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Friday 4 May 2012

Weekly Wine: Vino for Vegans and Vegetarians

This wine-making malarkey is a tricky business. You pretty much have to be Dumbledore/Brian Cox/Stephen Fry to understand it all, with all the jiggery pokery going on as you sculpt what is essentially rotting grapes into anything from your average bottle of house white to the finesse and grandeur of Chateau Look-At-Meeeee at a squillion pounds a case.

And it ain't always pretty. Just some of the ingredients used in creating some of the best wines around are: bull's blood (well, alright, not so much any more, but still: VOM), egg whites, gelatin, and isinglass (that's fish bladders, people. BLADDERS OF FISH.)

These are mostly used in the 'fining' process, and these ingredients don't actually end up in the wine of course, but it does mean they're not suitable for vegans and vegetarians. And that clearly poses a real problem for quite a chunk of the population.

But have no fear! Lots and lots of wines are perfectly dandy for vegans and veggies, and they're absolutely no difference in taste or quality. They'll just use chemicals such as bentonite or kaolin during the fining process instead. Hunky dory.

I could give you a list of recommendations, but it would be like reading out the phonebook (and that would just be silly). The fact is there's tons of them, from everywhere and at all prices, and you just need to have a gander at the bottle to make sure it's listed as vegan or vegetarian-friendly.

The problem is finding them when shopping online. Despite there being approximately 180,000 vegans in the UK and up to 4 million vegetarians according to some estimates, there aren't many wine merchant websites that allow you to narrow your search to only vegan or veggie options.

The two merchants that appear to have got it right are Tesco Wine and Majestic.

 Majestic list all of their vegan and vegetarian options, and there is certainly a lot to choose from. I really like the look of this Chablis by Jean Bourguignon (for under a tenner if you buy two bottles) - I'd serve it with a crisp summer salad or Mediterranean grilled vegetables - and the Morellino di Scansano would be delicious with (and in!) vegan mushroom, leek and sausage pie, or ratatouillie. It's £8.99 if you buy two still Italian wines.

Tesco Wine
Tesco Wine allow you to search via their vegan and vegetarian tags, if you can find a vegan wine first to find the tag!

Their vegan-friendly Finest Pinotage (£7.59 per bottle if you buy six) is ripe and fruity, and I want to try the Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc (vegetarian only - not suitable for vegans, and £7.11 if you buy six) with Japanese Spiced Tofu or Halloumi Barbecue skewers (if the sun ever turns up again).

Other supermarket wine lists such as Waitrose, Asda, and Sainsburys will tell you in the description if the wine is suitable for vegans or vegetarians, and The Wine Society will provide a list of suitable wines on request, but you have to do a lot of the legwork.

In the meantime, enjoy a glass or two of vegan or veggie wine with one of our Sluttishly Vegan or Sluttishly Vegetarian recipes.

So what do you guys think? If you're vegan/vegetarian, do you spend a long time searching for the right wine online, or does it not matter to you so much? Do you think supermarkets and big wine merchants should spend more time making it easier to find their vegan/vegetarian-friendly options? Tell us in the comments, or on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Image from a yummy vegan restaurant taken from SweetOnVeg's photostream under the Creative Commons License.


  1. I always head to Co-op to buy wine - they label all of them as vegan, vegetarian (or neither) and are really reasonably priced!

  2. I recently went from veggie to vegan, and the wine was a bit of a pain. I have just gone down the 'make your own' route. I have had successes with blackberry and black cherry, pea pod was HORRIBLE, and the dandelion is smelling and tasting amazing so far. Best bit is that I pay for the yeast and sugar, and either a bag of sultanas or some concentrated grape juice... the rest is free. Even my kit was donated :) :) :) Takes a bit of time and attention to detail, but it's much easier than I thought it would be. And I know everything that went into it!


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