Vegetarian wine has come of age

No longer a hippy niche, these days vegetarian and vegan wines are some of the best on the market

Ten or 20 years ago, most people viewed the vegan and vegetarian wine movement as a lunatic fringe, one that few wine buyers could be bothered with and even fewer customers were interested in. Of the supermarkets, only the Co-op showed any interest in catering for its tastes.

How things have changed. More than half of Waitrose’s wines, some 735, are vegetarian-approved, and 545 are vegan. Marks & Spencer lists 549 vegetarian wines, of which 474 are vegan, while Booths has 368 vegetarian wines, of which 271 are vegan. Sainsbury’s is some way behind with 230 vegetarian wines, of which 200 are fine for vegans.

The Co-op’s vegetarian-friendly credentials came not from deliberately courting vegetarians, but as a result of being the first supermarket to put a full list of ingredients on the labels of its own wines. From 1999 on, the Co-op has insisted on suppliers revealing every last little ingredient in their wine and every treatment used in its production, even though there are only the tiniest traces, if any, of these additives and fining ingredients left in the wine after bottling. These can include EU-approved but headline-grabbing animal-derived products such as chitin (crustacean shell fibre), gelatine, fish oil and isinglass (or fish bladders).

It may be tongue-curling to discover that sulphur dioxide, tartaric acid, potassium metabisulphite, carbon dioxide, potassium bitartrate, yeast and egg albumen were all used in the Co-op’s tasty, vegetarian but not vegan-approved 2013 Truly Irresistible Malbec from the excellent La Riojana winery in Argentina’s Famatina valley, but the wine within is a £6.99 Fairtrade cracker, with lots of bold, spiced plum and mocha fruit. And if I was sensitive to sulphur or allergic to eggs, I would want to know. Ditto if I was allergic to milk, or its by-product, casein, or simply hellbent on a healthy and sustainable existence at all times. Even as a carnivore, I don’t see why, in this increasingly transparent age, vegetarian and vegan drinkers shouldn’t be able to make informed choices.

So, go green and order Vintage Roots’ 2015-16 list (0800 9804992) with oodles of vegan and vegetarian-suitable gems, including Paul Mas’s bold, bosky, red-fruited 2014 Cuvée Secrète, Pays d’Oc red, a merlot-cabernet franc blend, £9.75. Vinceremos (0113 2440002) is also great for veggie wine. Among the supermarkets, the delicious, leafy, juicy, 2014 Feiler-Artinger Blaufränkisch from Austria’s Burgenland and the fine 2013 Domaine Font de Michelle Châteauneuf-du-Pape are vegan and vegetarian-friendly red triumphs (Waitrose, £11.29 and £25.99 respectively). If it’s a cheaper, vegetarian-suitable white you want, try Sainsbury’s 2014 Taste the Difference Godello, £8, a bold, grapey, unoaked, floral, peachy, Spanish delight.

More than half of Waitrose’s wines, some 735 of them, are vegetarian-approved

THIS WEEK’S BEST BUYS

Taste the Difference 2015 Fairtrade Rambling River Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa
Sainsbury’s, £6 (down from £8) until March 15
Fresh yet punchy western Cape white full of zesty, floral elderflower blossom .

Taste the Difference 2014 Fairtrade Leap Point Pinotage, Western Cape, South Africa
Sainsbury’s £6 (down from £8), until March 15
Another Citrusdal winery special: a 14.5 per cent oak-chipped giant, brimming with rustic, sizzling steak-friendly fruit.

2014 Montagny, Les Carlins Burgundy, France
Lidl, £11.99
Lidl’s just-in Easter specials won’t linger, so grab this delicious, light, lively, apple and stone fruit-fresh white burgundy right now.

2015 Foremost Syrah, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Lidl, £8.99
Nab this limited parcel (under 3,000 cases) of starry Kiwi syrah bursting with gorgeous zesty, pepper and cedar-spiced forest fruits.

2014 Gaia Notios White, Nemea, Greece
Oddbins, £12.50
Bring back summer with this gorgeous, spicy, floral, exotic Peloponnese white: new wave Greek winemaking at its finest.

2013 Domaine des Bosquets Gigondas, Rhône, France
Oddbins, £25
Big-food-loving, brilliant Mother’s Day treat with all the cracked black pepper, liquorice and violets of a top southern red rhône.

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