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30 Best Vegan-friendly Wines From Around The World


9 November 2020  -  International Wine and Spirit Competition

It’s World Vegan Month, and with the ever-increasing take-up of veganism, more and more wine drinkers want confirmation that their bottle is as vegan-friendly as their plant-based cheese or tofu-burger. Fortunately, take a look at the wine aisles of almost any major wine or grocery retailer, and the chances are they’ll be able to pinpoint whether a wine is vegan or not. But what does this really m

The complications arise mainly when wine is fined – a process where a fining agent is added to the wine to bind and extract unwanted solid matter or particles. Traditional fining agents include many animal derivatives, such as egg whites (still popular in Bordeaux), isinglass (ground fish bladders) and casein (derived from milk). These substances are removed before the wine is bottled and there is no mention of them on most labels. Nonetheless, their use, even as processing aids, is considered unacceptable by vegans. 

The UK’s Vegan Society (one of the oldest such organisations worldwide) defines veganism as “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”.

The challenge for vegans is that, because producers are not required by law to state which fining agents (if any) were used, it can be difficult to confirm whether a wine is vegan or not. Organic or biodynamic certification is no help, because most natural fining agents are permitted for these schemes. To make matters worse, there is no internationally agreed legal definition of what constitutes a vegan product. Fining isn’t the only process which might disqualify a wine from being vegan, though. Gernot Heinrich is a major biodynamic winery based in Burgenland, Austria whose wines are certified vegan. But a select line of its premium wines are bottled with a beeswax seal, automatically excluding them from the certification. Another theoretical issue is the use of animal collagen-based glues for affixing the label to the bottle – something so opaque that winemakers are often oblivious to the details.

Despite the grey areas and the lack of legislation, the demand for vegan wines looks set to keep growing. The Vegan Society reported a fourfold increase (to 600,000 people) in the number of UK vegans from 2014 to 2019. And UK retailer Marks and Spencer has committed to making its own-label range of wines entirely vegan by 2022. It’s just one of many signs that vegan wines are fast becoming the default – even if the jury is still out on exactly what that means. From Mád's Late Harvest Tokaji 2017 with its 'dried apricots, honey, straw and lime peel' aromas to the 'grippy, yet fine tannins' of Morrison's Best Chianti Classico 2018, IWSC judges were wowed with the following 30 best vegan-friendly wines in a recent tasting.

Blanc de Noirs Brut 2013 Kingscote England 
Lovely nose - full, generous as well as mineral and smoky. Autolytic character shining through. The palate is focussed, fresh and taught, with lovely texture and focus. There is complexity through to the finish, which is long. 12% RRP £50 from Kingscote

Missionvale Chardonnay 2018 Bouchard Finlayson South Africa 
Very classy wine with nicely judged oak that adds vanilla spice to the tropical fruit and toffee apple flavours. Perfectly poised with crisp acidity and an elegant, long finish. 13.5% RRP £24 from Gerrard Seel

Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2016 Rutini Argentina 
Tiptoes in with light cassis and layered minerality, then bursts into endlessly streaming blackcurrant with nice savoury ripple. Tannins are like silk and oak is poised with smoky spice. A witty, light-footed wine with long fruit finish and excellent typicity. 14.1% RRP £26 enquire at Taste Argentina

Late Harvest 2017 Mád Hungary 
An excellent example of a Tokaji nose with lovely dried apricot, honey, straw and lime peel notes. The palate is rich and ripe with lovely acidity and freshness. Loads of spice and real finesse. A benchmark for Tokaji. 12.5% RRP £19.99 from Borders Wines (37.5cl) 

Méthode Cap Classique Brut Villiera South Africa 
NV Fresh, sweet, fruited nose with lemon, butter and toast. White peach, nectarine and ripe pear on the palate, which is vibrant. Dry, clean and very well made. Luxurious depth of flavour and lingering, fresh finish. 12.1% RRP £19 from South Downs Cellar

