Waitrose Côtes du Rhône Villages, France 2015 (£6.99) The number of vegans in the UK is now at half a million and counting, with many more – your correspondent included – dabbling with no meat-or-dairy life in a flexitarian way for at least part of the week. For newcomers to this lifestyle it can come as a surprise to learn that you have to be careful with your wine: many producers use animal products, such as milk protein, fish bladder, gelatin and egg whites to take out haze-causing particles. Fortunately, most retailers will be able to tell you which of their bottles avoid these so-called fining agents, and some will go out of their way to ensure they have plenty of vegan wines on their books. Waitrose’s website, for example, lists 275 vegan bottles, this good value, spicy, brambly Rhônered among them.
Nicosia Etna Rosso, Sicily, Italy 2015 (£11, Marks & Spencer) There’s a chicken and egg (or, if you prefer, seed and plant) question about the recent growth (up by some 350% according to a recent report by the Vegan Society) of veganism: has the improvement in vegan food brought more people to veganism, or has the prevalence of veganism led to an improvement in vegan food? I’m guessing the latter, but either way the options available ingredients and the fertile ideas of creative chefs – have made vegan food an aesthetic rather than an ascetic choice, with the pleasure only enhanced by original wine matches. My own vegan meals, especially at this time of year, draw deeply on the mushroom as provider of umami savouriness, with the fungus’s flavour and texture well matched by M&S’s sweet-sour-savoury Sicilian red.
Morrisons The Best Grüner Veltliner, Niederösterreich, Austria 2015 (£8) My favourite vegan cookbooks – such as the American blogger Laura Wright’s The First Mess Cookbook, which has greatly enlivened my kitchen since a friend gave it to me for Christmas – feature recipes that cover all kinds of cravings, from comforting stews and curries to soups and puddings. But what vegan cookery does best is to draw attention to the beauty of fresh, often raw vegetables and herbs in salads full of zing and snap. One style that is particularly well suited to this kind of green energy is Austria’s grüner veltliner, a white grape that often yields wines with a celery-esque character, plus, in Morrisons’ clear, crisp vegan-friendly example, juicy apples and pears.