Whether your family has followed a vegan diet for generations or you've just begun the transition to a plant-based lifestyle, wine shopping can be testing. It's fantastic that vineyards from all over the world, including New Zealand, Argentina, France and Italy, have begun producing vegan-friendly wine. Still, it can be hard knowing which one to choose.
We've compared the silky reds to the floral rosés, the crisp whites to the sparkling bubbles of Prosecco. We've looked at the top UK retailers such as Tesco, Asda and Waitrose, examined the quality, flavour, taste, and price of their best vegan and organic wines and created this guide to help you choose. We'll even tell you which vegan food to pair them with!
A common misconception is that all wines are vegan. They only contain grapes, right? Well, not exactly – it's all to do with the fining process.
The fining process is a stage in wine-making which helps stabilise the wine, reduce its bitterness, and make the liquid clear. These fining agents (or ingredients) are often elements which contain animal products such as egg whites, milk protein, bone marrow or gelatine.
Vegan wines will instead use fining agents that are clay or charcoal-based or even remove the fining process entirely.
Aside from the obvious step of making sure it doesn't contain any animal products, the process of choosing a vegan wine is much the same as selecting any other wine. The colour, the grape, the flavours and the food pairings are all essential things to consider when choosing a vegan wine.
UK supermarkets have been doing a great job of increasing their vegan options. Many retailers, such as Waitrose, now place a vegan sticker on their wine products, but as this is not a requirement, it is not always the case.
To be 100% certain, you'll need to check the manufacturers' website for a list of their fining agents – these are often derived from animal products and include things like gelatine, boiled-fish bladder, or fish oil. Vegan wines will use alternatives such as bentonite clay and silica gel.
If you have a favourite wine that does not state if it is vegan on the label or elsewhere, there is still a chance it does not contain animal products. There are many online resources or databases you can consult to be sure, such as Barnivore.
From red to white, rosé to sparkling, there is more to these categories than colour alone. Flavour, acidity and food pairings will all determine the best wine for the occasion.
Contrary to popular belief, the colour of the grapes used in wine-making does not determine the colour of the wine. All grapes, when pressed, produce a clear or light green juice – the skins are what gives wine its colour.
White wine is made by removing the skins and seeds and only fermenting the juice. It tends to be light, crisp and refreshing when served cold and is often a favourite amongst new wine-drinkers.
White wines are best paired with fruit-based dishes, salads and vegetables like avocado, artichoke and asparagus.
Red wine is made much the same way as white, but the seeds and skins are left in during fermentation. Leaving the skin in gives red wine its colour, texture and tannins, which often produces a bold, full-bodied and mature flavour.
These bold notes make the structure of red wine more complex than white and generally more popular with seasoned wine-drinkers. Red wines pair great with heavier dishes like bean and lentil stews, or portobello mushroom burgers and roasted aubergines.
Rosé is usually made from red or purple grapes and is somewhat in between a red and a white wine. To make rosé, the skins are left to soak for only a few hours so that it takes on just a little of the colour and flavour.
Because of this, the liquid can take on other flavours left on the grape skin such as flowers, which produces a fruity and floral taste.
Rosé wines are perfect paired with barbecued veggie skewers, acidic salads or summer tartlets.
Sparkling wines are produced much in the same way as white wine, but with a second round of fermentation. During this stage, sugar and yeast are added to create carbon dioxide – the bubbles.
Sparkling wines (aside from accompanying any celebration, of course) are a fabulous choice for pairing with fruit-based desserts like crepes or tarts and anything with fresh, citrus flavours. They're also a well-known palate cleanser, working wonderfully well with rich, fatty foods.
One of the main things to consider when choosing a vegan wine is the level of sweetness. Check the label as the choice can go from extra dry – like a Chenin Blanc – to super sweet, like port or dessert wine. Each grape produces a different level of sweetness which emits a different flavour.
When you're choosing a wine for a dinner or lunch, you need to pick a bottle with flavours that compliment the dish. Think of wine not as an accompaniment to food, but as an ingredient of the meal itself.
For vegan food, pair your wine with the most prominent flavours of the dish. For example, if you have a nutty, creamy pasta sauce, choose a buttery, creamy Sauvignon. Knowing a little about the main grapes and types of wines will help you choose which wine is best for the job.
Sauvignon Blanc has a very unique flavour which differs depending on the region. It's zesty, fragrant and dry with a refreshing acidity.
In warm climates such as New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc takes on flavours of exotic fruits like passionfruit and gooseberry, but in the cooler climates of France, the wine will taste more of citrus flavours, lawns and nettle.
Sauvignon Blanc pairs with fresh, herby dishes, or green vegetables like kale, green beans and avocados.
One of the highest-quality and most popular grapes in the world, Chardonnay is a favourite amongst both newbies and seasoned wine drinkers. The flavour of Chardonnay largely differs depending on whether it has spent time soaking in oak barrels.
Unoaked Chardonnay tastes very fresh, carrying a distinctive flavour of green apples, whereas oaked Chardonnays taste more of vanilla and toffee, with a nutty and sometimes smoky finish. It pairs well with toasty flavours like roasted nuts or golden pastry dishes.
Pinot Grigio has a light, fresh flavour and tastes distinctly of pears, apricots and peaches. Depending on the country and region of the vineyard, Pinot Grigio can also claim more buttery notes like almonds and honey.
