JWL Issue #012: Vegan and Vegetarian Wines

July 24, 2018

The biggest impact on my wine tasting might simply be the act of note taking while drinking. I read once that if you write down a dream the moment you wake up, your dream recall will improve. I have found the same to be true of wine. 

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the Ciello Bianco (v+). A savoury, unfiltered catarratto from Sicily that stood out for its price. Combined with its distinctive design, my love for it, and the fact I’ve made such a strong note of it, and I’ve started noticing it almost everywhere. For the first time when I’ve been in a pub, I’ve had a specific recommendation for someone I know would be good. 

Notes can also take you back somewhere immediately. I was at the Genesis end of summer tasting this week, sampling 30 wines. It was the largest number of wines I’ve tasted in one sitting. Rereading a note like “why I fell in love with Beaujolais” or “do I even like Chablis?” takes me back to the moment I tasted the wine and the flavours in it. You don’t need to be formally trained, just a few words of what jumped out about it.


The Genesis tasting brought me many joys. The Pazo da Boucina (£8) is oak-aged, lees-fermented albariño. Most albariños can be simple, light and fruity, this has some character while still being a really great quaffer. 

Claire de Lune by Complices de Loire (€21.95 from Searsons) is a lovely Chenin which had nectarine and soft spices lingering on the palate long after drinking.

In the supermarket, the Penfolds Estate Koonunga Hill Chardonnay is good value (£9 at Tesco). Immediately after opening, it’s a bit green and citrusy, but leave it ten minutes and tropical fruits like pineapple start to emerge.

Finally, it was with sadness to see that the Canton Arms had stopped stocking the Ciello Bianco (no-one liked it apparently: all fool them), so had to choose something else for a friend’s birthday. The Gruner Veltliner Riesling Vorgeschmack (£15.25 from Symposium, v+) was a fantastic replacement: floral, softly aromatic and stony fresh.


Josh, which of your wines are vegan (or vegetarian)-friendly?
Wine can go through a process called fining. Young wine naturally can be hazy to the eye, which isn’t considered to be good. Fining is the clarifying process to remove that haziness. The issue is that the fining agents used won’t always be vegan - or even vegetarian. There’s a combination of animal, milk, fish and egg proteins used for the process.

Good news though: there’s a lot of vegan fining agents now available, and with the rise of low intervention / natural wine, it’s becoming more and more common for wine to be vegan friendly.

I’ve had a few readers question whether their wines were vegan-friendly or not, so from now on I’m trialling a small demarcation to help classify. After a bit of reading, I’m going to use (v) for vegetarian and (v+) for vegan.


Blanc de blancs

You might see this expression if you’re picking a bottle of English sparkling wine at the moment. Blanc de blancs is a sparkling wine made exclusively from chardonnay grapes. High quality sparkling wines might be a blanc de blancs or be three-way blends of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. You’ll notice this classification on French Champagne too.

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