Don’t let the wrong wine ruin your veganuary: Half a million of us have gone plant-based without realising many wines aren’t allowed
- Over half a million Brits have pledged to follow a plant-based diet this January
- Helen McGinn says the ‘fining’ process can make wine unsuitable for vegans
- British drinks expert reveals a selection of the best vegan-friendly wines
Once considered a mere fad by many, the rise of the Veganuary movement has seen more than half a million people pledge to stick to a plant-based diet this month. That’s double last year. But what many vegans, however temporary, might not realise is that wine isn’t always vegan-friendly. I know, it’s enough to make you choke on your chablis!
But what exactly is in wine to make it unsuitable for vegans? After all, wine is mostly squashed grapes. It all comes down to how it’s made. When winemakers remove the sediment, such as grape skins or pulp, from the wine, in a process known as ‘fining’, they use a ‘fining agent’.
Common fining agents include casein, a milk-based product, and albumen, otherwise known as egg whites, while some producers use a fish-based product or even gelatin.
Helen McGinn reveals a selection of the best vegan-friendly wines. Pictured: Veuve Monsigny Champagne Rosé
But don’t put that glass down in despair, because there are now plenty of vegan fining agents, too.
Bentonite, a type of clay, is often used, as are plant-based ones made from potatoes and peas, while some ‘natural’ wines made without the use of any pesticides or chemicals won’t be ‘fined’ or filtered at all.
So how do you know which wines to pick if you’re sticking to a plant-based diet? Most will tell you on the back label, either with a symbol or with the words ‘suitable for vegans’ (even if you have to squint to find and read them).
To save you from the small print, our wine expert Helen McGinn picks a selection of wines guaranteed to make Veganuary fly . . .
THE NEW CHAMPAGNE
Veuve Monsigny Champagne Rosé, £16.99, Aldi
Aldi has launched a number of new vegan wines for Veganuary (you can search for them online on its website to check which ones are), but this is a real star in its range. Made from a blend of classic champagne grapes by Philizot & Fils, it’s light and fresh with elegant citrus flavours and a hint of red fruits balanced with notes of broken digestive biscuits. And as we all know, broken biscuits don’t count. 7/10
A GLASS OF SUNSHINE
Yalumba Y Series Viognier, £9, Co-op
Helen said Yalumba Y Series Viognier (pictured) is full of ripe, juicy peach and apricot flavours
This South Australian producer is one of the oldest family-owned wineries in the country, but they’ve pioneered the production of vegan wines for years.
In fact, their entire range is vegan-friendly. Winemaker Louisa Rose is positively potty about the viognier grape and makes brilliant wines with it. This one’s a real gem, full of ripe, juicy peach and apricot flavours. There’s a beautiful whiff of honeysuckle about it, too. Just the kind of sunny wine we need in our glasses to cheer us up right now. 8/10
Bijou Le Chic Rose 1.5 l pouch, £15.99, Waitrose
Helen said Bijou Le Chic Rose 1.5 l pouch (pictured) is crisp, dry and moreish
This pretty pink southern French rosé comes in a pouch holding the equivalent of two bottles of wine. So not only is it more environmentally friendly (its carbon footprint is considerably lower than making and moving wine in glass bottles), it’s also what I like to call lockdown-friendly.
Stick it in the fridge and it’ll stay in perfect condition for at least a month once opened. If it lasts that long, obviously. Crisp, dry and moreish, just as a good fridge-door rosé should be. 7/10
Classics Crémant, £10, M&S
Helen said Classics Crémant (pictured) is light and fresh with apple fruit flavours
This award-winning sparkling wine is made the same way as champagne (meaning it’s fermented for a second bubble-inducing time in the bottle), but the price tag is more prosecco than champers.
Made from a blend of Burgundy grapes including pinot noir, aligoté, gamay and a splash of chardonnay, this is light and fresh with gorgeous crunchy apple fruit flavours and a touch of biscuit. And just so you know, there’s way less sugar in here than in a bottle of prosecco.
Polish that halo. 10/10
PERFECT WITH PASTA
Tesco Finest Barbera d’Alba,£9
Helen said Tesco Finest Barbera d’Alba (pictured) is best served with a plate piled with tomato-sauce-drenched pasta
If you’re looking for something red to perk up the taste buds, give this juicy red from Italy’s Piedmont region a go.
Made from the barbera grape it’s packed with plum and berry fruit flavours with a gentle spicy kick from the tannins.
If you like the wines of beaujolais, chances are you’ll love this one, too. Serve with a plate piled with tomato-sauce-drenched pasta to bring out the wine’s best side. 8/10
Helen said Morrisons The Best Verdicchio (pictured) is a touch of the florals
Morrisons The Best Verdicchio, £6.50
This is one of the best value Italian whites out there at the moment, made from the perky verdicchio grape. It’s here in the Marche’s lush rolling hills, in central Italy, where this grape thrives.
And this is a lovely example with its light lemony fruit, a touch of the florals and an all-important almond note adding bite at the end to balance the flavours.
From one of the top producers in the region, it’s a notch above most even at this brilliant price. 8/10
BERRY GOOD INDEED
Viña Zorzal Garnacha 2019, £7.50, The Wine Society
Helen said Viña Zorzal Garnacha 2019 (pictured) is best served with a bowl of spicy crisps
A brilliantly priced Spanish red made from one of the country’s best grapes, the gloriously plump garnacha. It’s from the Navarre region, not far from Rioja and is packed with mouth-wateringly juicy red berry fruit flavours — cherry, raspberry and wild strawberries — wrapped in soft-as-velvet-slippers tannins.
Truly great value, it’s the sort of red that works as well with a bowl of spicy crisps as it does with a big bowl of veggie stew. 9/10
BAGS OF SPICE
Helen said Taste The Difference Western Australia Shiraz (pictured) has bramble fruits and plenty of spice
Taste The Difference Western Australia Shiraz, £6.75, Sainsbury’s
The Margaret River is a cool climate wine-producing region by Australian standards and the wines made there really do have a style of their own.
And in the hands of the right winemaker, in this case one once associated with the wines of Cloudy Bay, the results are fantastic, brilliantly fresh with real intensity and pure fruit flavours.
Packed with brooding bramble fruits and plenty of spice, you get staggeringly good quality wine for your money in this bottle.
Stock up. 8/10
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