Is wine vegan?
In short, very often, yes. But, while you won't find Spam particles in your cab sauv, there is potential for trace elements of animal products to be found in some wine, thanks to a process known as fining. Fining is used to clarify wine, removing yeasts, tartrates, rogue tannins and proteins that could otherwise make the wine hazy and sometimes a little funky-tasting. While plenty of winemakers today use bentonite (a clay-based agent), traditionally fining agents were made from animal products: casein (from milk), gelatin, albumin (egg whites) and isinglass (a substance obtained from fish bladders). Some wines are still processed in this way, making them unsuitable for vegans, and some unsuitable for vegetarians. We now have dedicated lists on our site to help you find out which wines are vegan and vegetarian.
Explore our vegan wine list
Explore our vegetarian wine list
Vegan wine and food matching
I've been confused about why there'd be animal juice in my wine ever since a humiliating student Freshers' week incident involving a dreamy Anarchy Society member (no, really) and a plastic beaker of white zinfandel. 'Didn't you know wine is made with fish guts?' he asked, demolishing my self-righteous façade of anarcho-punk cool in one fell swoop. And no, I didn't; it had honestly never occurred to me that wine might not be animal-innards free.
But while my own days of staunch veganism and vegetarianism have since crossed back over to the trendy neverwhere of flexitarianism, figures show that we're all becoming increasingly concerned by where our food and drink is really coming from: it's predicted that the number of UK-based vegans has gone up to a whopping 3.5 million in 2018, with concerns over animal welfare, global warming, health and environmentalism proving the most popular reason for pushing animal products aside.
And this is the great thing; whether you've jumped on the veggie train or not, it's clear that, more than ever, we want to know exactly what's going on in our glass. So in the spirit of Veganuary camaraderie, and in the interests of hunting out some delicious animal-free wine finds, I've tried out some vegan wine and food matches to see you through the bleakest month.
'January' and 'being poor' are best friends forever, so the wines here (vegan, naturally) are as wallet-friendly as possible. And even if you aren't planning to go the whole meat-and-dairy free hog in January, these recipes still taste great and add some significant heft to your five-a-day goals. Quick, simple and delicious is the aim: that means if you want to throw in shop-bought hummus go for it – because if you didn't think a wet Wednesday evening in January was bleak enough, try hand-scrubbing dried chickpea particles from the blades of an economy nutri-bullet and you'll discover the true meaning of 'life's too short' (non-lazy people can find an excellent recipe for proper hummus here).
Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side
Salads often lack wow-factor but this sweet-sour delight knocked our socks off when we tried it at Lolo's, a Mexican restaurant in The Mission, San Francisco ('we' refers to my husband, not my salad-gobbling alter-ego). It's got the perfect mixture of crunchy candied nuts, zingy lime and a touch of heat from chilli. Also, massaging kale is a surprisingly therapeutic way to spend an evening if you're into that kind of thing. Lolo's crumble soft Mexican cheese on top, but I've left it out for obvious reasons and included chunks of ripe avocado instead. Scoop up with flatbread or tortillas for a more filling dish, or serve as a side to spicy roasted vegetables.
- Olive oil
- 1 brown onion, sliced thinly
- Seasalt to taste
- 2 tbsp light brown sugar
- 200g kale
- A generous handful of pecan nuts, halved (or any other leftover nuts from Xmas)
- 1 tart green apple
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 large ripe avocado
- I lime
- Handful of coriander
Warm a pan on a medium heat with a glug of oil. Add your sliced onion, half a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of sugar (regular sugar or an extra pinch of the light brown sugar you'll be using later) and leave to caramelise for around 8-10 minutes until soft and brown. Add a splash of water every now and then if the onion begins to stick to the pan.
Meanwhile, you'll need to massage your kale with a little oil and salt; this changes the cellular structure of the leaves, leaving them soft, supple and delicious. To do this you'll need to remove the tough little stems (these won't be included in the final dish so just put them in your compost bin) and roughly chop before adding a splash of oil, a sprinkle of salt and giving the leaves a good rub for 4-5 minutes.
For the chilli-caramel pecans: Once your kale is nicely plumped, take your pecan halves and toast them for around 30 seconds on a medium heat. To this, add a teaspoon of olive oil, a sprinkle of chilli flakes (how hot is up to you) the light brown sugar and a little pinch of seasalt. Bring the temperature up until the sugar is nicely browning and bubbly and add a couple of splashes of water to keep the mixture relatively loose. Keep the pecans on the stir, ensuring they get evenly coated in the bubbling sugar mixture (take care not to burn). Set aside once coated and glossy.
For the lime vinaigrette: Squeeze the lime juice into a bowl, add a generous glug of olive oil, a pinch of salt and sugar to taste and a good fistful of finely chopped coriander. Taste and season further if needed.
Chop your apple as finely as possible (matchsticks are ideal, and it's best to do this at the last minute or the apple will turn brown), and your salad is ready to assemble: dress your kale with the lime vinaigrette (as much or as little as you want – give it a taste first as it's quite tangy!), arrange on a plate, and spoon the caramelised onions on top. Scatter on the apple sticks, caramelised pecans and finish with some chunks of ripe avocado. Et voilà – a fresh, light and tasty salad packed with all the vibrancy and flavour of San Francisco's Mission district.
The sharpness of the lime here means you'll need something similarly mouthwatering to compete, plus the slight heat and touch of sweetness from the chilli-caramel pecans need tempering too. An off-dry riesling will have the brisk acidity and ripe fruit to do it all.
