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Soy milk has a bouquet? Yes, says wine expert

(ran NP edition)

The trouble with trying to pitch soy milk is that consumers invariably compare it with its dairy-based distant cousin.

For die-hard dairy lovers, such comparisons can be a turnoff. Soybeans, no matter how they are whipped or churned or milked, simply will never be as rich and creamy as, well, cream.

But the people at Vitasoy USA, one of the nation's largest soy milk producers, are trying a different route. They want soy milk to have its own descriptive vocabulary, similar to that for wine.

So similar, in fact, they turned to two of the nation's leading sommeliers to develop it.

"People may think that relating wine to soy milk is a stretch, but these perceptions from the wine world may provide a breakthrough in helping to change attitudes," Nicole McGee, Vitasoy's communications manager, said in a written release.

The company brought in Jonathan Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and Debbie Zachareas of Bacar Restaurant in San Francisco to taste and talk about a variety of soy milks from different producers.

"A vast majority of mainstream Americans might think of this as hoity-toity," Waters said.

Perhaps. His description of one soy milk?

"It was like a honey maple yogurt with much less of a wheaty scent than the others," he said. "It had a lively fresh citrus bouquet, and there was something else to the presentation on the taste buds, almost like buttery macadamias from Hawaii."

That's a long way from the "grainy" and "beany" that many people use to describe soy products.

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