FOOD & DRINK: Vegan Wine

IT is estimated that almost one in five Christmas tables had vegetarian or vegan meals prepared alongside or instead of the traditional fare.

The Wine Society, along with many in the wine trade, uses the definitions provided by The Vegan Society. All of the producers have been asked if their wines meet the criteria and a list of the wines can be found. Quite a few of my friends and relations are vegan. I was astounded when some friends said this was the reason they don't drink wine. In fact there are hundreds of wines that would suit vegans. The Wine Society lists over 290. In their excellent free 400 page Drinks List, Waitrose show which are vegetarian, vegan, organic and biodynamic wines. Many of our supermarkets list their vegan wines online.

Most wine producers used animal products to act as a filter for particles that could be detrimental to flavour, texture, or appearance such as isinglass from fish, gelatin from animals, albumen (egg whites) and casein (milk protein). Now, instead, many are using plant-based fining agents or mineral ones such as silica gel.

Below are some of the wines suitable for vegans - and non vegans. Some pleasant whites and warming reds suitable for a cold February.

First a few whites away from the norm:

Pecorino 2018 Abruzzzo, Italy, 12pc (Sainsbury Taste the Difference £7) Soft and fruity.

Sainsbury’s Grüner Veltliner, Taste the Difference, Marcus Huber 2018 (£8.50) This Austrian has a very aromatic nose with lovely fruit and a mineral edge, white peach and lively, lemony fruit.

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico 2018 12.5pc (M&S £7) A complex and crisp dry Italian white from the Marche region offering lovely floral aromas and a palate of ripe pear and tropical fruit flavours.

Wm Morrison Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2015 (£6.50) Long out of fashion but with modern wine making techniques Muscadet deserves a fresh look. The grape is Melon de Bourgogne and the wine is crisp, light, green apple with a biscuit note.

Tasmanian Sauvignon Blanc 2018 13.5pc (Aldi £10.99) Slightly limey, with tropical fruit and a hint of herbs.

Tesco Finest Cotes de Gascogne 2016 (£6.50) This wine, from the Plaimont Cooperative in south west France is a lovely tangy dry white with grapefruit, gooseberry and fresh acidity.

The Society’s White Burgundy 2018, Jean-Mark Darbon (The Wine Society £9.95) The Society says it is their most-bought wine over a period of years and this chardonnay blend, from a warm, ripe vintage has lovely depth of flavour with appley fruit and a fresh finish.

On to reds: I like Aldi’s Toro Loco range from Utiel- Requena in Spain, especially Toro Loco Edicion Memoria 2017 13pc (Aldi £9.99), a small, exclusive parcel of wine from the very best vineyards. After a year of slow maturation, this has resulted in a lovely wine, flavours of red and black fruits with hints of vanilla and spice, good length and some minerality.

From Italy: Purato Siccari Appassimento 2018 13.5pc (Ocado, Majestic £8.99 mixed 6). Mainly Nero d’Avola with some Syrah, this Sicilian wine is organic, vegan and totally sustainable even using vegetable ink and recycled paper on the glass bottles. Rich, spicy, plum, dark cherry, hints of vanilla.

Another good Italian is Foresco 2017 Barberani Orvieto Umbria 13.5pc Vino Biologico e Vegano (The Wine Society £10.50). A generous warm-flavoured Italian red that makes a great alternative to pricier super-Tuscans. It is a fine blend of 80pc Sangiovese with 10pc each Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tesco Finest Valpolicella Ripasso 13.5pc, Cantina di Valpantena (£11) From one of Italy’s best co-operatives, northeast of Verona. This has a nose of red and black cherries. Rich and full-bodied, with a spiced fruit character and ripe cherry flavours. Supple tannins and a long finish.

Notte Rossa Primitivo di Manduria 2016 Puglia Italy, Caterina Bellanova and Davide Ragusa 14pc (M&S £11) A lovely,deep, fullbodied red with generous cherry and chocolate aromas and a rich plum and vanilla palate. Matured in French and American oak barrels for six months, it is drinking well now and for several years to come.

Coffele Valpolicella 2018 12pc (£10.50 The Wine Society) All light and fragrant cherry-fruit.

From France: Wm Morrison Crozes Hermitage 2017 12.5pc Georges Badrion (£13). From the Rhone Valley, this is fruity, peppery with intense blackberry and black cherry flavours.

Sainsbury’s Cotes du Ventoux 2017 Taste the Difference 15pc (£10) Another from the Rhone. An excellent smooth, full bodied wine, juicy raspberries, aromatic, spice. The grapes are grown in a UNESCO Geopark which combines preservation and sustainability.

Paul Mas Vinus Malbec 2015 13.5pc (Morrisons £8.25) Named after Vinus the Heron, the Vinus vineyards are spread over five top wine valleys of the Languedoc. Aromatic with crisp acidity and aromas of jammy red fruit and a hint of liquorice. Soft tannins.

From the New World: Bonterra Organic Merlot 2017 Mendocino, California 14pc (Waitrose £12.49). A long time favourite this is rich and full of plum and spice.

The Society’s California Old-Vine Zinfandel 2018, Delicato Family Vineyards 14.5pc (The Wine Society £7.95) A great value wine from old vines with cherry on the nose and a palate of fresh strawberry and tart red cherries with a hint of vanilla on the finish.

Some growers take things a step further using Biodynamic methods such as Finca Constantia Entre Lunas Organic Moon Wine Tempranillo 2016 14pc Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Gonzales Byass, Spain (Majestic £12.99, £7.79 mixed 6- 2017 Sainsbury £10). Entre Lunas means “between moons”. Full bodied, black and red fruits, notes of vanilla and spice, soft tannins and a chocolatey finish. Organic and biodynamic, using sustainable techniques, according to the phases of the moon, which affects how the sap rises in the plant. Even the labels are made from grape waste.

Biodynamic wine is a little complicated for me but “the moon's cycles dictate the rhythm of each stage of the viticultural and vinification process”. The biodynamic calendar divides all the tasks into root days (for pruning), flower days (the vineyard is left alone), fruit days (harvesting) and leaf days (for watering). Sometimes strange composts are used.

From Australia: Walter Clappis is a believer in organic and biodynamic farming with no herbicides or pesticides. His ‘The Hedonist’ Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia 2018 (£14.49,Waitrose) has all of the gutsy ripe dark fruit you'd want from Aussie Shiraz.

So there you are. There is certainly no need for vegans to miss out on some splendid wines.

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