Toasting the end of dry January, Times Drinks Editor, James Viner raises a glass to five flavourful vegan-friendly tipples for you to savour…
Vegan wines are growing in popularity – but how can wine not be vegan in the first place I hear you cry! It’s made from fermented grapes so surely it’s appropriate for vegans? But the critical issue here is the fining agent, which may be used to stabilise and clarify the wine before it’s bottled (so it’s star-bright and not hazy). Not all wines are fined but most are and a surprising number of the fining agents are animal-derived. Popular non-vegan fining agents include albumin (or egg whites), isinglass (a protein derived from fish bladders) and casein, the main milk protein.
But fear not as two vegan fining agents are being used more and more. These include kaolin and bentonite (both clays) as well as proteins derived from corn, wheat, potatoes and other plants. Some retailers and winemakers already make this information available on the bottle. So next time you’re browsing bottles do look out for the words unfiltered/unfined on the label as that will indicate the wine was made without fining agents and is likely vegan-friendly.
Here are five wines that I enjoyed – without realising they were suitable for vegans. Cheers!
1. Hartley’s Block Sauvignon Blanc 2022, Marlborough, New Zealand (£10.99, Waitrose)
All the piquant flavours of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc are here: green mango, passion fruit, blackcurrant leaf, gooseberry and elderflower. Runs long and delicious. Lovely. Vegan certified and a brilliant offer.
2. Château Pesquié ‘Edition 1912m’ 2021, Ventoux, France (£11.99, mix six, Majestic)
Ventoux, one of France’s largest appellations on the south-eastern border of the southern Rhône, just east of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, is a fab place to look for super-value reds like this one. From a vineyard at around 300m above sea level, this cracking Grenache-Syrah-Cinsault- Carignan blend takes its name from Mont Ventoux, a peak rising 1,912 m/6,273 ft high that overshadows the district. Look out for delicious layers of red fruits, spice, violets, black pepper and blackberries with a lifted, clean finish. A hug in a bottle, it’s a fab wine for hunkering down on darker nights. Both organic and vegan-approved – but stocks are low.
3. Segura Viudas Brut Vintage 2021 Premium Cava, Spain (£12, Tesco)
With over 250 vegan/vegetarian bottles at Tesco, selecting a suitable wine has never been simpler. So whether you’re already a committed vegan, vegetarian or simply just want to try something new, there is something to suit every wallet and occasion this year. Don’t overlook Spain’s cava (made in the painstaking traditional method.) A mouthwatering mix of lemon zest and Granny Smith apples, with a little toastiness from bottle ageing, this makes a good perky winter vegan-friendly sparkler. Pair with paella or risotto.
4. Errazuriz Wild Ferment Pinot Noir 2021, Aconcagua Valley, Chile (£14-£17, VineKing, Wholefoods, Amps Fine Wines, NYWines, WineDirect)
The ‘New World’ is the place if you want to spend less money on Pinot Noir. Crammed with fresh cherries, a little smoke and red fruit, this vegan-friendly Chilean Pinot Noir is a must-buy. So supple, so mellow, with magnificent flow and a drawn-out finish.
5. Davenport Vineyards, Limney Estate 2018, E. Sussex/Kent, England (£29, Davenport Vineyards)
Produced using the traditional method, Will Davenport’s first-rate organic, canapé-loving, Chardonnay-forward sparkling Limney Estate 2018 has been ideal for those on a vegan diet for many years. Aged five years on lees. A classy bottle brimming with enticing red fruit, citrus and light biscuity notes. The acidity is the highlight, saline and sinuous. Will is buoyant about the 2023 vintage and recently told me ‘We ended up with the biggest crop we have ever picked. Quality was good as well.’ Certified organic by The Soil Association.
Follow James on Instagram @QuixoticWines