The 20 best vegan wines The Guardian

  • With more choices available in supermarkets and online than ever before, the Observer’s wine writer selects the pick of the bunch

    David Williams

    David Williams

    Sun 22 Apr 2018 06.30 EDTLast modified on Tue 14 Aug 2018 08.28 EDT





    Vegan wines

     Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose for the Observer

    In one sense, defining a vegan or vegetarian wine is easy. They’re wines made without the use of, respectively, animal or meat products. But herbivores and carnivores alike may not have considered the possibility of animal products appearing in a drink that is, after all, supposed to be fermented grapes. What the hell is a non-vegan or non-vegetarian wine, you might reasonably ask.

    The explanation is simple, if, for vegans and vegetarians, not especially reassuring. Most wine producers use animal-derived products to act as a filter for organic particles that may be detrimental to its flavour, texture, colour or appearance. It may be boiled fish bladders (isinglass) or animal parts (gelatin); it could be blood or bone marrow, egg whites (albumen), milk protein (casein), fish oil or shellfish fibres

     All are longstanding traditions and, looked at in one way, remarkable testaments to human ingenuity ( who first came up with the idea of using bone marrow to clean wine?). But that’s hardly a comfort if your conversion to veganism has been scuppered by an unwitting sip of blood-fined malbec.

    Things are getting better for vegan and vegetarian wine-drinkers, however. More winemakers are choosing to use mineral and plant-based fining agents, from bentonite clay and silica gel to plant casein.

    Importers and supermarkets have also got better at sourcing, labelling and marketing vegan and vegetarian wines. Marks & Spencer leads the way in this respect, with 384 vegan-friendly bottles; the Co-op, long a pioneer of transparency in wine ingredients, now has 77. So it’s now possible to find these wines everywhere, making my selection of the following 20 vegan bottles much easier than it would have been even two years ago.

    Toro Loco Organic Red Utiel-Requena, Spain 2015 (£4.99, Aldi)
    Although it would be a mistake to equate vegan or vegetarian with organic when it comes to wine, Aldi’s bargain tinto from near Valencia satisfies both demands with a bold-berry character, and an easy, smoked paprika-partnering succulence.

    Saint-Auriol Corbières France 2016 (£6.99, Waitrose)
    For rich, multi-layered bean and root vegetable stews with plenty of herbs this is an excellent value red blend from the wilds of the Languedoc in southern France, dark and spicy but supple with liquorice and rosemary and red and black berries.

    Zalze Shiraz Grenache Viognier Western Cape, South Africa 2016 (£7.49, The Co-op)
    From one of South Africa’s most consistent producers a typically robust but fragrant red Rhône-alike with just a hint of smoke to help smooth down such vegan or vegetarian barbecue favourites as halloumi cheese, aubergine or portobello mushrooms.

    Morrisons Fleurie Beaujolais, France 2016 (£8.25, Morrisons)
    The name, Fleurie, of this Beaujolais district or cru suggests something prettily floral, and that’s certainly part of the attraction here, along with the regional speciality of sappy, crunchy fresh cherry-berry fruit and thirst-quenching freshness.

    Plessis-Duval Saumur-Champigny France 2015 (£10, Marks & Spencer)
    High-quality Loire reds made from cabernet franc are one of the highlights of spring-into-summer-drinking, and this is very nicely done, bringing the red berry fruit, appetisingly grippy tannins and racy mineral refreshment in briskly satisfying style.

    Vegan wines
     Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose for the Observer

    Coffele Valpolicella Italy 2016 (£10.50,
    The much-abused north-eastern Italian red wine style is here presented as the wonderfully pure, fluent, light and graceful cherry-fruited delight it always should be, its bright acidity a natural partner for any tomato-based dish, from pasta to ratatouille.

    Pure South Pinot Noir Tasmania, Australia 2016 (£15, Marks & Spencer)
    Green and pleasant Tasmania has become one of Australia’s best places for pinot noir, and this is a wonderfully silky fruit-driven style, all plump fresh strawberry with just a touch of the grape’s trademark forest-floor; great alone or with beetroot dishes.

