If you’re looking for the best vegan wines, there are few things it’s important to know. Firstly, contrary to popular belief, not all wines are vegan, despite being made solely from crushed grapes.
The key aspect of winemaking when it comes to vegan wines is fining – that is, when a fining agent is added to remove haze and solid particles from the wine, to ensure it is in the best-possible condition and that its appearance is optimum.
Traditionally, fining agents have been made from animal products, such as isinglass (ground-up fish bladders), egg whites (which are still commonplace in Bordeaux), gelatin and casein (which is derived from milk). When wines are fined, none of the fining agents remain in the wine when bottled, but vegans still consider their use unacceptable.
Not all wines are fined or filtered, however, and there are plenty of natural wine producers who bottle their wines without doing either. Such wines may have the term ‘unfiltered and unfined’ on the label – a guarantee of a vegan-friendly wine. Not only that, but there are also non-animal-based fining products that do the job perfectly well, such as clay-based bentonite, or microplastic Poly-vinyl-poly-pyrrolidone.
What makes life difficult for wine-loving vegans is that currently, producers are not obliged to disclose which (if any) fining agents they use. Organic and biodynamic wines are no guarantee of vegan-friendliness, either, and there is still no widespread legal definition of what constitutes a vegan product. Some wines do now feature the V-label (a green ‘V’ on a yellow background, the symbol of the European Vegetarian Union), but there is no standard labelling format for vegan wines.
In addition to fining, there are other processes that can prevent a wine from having vegan status. Austrian biodynamic producer Gernot Heinrich in Burgenland, for example, seals some of its wines with beeswax, while others use animal collagen-based glues for attaching labels to the bottle. And some vegans claim that the use of animal-derived manure or fertiliser is a no-no, too – which would eliminate many biodynamic wines, which frequently use horse manure in the vineyard.
Despite these ongoing issues, the popularity of vegan wines is growing, particularly as consumers are ever-more inquisitive as to how the food and drink they consume is made. The IWSC take vegan wines seriously, too, using an expert panel comprising some of the finest palates in the business to judge them. Here are the best vegan wines to try.
20 award-winning vegan wines from the IWSC 2021
- G.D.Vajra, Lagarbiana 2016; Italy, Barolo. 97/100
- Court Garden, Ditchling Quartet Brut 2014; England. 96/100
- Dopff Au Moulin, Gewurztraminer 2019; France, Alsace Grand Cru. 96/100
- Les Domaines Paul Mas, Les Neuf Pierres Roulees 2019; France, Terrasses Du Larzac. 96/100
- Mád, One 2018; Hungary, Tokaj. 96/100
- Alpha Estate, Single Vineyard Turtles Malagouzia 2020; Greece. 95/100
- Balassa Bor, Szent Tamás Furmint 2018; Hungary, Tokaj. 95/100
- Cantina di Soave, Villa Rasina 2020; Italy, Soave Classico. 95/100
- Claymore Wines, London Calling Cabernet-Malbec 2019: South Australia, Clare Valley. 95/100
- Conte Collalto, Ottaviano Sui Lieviti Brut Nature 2019; Italy, Prosecco Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore. 95/100
- Diamond Estates Wines and Spirits, Lakeview Cellars Vidal Icewine 2019; Canada, Niagara Peninsula. 95/100
- Duca di Dolle, 100% Exd Extra Dry 2019; Italy, Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore. 95/100
- Duval-Leroy, Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut NV; France, Champagne Grand Cru AOP. 95/100
- Langham Wine Estate, Rosé Brut 2017; England. 95/100
- Morrisons, The Best Gewurztraminer 2019; France, Alsace AOP. 95/100
- Nyetimber, Tillington Single Vineyard Brut 2013; England. 95/100
- Palmer & Co, Blanc de Blancs Brut NV; France, Champagne AOP. 95/100
- Quercia Al Poggio, 2018; Italy, Chianti Classico DOCG. 95/100
- Viña Arnaiz, Pata Negra Reserva 2016; Spain, Ribera Del Duero. 95/100
- Weingut Rabl, Ried Loiserberg Alte Reben Grüner 2019; Austria, Kamptal. 95/100
HOW DO WE JUDGE THESE WINES?
We run a tightly structured, rigorous wine tasting process. That means that each wine sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC wine judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the wine industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.
HOW DO WE SCORE THESE WINES?
Only the best wines sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, wines have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.
MORE FROM CLUB OENOLOGIQUE
Club O is an exclusive community and the go-to platform for wine and spirit lovers. Our flagship Club Oenologique magazine offers even more insights for enthusiasts and collectors. Based in London, our editorial team tells informative, inspirational stories from the world of wine and spirits, gastronomy and travel, as well as covering recommendations and the latest trends in drink. You can take a look at our Explained series, for instance, where we’re tackling grape varieties, regions and styles of wine and spirits. Alternatively, visit our Ask the Sommelier section, where experts answer your wine-related questions.