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Doing Veganuary and don’t know what wine to drink? Here’s the low-down

A good friend of mine has been ‘vegan’ for a long time – ahead of the curve you might say. He frequently bemoans the use of the word vegan in front of anything (food, wine etc), so I’ve not told him about writing this.

He’s a bit of a curmudgeon, but in some way I understand his point. Vegan food is just food – but not containing anything which comes from an animal, in layman’s terms. However, for those wanting to embark upon a plant-based lifestyle, it can be a good way of identifying what to eat/drink/wear without having to think too much.

I’m asked frequently about vegan wines when I organise tasting events – the ‘I don’t know what I can and can’t drink’ type of question. This is surprising as most producers these days are out and proud about their vegan wines.

For those who are still scratching their heads at this point, wondering how a grape-based drink could contravene the Veganuary rules, it is all down to the fining, to be precise. We consumers tend not to like it cloudy or with bits in (à la fresh orange juice), unless you are a fan of natural wines, which are sometimes unfiltered. The wine making process can leave tiny deposits – so fining can be used for this purpose. Traditionally, this can be done with egg white, particularly by Bordeaux producers – hence the delicious Canelés de Bordeaux – famously made there from the leftover yolks.

M&S Classic Touraine

Other products are also used for fining which come from fish (isinglass) or animal parts (gelatin) – are you still reaching for that glass of wine now? There are, though, other vegan-friendly options such as bentonite – a clay-based compound which sounds a bit like something Superman might have to avoid.

The good news is that many wines are already suitable for vegans and more suppliers are showing this on their labelling. Two major supermarkets which stock a great range are M&S and Co-op.

From M&S, I’ve recently been making my way through their classics range – my new lockdown hobby. All I’ve tasted so far have been fabulous and good value. As it says on the label – a classic version of the wine from the area. This I enjoyed very much:

Touraine Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, France £8 – a great alternative to the blow-your-socks-off New Zealand Sauvignon style and would be great with light meals or just to drink on its own. Here is their current vegan wine listing.

For those of you who know me, I’m also a great fan of the Co-op – and there are numerous ones on the vegan list here.

One I’ve recently tried and enjoyed is:

Co-op Irresistible Barbera £7.50 – an easy drinking red from Italy, perfect with any Italian tomato based dishes.

Co-op Barbera

If you want more of a ‘feel good factor’ then look no further than Feel Good Grapes: a recommendation from Mike Turner, who runs this ambitious enterprise is this:

“The site is great source of natural, organic and vegan wines with packaging as close to 100% as possible and ambitious tree planting schemes to offset the carbon footprint of each individual bottle you buy.”

I recommend a Californian wine, Tendu, white and red, made from a blend of Italian grape varieties, lusciously fruity and 100% vegan. Also on special offer at £18 instead of the usual £20.  

So, if you are looking for encouragement half-way through Veganuary, and not participating in Dry January, you can’t get more plant-based than that!

Main pic by @ferhadd

Janet Harrison
Janet Harrison runs Cracking Wine, providing fun and informal wine tasting events in the North of England. She is also founder of the People's Choice Wine Awards.

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