    The Hedonist Shiraz McLaren Vale, Australia 2016 (£14.49, Waitrose)
    Walter Clappis is a believer in organic and biodynamic farming and this wine, while having all of the gutsy ripe dark fruit you’d want from Aussie shiraz, has a distinctive, moreish glossiness and savoury depths that are great with mushroom.

    Principe Corsini Le Corti Chianti Classico 2014 (from £18.50,
    While proudly touting this superb chianti’s vegan credentials, the producer’s website suggests only meat-based matches. But with its streak of floral-herbal-inflected cherry fruit and gentle tannins it’s a natural match for vegetable stews and pasta sauces.

    Tesco Finest Côtes de Gascogne France 2016 (£6.50, Tesco)
    A long-term favourite in Tesco’s range, made by the impeccable Gascon co-operative Plaimont, this is a brilliantly versatile, tangy dry white with grapefruit, gooseberry and the freshest acidity for crunchy green salads and stir-fries.

    Vegan wines
     Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose for the Observer

    Co-op Irresistible Leyda Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (£7.49, The Co-op)
    Another consistent own-label dry white performer that I was delighted to discover is vegan, this is classic modern Chilean sauvignon, elderflower and peapod infused with invigorating citrus zip and nip in fruit grown in the cooling breezes of the Pacific Ocean.

    Granite Earth Swartland, South Africa 2017 (£8.50, Morrisons)
    The rich white blend, often based on chenin blanc, is a modern South African classic style, with this stunner from the granite soils of the Swartland region offering exotic stone fruit richness to complement mildly spiced Vietnamese-inspired salads.

    Thymiopoulos Atma White Malagousia and Xinomavro Náousa, Greece 2017 (£8.50,
    Apostolos Thymiopoulos, one of the stars of modern Greece, has fashioned a delightful summer white from the exotically fleshy malagousia and the white juice (but not skins) of red grape xinomavro: blossom and tropical fruit salad in a juicy but fresh style for veggie Greek meze.

    Kumeu River Village Pinot Gris Auckland, New Zealand 2016 (£11.50,
    The Brajkovich family is one of the founders of modern New Zealand wine, and they continue to impress with, in this case, an opulent Alsace-inspired pinot gris that mixes roses, baking spice and ripe quince with a spicy stir-fry-happy oiliness of texture.

    Meinklang Grüner Veltliner Burgenland, Austria 2016 (£11.75,
    Austrian white grape variety grüner veltliner has some distinctive savoury flavours (leafy herb, celery salt, white pepper) that pair well with fresh vegetable dishes. This biodynamic example adds lush-but-crisp green apple and pear to the delicious mix.


    Quinta de Soalheiro Allo Minho, Portugal 2016 (£15.50,
    In the far north of Portugal, Soalheiro has earned its high reputation as one of the best producers of peachy alvarinho (aka albariño). Here they combine it with the laurel-scented loureiro for an impeccable, racy, mineral light-but-flavour packed vegan delight.

    Graham Beck Brut Rosé South Africa NV (from £12.99,
    An excellent match for mild chilli or gingery spicing in vegan and vegetarian stif-fries and salads thanks to its creamy mousse and barely perceptible dose of sugar, this rosé fizz from Cape master Graham Beck is all fresh red berries with savoury notes.

    Tesco Finest English Sparkling Brut Kent, England NV (£17.50, Tesco)
    Coming in at the cheaper end of the English sparkling spectrum, this classy Kentish blend of the classic chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier triumvirate is made by the justly well-regarded Hush Heath estate in a graceful, crisp, incisive style.

    Sainsbury’s Blanc de Noirs Brut Champagne, France NV (£18, Sainsbury’s)
    A white blend of Champagne’s two red grapes (pinot meunier and pinot noir), this is always one of the best supermarket sparklers around, with flavours of raspberry, redcurrant and digestive biscuit in its deep, creamy but elegantly racy palate.

    Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla, Jerez, Spain NV (£8, 50cl, Sainsbury’s; £10.99, 75cl Waitrose)
    If the switch from meat and dairy has left you with a craving for umami that can only be partly sated by mushrooms, soy and nutritional yeast, dry sherry is here to help, this breezy light classic from Sanlúcar offering salted-nut savouriness and a whiff of the sea.

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