Pairing wine with vegan food
With media interest in vegan food at an unprecedented high you might wonder which wines vegans can drink. Quite a lot as it happens ...
Vegans are only slightly more restricted than vegetarians when it comes to winedrinking. The issue is in the fining process which removes any solid particles from the wine. Some wines are fined with animal products like gelatin and isinglass (fish bladder) which rules them out for both vegetarians and vegans. Other producers, particularly of fine wines, use egg whites which would obviously be unacceptable to vegans. Some wines, however, are unfined for extra flavour and texture so those wouldn't cause any problems.
Fortunately most supermarket own label wines specify whether they’re suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Many online retailers give this information on branded wines too though in the absence of this it makes sense to check with the producer for reassurance.
That said veganism carries with it a whole approach to food which may affect your attitude to wine. You may well want to avoid wines made from grapes that are treated with artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides and to which products like enzymes are added. Organic and biodynamic wines are likely to appeal.
You may also be attracted by wines that are made from indigenous or wild yeasts or which use a minimum of or no added sulphur in which case you should look out for so-called ‘natural’ wines, a somewhat controversial description which basically refers to wines that are made without any of the products common to conventional winemaking.
The style of food you’re eating may also have implications for the type of wine you drink. If your diet is largely plant-based you may find white wines more appealing than reds though pulses like lentils and beans and richly flavoured ingredients such as aubergines (eggplant) and mushrooms can easily handle the tannins of a medium to full-bodied red. Raw dishes tend to work well with crisp whites and rosés.
But as with meat, fish and dairy it’s more about the way you cook a dish than the base ingredient. Tofu, for example, has no significant flavour of its own - it depends what you put with it. Spicy foods benefit from wines with a touch of sweetness like a pinot gris or riesling. Umami-rich Japanese dishes work well with wines that are aged on their lees like white burgundy, muscadet and champagne.
A really useful site I picked up from the comments on wine writer Eric Asimov’s article in the New York Times is Barnivore which has a vegan alcohol directory with over 14,000 listings including beer, cider and spirits.
You may also find this article I wrote on wine with vegetarian food useful
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