Blanc de Blancs Brut 2015 Langham England 
Lovely, creamy brioche nose with bags of autolytic character, balanced out with freshness. Rich, charming palate of apricots and citrus notes, all rounded off with an elegant, long finish. 11.5% RRP £31 from Langham Wine

The Best 2018 Morrisons Italy 
Stunning poise, with notes of red cherry, raspberry, cranberry and dark crunchy fruits. Focused, with attractive nuances of graphite, limestone and ferrous minerality. The silky palate is harmonious and long with grippy, yet fine tannins, bright acidity, salinity and freshness. 13% RRP £9 from Morrisons

2018 Cap Royal France
This is masterfully-crafted, textbook Bordeaux; remarkably accessible, yet complex. Pronounced aromas of ripe cassis, red plum, bell pepper and leather characterise the nose. Juicy blackberry and violet on the palate. Harmonious and attractively smooth, with a polished, classy tannin structure. 13.5% RRP £9 from Tesco

Nicolas Van Der Merwe Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 Nico Van Der Merwe South Africa 
Ripe fruit and perfumed, spicy oak nose lead straight onto the palate, with licks of mint, raspberry and blueberry. Lovely plum notes and balanced cedar. Lingering, long finish which is well balanced. Quite a beast. 14.5% n/a in UK

2016 Sordo Italy
Balanced and bold, rich and ripe. The nose reveals raspberries and plums backed by black truffle and dry leaves. The palate's delicate texture tightropes between ripe fruits and meaty oak. A perfect equilibrium between fruit, acid and tannic structure. 14% n/a in UK

Brut Nature Grand Cru Chouilly NV Lombard France 
A classic, impressive Blanc de Blancs style exuding a complex melange of citrus and green fruits, radiant gold colour and elegant, sweet honey. Biscuity notes tease the palate. The minerality is palpable. A masterful, well balanced and concentrated composition. 12.5% RRP £58.50 from Harvey Nichols

Classic Brut 2016 Black Chalk England 
Fresh white fruit on the nose, with the palate showing beautiful mid-palate fruit. Expressive, savoury and citrusy, with a crisp and refreshing finish. Very well balanced and consistent from start to finish. Lovely. 12% RRP £35 from Black Chalk

Cuvée David Pearson Chardonnay Pinot Brut 2015 Breaky Bottom England 
A focused, expressive nose of fresh citrus, ripe yellow apples and juicy tropical fruits underpinned by elegant chalky minerality and delicate brioche. Classy, with fine bubbles, the lively palate bursts with lemon and lime persistence, balanced by train track acidity. 11.2% RRP £31 from Breaky Bottom

Special Réserve Brut 2008 Waitrose & Partners France 
Elegant, glittering and ostentatious. Brimming with piercing stone and citrus fruit aromas. On the palate, an edgy nuttiness, smooth creaminess and rich marzipan. Balanced acidity reverberates harmoniously. Its youthful mouth-feel and impressive finish deliver great poise and potential. 12.5% RRP £26 from Waitrose & Partners

Single Vineyard Turtles Malagouzia 2019 Alpha Estate Greece 
Attractive floral rose petal notes on the nose with orange blossom, peach and spiced ginger on the palate. A crisp and charming wine with an abundance of personality that delivers something very unique. 13% RRP £15 from Corking Wines

Ried Kirchberg Grüner Veltliner 2019 Weingut Hirtl Austria 
A generous example with a juicy, fruit-driven core. Notes of white lily, blossom and honeysuckle support the fresh apricot and citrus flavours. Characterful with great length and a sweet, peppery finish. 12.5% n/a in UK

Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay 2017 Hidden Bench Estate Winery Canada 
Unctuous and layered, this cracking Chardonnay presents sweet and savoury flavours aplenty. Packed with candied lemon and stone fruits, the flinty minerality offers a lively sensation throughout while graceful mouth-watering spice leads toward a long, toasted finish. Top marks. 13.5% n/a in UK

