that specializes in checking: barnivore.com, urbantastebud.com, and vegan.com are some good options.  Bringing a vegan gift of beer or wine will be welcomed and the extra effort you put in to insure that the gift is vegan will be greatly appreciated by your hosts.

  

Vegan Gift Ideas — To Wear and Use

People who are vegan are often committed to more than just eating a vegan diet. Veganism can be a way of living. Being conscious of avoiding foods that come from animals lends itself to being conscious of avoiding products that either come from animals (such as leather or down) or contain animal by-products (such as glycerides derived from animal fat) or use animal testing during development (such as many cosmetics and skin care products). So when considering a gift to wear or use for a vegan, whether for her or him, you will want to be aware of the materials and substances used to make the product.

1. Belts, Wallets, Handbags or Satchels: Leather is the most common material used to make these items. However, there are a growing number of alternative materials that you can find if you are searching for a vegan friendly gift for him or for her. Called “pleather” in the old days, today the term is “vegan leather” — which sounds much more appealing, doesn’t it? Vegan leather can be made from cork (or even pineapple leaves!!) but usually it is made out of petroleum-based products such as polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which may meet animal cruelty free standards but is certainly not eco-friendly. Something to consider. But there are also other materials that are used to make belts, wallets, handbags and satchels including re-cycled rubber, metal, cork, canvas and other cloth, nylon or bamboo. Check out the website theminimalistvegan.com for sustainable vegan substitutes. MattandNat.com has some really nice designs and always endeavor to use materials other than PVC.

 2. Cosmetics, Skin Care and Bath Products: Cosmetics and skin care products are notorious for employing animal testing during development. In fact, many of the very recognizable make-up and skin care brands still are not completely animal cruelty free such as Avon, Cover Girl, Clinique, Maybelline, and Revlon. Happily, there are a multitude of new companies that have dedicated themselves to designing products without cruelty to any animal.

Unfortunately, if you are looking for a gift for a vegan, products that are designated as: cruelty free, organic, non-toxic, 100% natural, botanical or vegetarian (which of course is commendable) does not necessarily mean they are vegan! Many companies use ingredients that are animal by-products, or do not specify whether an ingredient that could potentially be from an animal source is animal free or not. Some good examples of this are glycerin, which can be made from either animal fat or vegetable oil; and “natural flavors” which can be animal-, vegetable- or mineral-derived. If not specified, you can assume that it is not vegan.

So what is one to do?? Well, there are several websites that list non-vegan ingredients to avoid, and vegan ingredients to look for. Veganproducts.org has a very comprehensive list. I also like cruelfreekitty.com — very recently updated — for brands that do not use animal testing. The brand OCC Makeup (which stands for Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics) is one of the only companies I could find that is 100% vegan and cruelty-free. Note that there are also some companies that have 100% vegan sections such as Kat von D Beauty and The Body Shop.

3. Clothes or Jewelry: There are certain fabrics that vegans may choose to shun including the obvious: leather, silk, wool, alpaca, suede, mohair, cashmere and camelhair. But fabrics such as velvet, gabardine, satin, crepe de Chine, organza and felt may not be so blatantly non-vegan. Any synthetic fabric is probably vegan friendly, but for more natural options think cotton, bamboo, linen and denim if you are picking out a gift of clothing or other fabric article for the vegan home. There are quite a few websites focusing on vegan lifestyle and fashion such as the mega peta.org and the funky januarythreads.com. There you can find exhaustive lists of non-vegan and vegan textiles.

 Jewelry makes a great vegan gift for him or her. Just steer clear of jewelry with natural pearls! And if pearls are just what you want, there are plenty of natural-looking synthetic varieties available.

 4. Perfumes or Colognes: As with cosmetics, skin care and body and bath products, many perfumes and colognes contain ingredients that come from animals. Examples include musk (from deer, the African civet cat, beaver), waste products from the digestive system such as ambergris (from slaughtered sperm whales), or honey. Typically, these ingredients are not listed individually but rather are subsumed under the term “fragrance”. So even if you try to read the label, you won’t know for sure what’s inside.

In addition, many companies continue to use animal testing. Otherwise animal cruelty-free perfumers often state that they do not test on animals “except as required by law”. Apparently, if you want to reach the huge China market, and most brands do, it is mandatory that perfumes and colognes are animal tested.

 If you want to give perfume or cologne as a vegan gift, certainly avoid the perfume counters at the department store and steer clear of the major designer brands. The best way to find vegan fragrances is to go to a company that is advertised as vegan. Crueltyfreekitty.com has an updated list of companies that don’t test on animals and in that group there are several that are also 100% vegan including Auphorie, Pacifica, Tsi-La and Vered Organic Botanicals.

5. Treats and Products for Pets: While some of the strictest vegans may chose not to own pets, many vegan households include animal companions. One doesn’t automatically think of bringing a vegan gift to a friend for their pet, but it can be a very fun and thoughtful gift for a vegan friendly family.

Whether a vegan household chooses to feed a vegan diet to their pets will be a very personal decision.  There is some controversy over whether cats, who are carnivores by nature, can thrive on a vegan diet. Dogs on the other hand, who are omnivores by nature, can do very well. But you may well not know about the diets of your vegan friend’s pets! Fortunately, there are a wide variety of vegan treats available that both dogs and cats will love, whether their main diets are vegan or not.  Assembling a collection of vegan animal treat bags makes a very nice gift to bring to vegan friends. As a pet owner, I know that there can never be enough treats in the house!

And if you don’t want to bring a food-related pet gift, consider gifts of toys and blankets, collars and leashes made with hemp and other organic and natural fibers. Purrfectplay.com even offers gift boxes and baskets for dogs and cats! Now that’s a unique vegan gift that will not be soon forgotten!

Gifting for vegans (even when you aren’t a vegan yourself) isn’t something to be anxious about, especially if you are mindful. There are certainly many, many vegan foods and non-food items that are not specifically labeled as such. But when in doubt, look for the certified vegan logo by vegan.org on the packaging.