Everything you wanted to know about vegan wine
For starters, did you know that not all wine is vegan?
If you're thinking about going vegan, it can be a bit of a minefield when it comes to working out what you an eat and drink. There are some things in particular you'd assume are vegan, when they're not.
Choice, variety and labelling of vegan-friendly products has definitely improved, but there are still some grey areas. Wine in particular is one thing most would assume is vegan, when it's not always.
We spoke to John Critchley, commercial director of Manchester-based importer Morgenrot, who specialise in vegan wines, to find out more.
What makes a wine vegan and why aren’t all wines vegan?
In simple terms, vegan wines are wines made without the use of animal or meat products. How are animal products used in wine I hear you ask? Well, many winemakers will use animal-derived products to act as a filter to get rid of particles that may affect the flavour or appearance of wine.
What animal products are used in non-vegan wines?
It always sounds pretty disgusting and so far removed from how you would envisage a natural product like wine being made, but all types of animal derived products are used for filtering, such as boiled fish bladders (isinglass), animal bones, egg whites, milk protein or even shellfish fibres. This doesn’t mean the final wine contains these filtering agents as they are filtered out, but animal products are used in the process.
What do vegan wines use instead and does this effect the quality?
It’s really not that difficult anymore, as there are now plenty of different mineral and plant-based ingredients which can be used as fining or filtering agents. Products such as bentonite clay, pea protein, plant casein and silica gel are just a few products which are increasingly being used to produce vegan wines of outstanding quality. When sourcing new wine producers, we always now request that wines are vegan. If they are not, we want to know why and ask them to change.
How many of your wines are now vegan?
We’ve been working closely with our wine producers over the last five years to help those which were not vegan, make the switch. The UK’s vegan scene is a lot more mature than other countries so we’re proud to have been leading this drive for vegan wines. We’re delighted to say that 95% of our portfolio of over 400 wines are now vegan and demand continues to grow.
How can consumers find out if the wines they are drinking are vegan?
While vegan wine ranges have definitely been on the increase, I believe more can be done to educate consumers on them and make it easier for them to be found. As there is no 'official' vegan stamp for wine labelling, we recommend that our suppliers get the V-Label certification, which is an internationally recognised, registered symbol for labelling vegan and vegetarian products. It’s a simple and reliable guide that can help winemakers promote transparency and clarity. Our wines are predominantly sold in restaurants, which makes it a bit easier as waiters and bar staff can help with recommendations, but when in retail or shopping online, it’s vital that retailers make it easy for customers to discover what’s vegan and what’s not.
Vegan wines for you to try
White: Gavi Poderi Della Collinetta
The Sarotto family trace their history back to the end of the 18th century and from the 1800s began making wine from their own vineyards. Poderi della Collinetta are wines made with the great passion of a famous winemaker, Roberto Sarotto. One of Italy’s most revered and fashionable white wines, this Gavi offers a bouquet of floral overtones and captivating hints of pineapple, apricot and peach. On the palate it is pleasingly fresh with marked apple characteristics.
Rosé: Bardolino Chiaretto
From Veneto, Casa Vinicola Bennati is an old established house, founded in 1920 by Annibale Bennati, in the area of Cazzano di Tramigna, just a few kilometres from Soave. Annibale was the son of the famous Antonio, or ‘Toni Recioto’ as he was called in honour of the raisin wine of that name. This Chiaretto is a dry and crisp rosé wine made from red wine grapes using white winemaking practices. By limiting the juice’s exposure to the grapes’ skins, where the pigment is found, the colour of Chiaretto stays pale. A light-medium bodied wine that’s cherry-red rosé in colour. Flavours and aromas of peach and blossom with a crisp, dry finish.
Red: Iorio Aglianico del Sannio
Cantine Iorio is proud of guarding, through its everyday work, the traditions of its region. It is situated in Torrecuso, a hilly district located in the heart of the Sannio and beside the Taburno Regional Park. Aglianico is a specialty grape of Campania, where it prefers the volcanic soils. It has a powerful, intense character and is regarded as one of Italy’s finest varietals. A wine of intense fragrance with red fruits and spices making a deep, rich ‘porty’ character with a soft finish of elegant tannins.
Sparkling: Saniger Brut Reserva
Saniger is specially blended for the UK market with a little dosage added (though Brut Nature is available as an own-label option).
Masia Can Mayol is one of a number of producers who no longer apply the description Cava to their sparkling wines. They are now labelled as ‘Methode Traditionnelle’ and ‘DO Penedès’; a decision based on the desire to guarantee quality. Cava is a ‘production’ DO administered in Madrid, not a regional one.
The 50ha of vineyards, located high in the mountains (and including the highest is DO Penedes) are structured around environmentally friendly production, not simply organic cultivation. For example, Loxarel carry out green pruning with a flock of 250 sheep and goats which eat the vine leaves without touching the fruit as, before they mature, the grapes are too astringent and unpalatable.
Biodynamic agriculture guarantees respect for the environment, the diversity of the surroundings and includes a spiritual dimension in the relation between man and earth and earth and the universe; it involves a harmony with the universal forces to conserve fertility and the nutritive qualities of the grape grown on Masia Can Mayol’s estate in order to guarantee the best wines, sparkling wines and natural wines.
A superb blend of Xarel-lo, Macabeu and Parellada with over 15 months ageing and has a full, rich and rounded style with only a little dosage.