tThe theme of vegan wine usually focuses on whether the producer has used animal products such as isinglass (or fish bladder), egg whites (both of which are increasingly rare these days), or milk protein (more common) in the process of fine. But, given the popularity of vegan food, most supermarkets have now abandoned even the latter, enabling them to claim, quite accurately, that most of their wines are suitable for vegans.
However, if you’re vegan, or just decided to eat vegan this month, that’s not quite the point, is it? Veganism usually stems from concern about the source of your food and a desire to produce it as naturally as possible. And most commercial winemaking, as in large-scale commercial food production, uses a combination of additives to achieve an acceptable result at an affordable price, which is why most vegans, I think, prefer to drink wine that has not been interfered with – in other words , normal (although this in itself is a controversial term).
There’s also the issue of what you’re likely to eat with that wine. Unless they’re designed to mimic meat, vegetarian meals suggest white wine more than red, but at this chilly time of year, not least when many of us have the heat turned off, that might be the last thing you fancy.
I think the perfect answer would be orange or amber wine – that is, wine made from white grapes that let the juice come into contact with the skin in the same way red is made. This not only leaves the wine with a more vivid color, which can range from pale gold to deep orange, depending on the extent of maceration, but also with a more tannic body that can withstand strong food. Think eggplant, mushrooms, roasted celery and cauliflower, dark leafy greens like sprouting tops and kale, nuts (especially walnuts), pulses and tahini.
Aromatic grapes like malvasia, solaris, and pinot gris are especially lovely with any of these. The downside is that they often don’t come cheap, though if January is more about restraint, rather than denial, you can make a bottle last two to three days, especially if you consider it your weekend.
However, there is a cheaper alternative — apple juice — and it can keep you going for the rest of the week, too. I’m not sure cider makers will be satisfied that they are considered the second best to natural wine, although the products can be similar, but apples really are related to many vegetables, especially root vegetables and greens. And if you don’t drink wine in January, why not make it an apple juice, like the super cool Falstaff juice in today’s pick, which is at least one of the 30 plants we’re now supposed to try to consume every week. According to Professor Tim Spector of Zoe.
Five great vegetarian food games
Liarakis GiroDetty Milisaki 2021 £16.55 Field & Fawcett, £17 Corks of Bristol, £18.49 (or £17.57 if you buy six) Cambridge Wine Merchants, 13.5%. A Cretan cocktail of fruit flavors (quince, pear, papaya), but dry and brutally tannic. Try with whole roasted celery (Milisaki is the grape variety).
Dennis Orange Solaris 2021 £25, denbies.co.uk, 12%. Even English producers are making orange wine these days. Beautiful peach and apricot fruit, with a hint of orange blossom.
Fresh apple juice from Iford’s Wild Session, £18 (for 6 x 440ml cans) ifordcider.com, 4.7% off. Smooth, gentle, medium-dry cider—as the name suggests, sessionable.
Townsend Farm Falstaff Apple juice, £4.25 (75cl, or £20 for six) New Market Dairy Altrincham. Lovely fresh apple juice that goes well with a crispy cabbage salad or a fennel salad.
Portela do Viento Daterra Winegrowers 2020 £26 hectorlondon.co.uk, £26.50 Native Vine, Bristol £27 Chester from Abergavenny, 12.5%. Luxuriously rich, amber wine from Galicia, made with Godelo, I chanced upon at Bicol, Bristol’s new natural wine bar. Just glorious, but there isn’t much of it, so pick it up if you find a bottle.