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The theme of wine with vegan food usually focuses on whether the producer has used animal products, such as isinglass (or fish bladder), egg white (which is now increasingly rare) or milk protein (much more common). in a criminal trial. But given the popularity of vegan food, most supermarkets have already abandoned even the last of them, which allows them to claim quite rightly that most of their wines are suitable for vegans.
However, if you’re vegan or just decided to eat vegan food this month, that’s not quite the point, is it? Veganism usually stems from concern for the origin of food and the desire for it to be produced in the most natural way possible. And most commercial wine production, as with other large-scale commercial food production, uses a set of additives to achieve an acceptable result at an affordable price, therefore most vegans, I believe, would prefer to drink wines that have had minimal intervention – in other words, natural (although it is a controversial term in itself).
There’s also the question of what you’ll likely eat with this wine. Unless it’s meant to imitate meat, plant-based meals are more indicative of white wines than reds, but in this cold time of year, especially with so many of us having the heating off, it might be the last thing you want.
I think the ideal answer is an orange or amber wine – that is, a wine made from white grapes where the juice stays in contact with the skins in the same way as when making red. This not only gives the wine a more pronounced color, which can range from pale gold to dark orange depending on the degree of maceration, but also has a more tannic structure that can withstand strong foods. Think eggplants, mushrooms, roasted celery and cauliflower, dark, leafy vegetables like sprouts and kale, nuts (especially walnuts), legumes and tahini.
Aromatic grape varieties such as malvasia, solaris and pinot gris are particularly pleasant when paired with any of them. The downside is that they’re often not cheap, although if January is about restraint rather than denial, you can make a bottle last two to three days, especially if you treat it as a weekend treat.
However, there is a cheaper alternative – cider – that can keep you energized for the rest of the week. I’m not sure cider makers would be flattered if they were ranked second best to natural wine, although the products may be similar, but apples really do have an affinity with many vegetables, especially root vegetables and greens. And if you’re not drinking booze in January, why not make that apple juice, like the absolutely wonderful Falstaff juice in today’s selection, which would count as at least one of the 30 plants we’re now supposed to try to consume each week, according to Professor Tim Spector of Zoe.
Five perfect matches for plant-based foods
Lyrarakis Gerodeti Melissaki 2021 £16.55 Field & Fawcett, £17 Corks of Bristol, £18.49 (or £17.57 if you buy six) Cambridge Wine Merchants, 13.5%. A Cretan cocktail with fruit flavors (quince, pear, papaya), but dry and highly tannic. Try it with whole baked celery (melissaki is a grape variety).
Denbies Orange Solaris 2021 £25 denbies.co.uk, 12%. Today, even English producers produce orange wine. Charming peach and apricot fruits with a hint of orange blossom.
Iford Wild Session fresh juice cider, £18 (for 6 x 440ml cans) ifordcider.com, 4.7%. Soft, delicate, medium-dry cider – as the name suggests, session.
Townsend Falstaff Farm Apple Juice, £4.25 (75cl or £20 for six) New Market Dairy Altrincham. Beautifully fresh, tart apple juice that goes well with a crispy cabbage or fennel salad.
Portela for Vento Daterra Viticultores 2020 £26 hectorslondon.co.uk, £26.50 Native Vine, Bristol £27 Chester’s of Abergavenny, 12.5%. A richly rich amber wine from Galicia, made from a godello I came across at Picole, a new natural winery in Bristol. Just gorgeous but not much around so grab it if you can find a bottle.