Pinot Grigio pairs excellently with nutty salads, light pasta dishes with smooth sauces or creamy vegetable risottos.
Merlot is a very popular drinking wine and thankfully, tends not to be too expensive. Its soft texture often tastes of plums, red fruits, summer pudding, or even chocolate and gentle spices. With a simple palate, Merlot is often a favourite amongst new wine drinkers.
Merlot is ideal for pairing with dishes like mushroom risotto, stew, and roasted vegetables.
Pinot Noir is considered to be 'the safe bet' when serving wine with food. It has a versatile and charismatic pallet enabling it to complement a wide variety of dishes. Depending on the age of the wine, it can taste of fresh forest fruits like cherries or raspberries or more earthy notes like forests.
It pairs well with any tomato-based dishes, aubergine, peppers, or root vegetables like sweet potato and pumpkin.
There is often an assumption surrounding wine that a corked wine bottle is of a much higher quality than a screw-top, but that isn't necessarily the case.
Natural corks can let in a tiny amount of air, which makes them better suited to full-bodied red wines as the oxidation improves the taste over time, creating a softer, smoother finish.
On the other hand, screw-tops are often better for white wine as they completely seal the top, preserving the crisp freshness of the white wine flavours.
Now that you're fully armed with the information that you need to go wine shopping, let's dive into the recommendations.
|Grape||Grenache/Garnacha, Mourvedre, Syrah/Shiraz|
|Flavours||Summer fruit, cherry, vanilla, pepper|
|Pair With||Hearty dishes, good drinking wine|
|Grape||Garnacha Tinta, Mazuelo, Carinena, Garnacha|
|Flavours||Dark plum, spice|
|Pair With||Best for drinking|
|Flavours||Nuts, honey, peach, mango|
|Pair With||Roast dinners, roasted vegetables|
|Region||Paarl, South Africa|
|Flavours||Tropical fruit, green figs, lime|
|Pair With||Salads, grilled vegetables|
|Flavours||Lemon, blackcurrant, tropical fruit.|
|Pair With||Salads, green vegetable dishes|
|Grape||Grenache, Cinsault, Shiraz/Syrah|
|Flavours||Stone fruit, strawberries, redcurrants|
|Pair With||Antipasti, barbecue dishes|
|Flavours||Citrus, apple and pear|
|Pair With||Aperitif, best for drinking|
|Grape||Shiraz/Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache|
|Flavours||Forest Fruit, black cherries, pepper|
|Pair With||Hearty dishes, strong flavours|
|Flavours||Cherries, raspberries, red currants.|
|Pair With||Italian or tomato-based dishes|
|Pair With||Pasta, salads, good for drinking|
Domaine Paul Blanck
Terre di Faiano
Riesling Grand Cru Furstentum
Châteauneuf du Pape
Extra Special Chenin Blanc
Sangre de Toro
Côtes du Rhône
The Number One Riesling Available in the UK
The Sommelier-Approved Velvety Red From Italy
A Full-Bodied Red Wine With Rich Flavours of Forest Fruits
A Popular Prosecco That Offers Luxury Without the Price Tag
A Pale Pink Rosé From One of the Leading UK Supermarkets
A Classic Sauvignon Taste From Tesco's Finest
A Tropical Sauvignon Blanc From the South African Mountains
The Affordable Chenin Blanc With a Buttery Finish
The Red Drinking Wine From the Sun-Kissed Mediterranean
A Light Côtes du Rhône to Share Among Friends
|Grape||Riesling||Primitivo||Shiraz/Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache||Glera||Grenache, Cinsault, Shiraz/Syrah||Sauvignon Blanc||Sauvignon Blanc||Chenin Blanc||Garnacha Tinta, Mazuelo, Carinena, Garnacha||Grenache/Garnacha, Mourvedre, Syrah/Shiraz|
|Flavours||Citrus||Cherries, raspberries, red currants.||Forest Fruit, black cherries, pepper||Citrus, apple and pear||Stone fruit, strawberries, redcurrants||Lemon, blackcurrant, tropical fruit.||Tropical fruit, green figs, lime||Nuts, honey, peach, mango||Dark plum, spice||Summer fruit, cherry, vanilla, pepper|
|Pair With||Pasta, salads, good for drinking||Italian or tomato-based dishes||Hearty dishes, strong flavours||Aperitif, best for drinking||Antipasti, barbecue dishes||Salads, green vegetable dishes||Salads, grilled vegetables||Roast dinners, roasted vegetables||Best for drinking||Hearty dishes, good drinking wine|
|Region||Alsace, France||Salento, Italy||Rhône, France||Veneto, Italy||Provence, Rose||Sanserre, France||South Africa||Paarl, South Africa||Catalonia, Spain||Rhone, France|
Want to know which dairy-free cheese you should scatter atop your lasagne or which dessert to serve with after-dinner coffee? Find three more of our vegan-friendly articles below to find exactly what you need for your feast.
Whether you're splitting a bottle between friends or you're serving up a feast of delicious vegan food, there is the perfect wine for every occasion. We hope this guide helped you in discovering the different varieties, how to spot a vegan wine, and how to pair the perfect bottle with your meal. Cheers!
Author: Roxy Pratley
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