Raising a glass to 2024 and this month’s annual Veganuary movement, SO’s Drinks Editor, James Viner discovers five flavourful vegan-friendly tipples…
January is a time for a gastronomic reset, with a developing trend of avoiding meat and alcohol for the month to recover from December’s excesses. Concurrently veganism is gaining popularity and this year’s 10th annual ‘Veganuary’ anticipates a record number of participants worldwide.
Launched in 2014, Veganuary is a yearly campaign that challenges people to eat plant-based for January. In 2023, over 600,000 people participated globally, joining millions of others who have already completed the program. This commitment contradicts predictions that the vegan trend is starting to wane.
For vegan oenophiles the use of animal-based products for fining and stabilising wine is a major concern, although some producers have started using plant-based fining agents. Among the most commonly used agents, only bentonite is suitable for vegans as well as vegetarians. Casein and albumin are acceptable to most vegetarians, while isinglass and gelatin would be distasteful to most vegetarians and vegans.
Here are the champs of my Veganuary 2024 Wine Taste Test. Put your mind at rest with five of the best bottles below. Whether you’re merely Veganuary-curious or committed to the cause, you may be reassured to know that I enjoyed all of these without realising they were suitable for vegans. Drumroll, please…Cheers!
1. Hartley’s Block Sauvignon Blanc 2022, Marlborough, New Zealand (£7.99, down from £10.99, until 30th January, 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.
3. Segura Viudas Brut Vintage 2021 Premium Cava, Spain (Tesco, £12)
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 5 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
HOW CAN WINE NOT BE VEGAN?
It’s made from grapes so surely, it’s appropriate for vegans?
Made from fermented grapes, it’s entirely logical to think that all wine must be suitable for a vegan diet. 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, since two vegan fining agents are more and more used, including 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. Look out for the words unfiltered/unfined on the bottle as that will indicate the wine was made without fining agents and is likely vegan-friendly.
FIND YOUR MOJO:
Want to celebrate Veganuary in style with delicious Spanish cuisine? Look no further than this tasty mushroom and butter bean Mojo Verde recipe, courtesy of Nacho del Campo, Executive Chef of Camino, a small chain of London restaurants serving Spanish tapas that are made using high-quality, seasonal ingredients.
It’s simple to assemble and even easier to enjoy. For the perfect pairing, try it with my selection of Errazuriz Pinot Noir. Cheers and salud!
1.5kg sliced chestnut mushrooms
500g oyster mushroom strips
25g garlic paste
2 jalapeño peppers
100g ground cumin
6 garlic cloves
200ml extra virgin olive oil
10ml apple cider vinegar
1kg cooked white beans
2 bay leaves
2 onions, brunoise-cut
100g sun-blushed tomatoes, cut into strips
Clean the chestnut mushrooms and cut them into quarters. Clean the oyster mushrooms and cut them into strips 1.5cm long.
Sauté the mushrooms with the garlic paste, thyme, some salt and black pepper, in a glug of olive oil. Take off the heat and leave to one side.
Roast the jalapeños, then remove the seeds and skin. Toast the cumin in a pan, before blending the jalapeños, cumin, coriander, parsley, three garlic cloves, 50ml of oil and 10g of salt.
Sautee the remaining garlic, the chopped onions and bay leaves in a pan with a glug of oil. Drain the cooked beans before adding to the onion mixture, along with a pinch of salt, pepper, and tomatoes.
Add the vinegar to the Mojo Verde just before serving.
To serve, mix the mushrooms and beans together and plate onto a bed of the Mojo Verde.