The honey-and-lime charm of this Ruppertsberger riesling or any off-dry riesling from the vegan list should work beautifully.
Vegan One-Pot 'Puttanesca'
A big, comforting bowl of umami deliciousness for those cold January evenings, this vegan twist on an Italian classic combines salty capers and olives (replicating the saltiness of traditionally-used anchovies), with cheeringly bright tomatoes and fresh herbs. By cooking it all in one pot and giving it a good long stir at the end, you'll release the spaghetti's starches, making for a creamy texture minus the cheese.
- Glug of olive oil
- 1 brown onion, finely sliced
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 fat cloves of garlic, grated
- 200g linguine
- Handful pitted black olives, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp. capers
- 1 400ml tin tomatoes
- I vegan stock cube
- Handful chopped chives
- Handful chopped basil
- ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
Heat a glug of cooking olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Finely slice the onion and add to the pan along with one teaspoon of sugar and one teaspoon of salt. Cook for around eight minutes until softened – add the occasional splash of water if it looks like it's caramelising, as the steam will help to soften rather than brown.
Put a kettle of water on to boil and grate the garlic, roughly chop the olives and add 500ml of the boiled water to a measuring jug with the veg stock cube and stir until dissolved. Add to the pan and bring to the boil. Add in the linguine, garlic, capers, olives, tomatoes and chilli flakes, making sure the pasta is fully submerged. Season, cover and cook for around 8 minutes, checking the pan regularly to make sure the pasta doesn't stick. Once the pasta is cooked, use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture continuously for around 4 mins. Once the mixture is satisfyingly creamy plate it up, topping with the chives and basil (optional) and a few more chopped olives if you'd like.
Sicily's nero d'Avola has the ripe black-fruit flavours to beat the tangy tomatoes into submission, but a cherry-packed California zin will do the trick just as well.
Our inkily dark Society's Sicilian Reserve Red, or The Society's California Old-Vine Zinfandel.
Harissa chickpeas with cumin-seed flatbreads and hummus
There's a long way and a short way to do this recipe: if life's got in the way, buy hummus and flatbreads readymade. But if you do have time, you'll definitely reap the rewards of the creamy dip and warm fluffy flatbreads alongside the sweet-and-sour tang of the chickpea stew.
For the hummus:
- 1 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained
- 1 small clove crushed garlic
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoons tahini, well stirred in the jar
- Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- good quality extra-virgin olive oil, to serve
Make the hummus as per this recipe, in advance if you have time or while the flatbread dough is resting (I've halved the ingredient quantities in the list, so bear this in mind when making).
For the flatbreads (adapted from Jamie Oliver's Navajo flatbreads recipe):
- 1 tsp cumin seeds (toast gently before use)
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 300g strong white bread flour
- Pinch of salt
- 3tbsp olive oil
- 100ml warm water
For the chickpea stew:
- Splash of olive oil
- 1 brown onion
- Pinch salt
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 heaped tsps rose harissa paste
- 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
- Half 400ml tin chopped tomatoes
- 200ml boiled water
- ½ vegan stock cube
- A handful coriander and flat-leafed parsley, roughly chopped
Start with the stew by slicing and softening the onion in a wide-bottomed pan with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt for 8 minutes, or until soft and beginning to slightly caramelise. Meanwhile, dissolve the stock cube in the water and grate the garlic, adding once the onions are ready. Cook for a minute or so before adding the harissa paste and cooking for a further minute on a medium heat. Add the chickpeas, coating in the spice mixture and add the tomatoes and add a pinch of sugar. Add the stock and bring to a vigorous simmer, before turning down to a slow simmer and cover the pan with a lid or plate to allow the liquid to absorb. Check occasionally to check the pan isn't catching, but the stew should take around 25-30 minutes for the tomatoes to reduce and taste deliciously sweet and sticky.
For the flatbreads: lightly toast the cumin seeds and add to a large mixing bowl along with the flour, baking powder and a generous pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre, add the olive oil and 100ml warm water. Using a fork, bring the mixture together until you have a rough dough (if the dough is too wet add a tiny bit more flour), and then knead the dough for around 5-10 minutes on a floured surface until smooth and elastic. Put the dough back in the mixing bowl and cover with a tea towel to rest for around 10 minutes.
While the dough is resting, prepare the hummus if you haven't already (here's that link again!)
Check the stew, have a taste and add more seasoning if needed. The tomatoes should now be nicely reduced and sticky, but if not crank the heat up for a few more minutes.
Meanwhile, divide your dough (into four for lovely dainty flatbreads, or two for goliath ones) and roll out on a floured surface until around 1cm thick. To cook, place one-by-one into the pan, turning after around 4-5 minutes and once golden and fluffy like naan bread.
Plate up the flatbreads with a ladleful of the chickpea stew, top with a healthy dollop of hummus, sprinkle over the coriander and parsley and enjoy piping hot.
The no-nonsense fruit and soft spice of a simple Aussie shiraz is your friend here, or any other new world red with plenty of fruit and not-too-much tannin.
8 Growers Shiraz 2015 has lovely plump fruit flavours to temper the slight heat of the harissa, while making short work of the abundant carbs, or try a refreshing vegan lager.
Take a look at our vegan and vegetarian wine lists here
Explore our easy guide to the basics of food and wine matching to help you create some tasty pairings