Chardonnay 2018 50th Parallel Estate Canada 
Toast, ripe lemon, weighty green apple and a touch of struck match fill the nose. On the palate, zesty lime and grapefruit cavort against a backbone of savoury oak and steely acidity. A charming, racy wine with exceptional poise and class. 13.1% n/a in UK

Riesling 2018 Pfaff France 
Ripe ginger and pink grapefruit are balanced out with a slight tough of petrol on the nose. Complex and slightly honeyed on the palate with ripe peaches and brioche. Touches of perfect stone fruit lead to a clean, long finish. 13% n/a in UK

Pinot Noir Rosé 2020 te Pa New Zealand 
A perfect benchmark for the style. A broad and concentrated palate of sweet candied cherries, strawberries and cream, and ripe rhubarb are lifted on the palate by fresh acidity. The finish is long and lingering. 13% RRP £13.50 enquire at Amazon

Estate Reserva Organic Fairtrade Malbec 2018 Bodega Argento Argentina 
Ripe and expressive notes of classic violet, plum and blackberry nuances mingle with sweet spices and a satisfying toasty note. Harmoniously balanced, with a refined tannic structure and fabulous length; this is a wine of outstanding quality and finesse. 14.5% RRP £10 from Tesco

Rutherglen Estate Red Shiraz-Durif 2018 De Bortoli Australia 
Tiny sweet fruit clusters of dark ripe berries; complex savoury notes: intense spiced cedar, garrigue and luscious bramble fruit. Perfectly refined, elegant and well-balanced. Bursting with personality! 14.9% n/a in UK

Altaluvia Cabernet Franc 2018 Sur Andino Argentina Argentina 
Like floating on a languid river of vibrant black fruit with heady spicy florals in the air and wet stone gleaming throughout. Tannins have good, restrained bite, oak is polished and acidity glimmers. Balanced, intense and perfect for pairing. 15% n/a in UK

Chocoholic Pinotage 2018 Darling Cellars South Africa 
Bold berry fruits shine aganst a backdrop of earthy dried herbs. Abundant ripe, juicy blackberries fill the mouth in velvety opulence dusted by vanilla glow. A bruised apple finish is like a deep breath of dusky autumn air. Just divine. 13.5% RRP £11 from Frontier Fine Wines

Edición Limitada Tempranillo-Graciano Crianza 2017 Rioja Vega Spain 
A classic style and all the better for it! Laden with layers of spice, cocoa, figs, toffee and forest fruits, this is a monolithic style, but tempered by graphite minerality. With its fresh acidity, this one could run and run. 14% RRP £11 from Decantelo

Syrah 2016 C.C. Jentsch Cellars Canada 
Lovely aromas of red fruit, leather, herbs and spice with a savoury olive note. Follows through onto the palate as well - layered complexity, very elegant with that signature precise acidity, supple tannins and a long finish. 14.1% n/a in UK

Malbec 2015 Mt Vernon South Africa 
Densely-woven dark fruit like the depths of sultry midnight run throughout. Big palate layered with chocolate brioche, rimmed by sweet and sour plum and framed by muscular tannins. Magnificent structure with long black fruit finish. Complex and classy. 14.4% n/a in UK

Skyfall Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Bartinney South Africa 
Hawthorn, hedgerow and Heathcliff. It's me, Cathy. Complex, and irresistibly smooth and supple below the (rose) hip. Tease me with cigar, tobacco, and watch me evolve into something delicious. Something divine. A Stellenbosch at its most prime. 14.5% RRP £28 from Newton Wines

Gran Reserva 2008 Don Jacobo Spain 
Powerfully generous but elegant. It is packed with ripe fruit, wild strawberry and damson, with well-integrated oak and firm tannins. A savoury personality is also demonstrated with notes of leather. Mouthwatering and poised finish. 14% n/a in UK

Booths 2017 Maison Sichel France 
Beguiling, and utterly delicious, with well-defined aromas of canned pineapple, greengage and bruised apple. A lusciously sweet core is brought beautifully into line by a refreshing stream of acidity. Fantastic concentration throughout; an excellent example of its type. 13% Enquire at Booths