Join the green party

On Saturday January 14, Balfour Winery in Staplehurst will be hosting a special vegan dinner to celebrate Veganuary. SO magazine finds out what’s on the menu…


Plant-based drinking and eating are becoming more and more popular – so much so that there is now the annual Veganuary event which runs during January and aims to get people trying a plant-based diet.

Did you know that according to recent research The Vegan Society guesses that, since the beginning of the pandemic, one in four of us has slashed the proportion of animal products we have in our diet?

A key reason many more of us are adopting a plant-based diet is thanks to its wealth of health benefits but an increasing number are also going vegan due to scientists’ stern warnings about the environmental cost of meat.

Two years ago Jospeh Poore, a scientist at Oxford University, revealed the most comprehensive analysis to date regarding the damage farming does to the planet. He went on to outline how giving up eating meat and dairy was the ‘single biggest’ thing an individual could do to help protect the environment. “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth,” he said.

“Not just greenhouse gases but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”

According to the supermarket chain Waitrose, one in eight Britons is now vegetarian or vegan, and a further 20 plus% say they are ‘flexitarian’ – which basically means they will now and again include a small amount of meat or fish in a predominantly vegetable-based diet. Over the past few years the vegan movement in general has seen a colossal rise of 260% according to The Vegan Society.

The society says that ‘veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose’.

In other words there’s no meat, dairy or indeed any other animal by-products such as honey included in a vegan diet and items originally sourced from animals – think leather, fur or wool – or that have been tested on them like certain health and beauty products are also excluded.


“As a creative team we are excited to challenge diners’ preconceptions about alternatives to meat and dairy”


Yet although some might not be able to imagine how they could go through life without another roast dinner or wearing a woolly jumper, converting to veganism is actually now more popular than ever. Over the past decade The Vegan Society notes that there has been a huge 260% increase in the number of vegans in Britain.

And this month, on January 14 to be precise, one of our favourite wineries Balfour in Staplehurst is putting on a vegan dinner event.

“To celebrate Veganuary, we are hosting a special vegan six-course dinner in our tasting room, The View, from 7.30pm to 10.30pm,” a spokesperson tells SO magazine.

“The evening starts with a pre-dinner glass of Balfour Wine followed by an inventive vegan six-course set meal. The full range of vegan Balfour Wines and Jake’s Drinks will be available for purchase on the evening from our Cellar Door bar in addition to alcohol-free sparkling wine, Wild Idol.”

They add that places must be reserved in advance as there is a limited number of tickets available.

“Many people question how can wine not be vegan given that grapes are at their heart but the fact is many producers use animal-based products for fining (clarifying and stabilising) their products,” adds SO’s wine editor James Viner for those wondering why wine isn’t accepted as a vegan product.

“Many producers are now moving away from including animal-derived substances such as isinglass (a protein taken from fish bladders) and casein (the principal milk protein) in their wine-making process with makers and brewers either using alternative plant-based products to fine their products – or they don’t fine at all.”

He also counsels the following advice: “Vegans should be on the lookout for the words ‘unfiltered’ and ‘unfined’ on the label. is a great US directory where you can easily establish the vegan credentials of thousands of wines, beers and other products. It’s particularly useful since producers are not everywhere required to list ingredients and detail brewing and winemaking practices on their labels, thereby making it tricky to establish whether a product is essentially vegan-friendly or otherwise. Furthermore, accredited certification can be costly so one is often left in the dark.”

At the time of going to press Balfour couldn’t confirm their menu as every ingredient is sourced so locally and according to supply but their head chef did tell us that following on from last year’s sell-out vegan dinner they were keen to hold another one this year to meet demand – and they are ready for it!

“As a creative team we are excited to challenge diners’ preconceptions about alternatives to meat and dairy. Taking inspiration from familiar restaurant dish concepts, we add unusual ingredients and use innovative techniques to produce an unusual vegan menu for everyone to enjoy. Whilst a technical challenge, our vegan dinner is an event we look forward to every year.”


Viva the vegans

Veganuary is a movement which inspires people all over the world to try a vegan diet for a month. It was started in 2013 by Matthew Glover and Jane Land, a couple from Yorkshire who wanted to reduce animal suffering ‘as effectively as possible’.

The aim is to follow a meat and dairy-free plant-based diet in order to achieve a healthier and more sustainable eating regime – and environment. And the movement is getting bigger and bigger every year.

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