Five wines to try in Veganuary

After the indulgences of Christmas and the Festive Season, some of us are suddenly hit by pangs of guilt as we head into the New Year. As we clear out the torn wrapping paper and put out the recycling bin closer to our neighbours’ house, pretending all those empty bottles aren’t really ours, thoughts turn to health and exercise.
Selection of Vegan Wines ©Richard Esling WineWyseSelection of Vegan Wines ©Richard Esling WineWyse
Selection of Vegan Wines ©Richard Esling WineWyse

Some poor souls opt for Dry January, not touching a drop of wine for a whole month, which certainly is a healthier option than Dry Ginuary (nothing but London Dry Gin!). For those with greater commitment to a healthier start to the year – and those already committed long-term – there is Veganuary, becoming a vegan for a month.

And therein lies the question of what exactly is a vegan wine, since all wines are made from grapes? The answer lies in treatments and/or additives to wine, all of which are legal and non-harmful, but some of which are derived from animal products. These are mainly what are termed ‘fining agents’ for clarifying the wine after fermentation and have involved eggs, fish and milk derivatives. More and more wine producers are moving away from these agents and are instead using vegetable based fining agents or bentonite, a refined form of clay, with equally good results. Hence wines suitable for those on a vegan diet, but clearly suitable for all wine drinkers, perhaps with a nod to environmental conscience.

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So here are five wines which meet the correct criteria which I can thoroughly recommend in terms of their quality and character. Villa Maria Earth Garden Sauvignon Blanc 2022 is an organic wine from the top New Zealand producer, the Marlborough vineyards alive with wildflowers. Fresh, juicy and full flavoured dry white with tropical notes of passion fruit, mango and lime. £12 from Tesco.

From a top wine producer in New Zealand to a top wine producer in Argentina. Zuccardi Apelación Tupungato Chardonnay 2021 comes from high altitude (4000feet) vineyards in the Uco Valley. Beautifully balanced, elegant chardonnay with considerable class. Lemon-zest, vanilla and a touch of minerality, with gentle white peach and delicate tropical fruit flavours. From on-line and independent merchants around £15 -£17 per bottle.

M. Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage Les Moniers 2021 is a full-bodied red from the Rhone Valley in France, perfect for a beef-cheek casserole on a cold winter’s day. Made from the Syrah grape variety by an expert winemaker, this is superb value complex red, with richness and satisfying, elegant length. £18.99 from Majestic at their mix 6 price.

Two first class sparkling wines which fit the vegan criteria, come from South Africa, both made by the traditional method, or Cap Classique. Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2020/2021 was the first South African wine made by the traditional method back in 1971, made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with a little Pinot Meunier, by one of the most respected producers in the Cape. Fresh and citrussy, with richness and depth, dry and fruity. Great value at £12.76 from The Wine Society.

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The other beautifully presented vegan friendly Cap Claissique is Boschendal Grande Cuvée Brut 2016 from a producer with a 300-year pedigree. Again from the champenois blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, grown in the cooler Elgin region, this is a sophisticated and elegant wine, with crispness, soft orchard fruit and toasty brioche notes from long lees ageing. Fine, persistent mousse and full-flavoured finish. £26.95 from Cellar Door Wines and other on-line specialists.