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An expert guide to vegan wines

By LLM Reporters on 20th January 2019

How is your Dry January going? Struggling? Getting bored? Well, look no further, ‘Veganuary with Wine’ is the latest on-trend movement here to save the rest of January.

Adopting a plant-based diet for a month or perhaps longer has many benefits for your body, but it doesn’t have to be boring, there are a variety of vegan wines that will keep you in Veganuary and out of Dry January, so you can kickstart the year right.

You may be surprised to learn that some alcoholic tipples feature the use of animal products. No, we’re not talking about throwing a dead rat in to improve the flavour, as some rustic cider-makers claimed to do in the past. Instead, animal products are sometimes added to clarify wine before it’s bottled to create a clear, bright wine with no particles.

These products include egg white, blood, gelatin from pigs, Isinglass from fish and casein from milk, which can all be used to clarify wine.

Scrumptious Vegan Case
Rude Wine’s Scrumptious Vegan Case

Although, the use of animal products in the wine industry is becoming less common and only trace amounts of the products can end up in the bottled wine. If you’re vegan or relate to vegan principles you’ll definitely want to avoid wines that use any of these animal products.

Instead, look out for wines that are clarified using non-animal derived products like bentonite clay, carbon, limestone, silica gel, plant casein or vegetable plaques.

If you’re keen to ensure your wine is vegan look out for ‘Natural Wines’, a style that tends to be unfiltered. Natural winemakers aim to make wine that undergoes as little intervention as possible to ensure the wine is as nature intended. However, ‘Natural Wines’ can be expensive and hard to find and are an acquired taste.

A better option is to hunt down standard wines that are certified as vegan by organisations like the Vegan Society, so look out for their stamp of approval on bottles.

In reality, there are many, many wines out there that are not labelled as vegan but use no animal products whatsoever. The wines you already drink and love may be vegan but it’s just not stated on the label.

This is because many winemakers are lagging behind in getting their wines certified as vegan, which is a costly process, but the with the trend for a plant-based diet gaining momentum, hopefully, this will be a thing of the past.

Domaine de la Ferrandière Chardonnay 2016, Languedoc
Domaine de la Ferrandière Chardonnay 2016, Languedoc

In the meantime, savvy online retailer Rude Wines is keen to ensure their customers know which of their wines are vegan, whether they are certified or not.

Rude Wines’ buyer Gerald Duff has personally scrutinised the production process of the 185 vegan wines they have available to ensure they have been made using entirely vegan methods.

We gave their selection of wines a try, many of which can be found in their ‘Scrumptious Vegan’ mixed case.

And we simply loved the Alta Corte from Lisboa in Portugal, made by Portugal’s number one winemaker Jose Neiva Correia. The Alta Corte is a blend of two indigenous Portuguese red grape varieties, Caladoc and Tinta Rorriz. It has a smooth, soft feel with light oak ageing, making it a simple but good red, which pairs well with vegan chilli, pizza, and hearty sausage and lentil casserole.

Alta Corte 2016, Lisboa
Alta Corte 2016, Lisboa

Another stand-out red was the Edgebaston Pepper Pot Red from the Western Cape, South Africa. This wine’s strong peppery nature is balanced beautifully by ripe bramble fruit. Winemaker David Finlayson blends Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Grenache and Tannat grapes with more than a nod to the Rhone Valley. The result is a gutsy, heady wine that can stand up to bold flavours—think mushroom stroganoff packed with smoked paprika or a shallot tart tatin.

When it came to whites, the Domaine de la Ferrandière Chardonnay was a firm favourite. From the Languedoc, a region that has long been a source of excellent value wines, this Chardonnay really punches above its price tag. Its fresh, fruit-laden character matches perfectly with oriental dishes such as Vietnamese spring rolls packed with crunchy raw veg, coriander and mint. As a great aperitif with olives, this white is also fabulous with butternut squash roasted with garlic then drizzled with tahini sauce—Finger-lickin’ good, vegan style.