Arts & Entertainment

Local Gourmet Food Shop Uncorks New Candy Creations

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Thanks to a new candy invention, local gourmet food shop Red, White and Bleu is serving up wine not by the glassful, but by the handful.

bean014Thanks to a new candy invention, local gourmet food shop Red, White and Bleu is serving up wine not by the glassful, but by the handful.

James Roth, co-owner and wine director at the store, has put his trained palate to the test this Easter season to render his favorite wines not in grapes, but in jelly beans. The store has released 15 wines flavors, delivered in packs of 10 jelly beans. According to Jessy Cho, store associate, the jelly beans have been a big hit, and as of Monday the store had sold 100 bags.

Cho said that many customers bought packs over the weekend, some bypassing the wine entirely and going straight for the candy. The candies were especially popular with the under 21 crowd, who were eager to sample the flavors otherwise forbidden to them.

“Kids were really excited to ‘drink’ wine in a jelly bean form,” Cho said.

Cho added that “people have definitely been coming back” to pick up more of the candy to share with friends and family as word has spread.

The idea for the candy concoctions came when Roth read an article about wine aficionado John Thomas’s attempts to render wine flavors with jelly beans.

“I thought, ‘how brilliant is that?’ And I took that concept and expanded,” Roth said

After considering doing so for some time, Roth decided to embark upon the months-long journey of tasting wines and tasting jelly beans, which took him to The Sugar Cube, a candy store in Old Town Alexandria, for supplies.

Roth ran into problems, however, when trying to use the very sweet candies to depict some of the complex flavors of the wines he tried to replicate. He found himself approximating, using bacon-flavored beans to give smokiness to the blend, and toasted marshmallow beans to lend wood flavors.

“On my part I had to improvise quite a bit as far as trying to explain the rationale behind it.” Roth said. Those who partake in the candy explorations of the wine can follow Roth’s reasoning for picking the beans that make up the bag, as each bag contains a card with the “recipe” for the wine and what that flavor depicts in its model wine.

But when it came to finding the “really bizarre flavors” that would make his bean blends more authentic, Roth turned to none other than the inspiration for his project, Thomas, for supplies and guidance.

“I was able to obtain dirt, black pepper, rose petal, cut grass, and pencil shavings,” Roth said, listing the bean flavors he needed to capture the non-fruit flavors unique to certain wines. “These were the so-called bizarre jelly beans that would make this project different than somebody just simply going into a candy store and trying to recreate the wines.”

For Roth, the bean combinations, when eaten bean-by-bean, can teach wine lovers what different flavors go into the wines they enjoy, but he doesn’t discount the novelty of trying the whole bag at once.

“There’s something fun about popping them in your mouth and seeing what that flavor profile becomes.”

Though Easter has passed, and the seasonal clamor over jelly beans will die down, Roth plans to keep the jelly bean wine rack as part of the store for some time. He has created 60 combinations so far, and plans to release his candy take on rose and sparking wines throughout the summer.

While his project does seek to replicate the taste of the wines in his shop, Roth is still quick to pay much respect to the wines, knowing that while the jelly beans may come close, they cannot echo the complexity of flavors in a nice glass of wine.

“At the end of the day, it is candy, and wine will never be replicated by a candy,” Roth said. “The concept is that the individual jelly bean shows one characteristic of what makes up that grape varietal and distinguishes it.”