The vegan-friendly Australian whites and reds to watch out for

21 August 2020


Our wine columnist John Kelman of Rutabaga reveals his top wines from Down Under made without animal products, and his favourite food pairings to go with them.

In the next leg of our wine journey we’re off to visit Australia. A huge country with lots to offer, this time around I’ll be highlighting purely vegan wines and pairing them with some classic dishes.

If you’re wondering what constitutes a vegan wine, they are made without the animal-derived products that are often used in wine-making to act as a filter for particles.

Australian wines have been known historically to be big, ripe and robust. When red, expect dry, and with white, think easy drinking.

Nowadays there is a level of sophistication and real regionality within the nation’s output.

The Chardonnay is usually oak-aged and was for a long time the style found coming from Oz. Now, it is much closer in style with Sauvignon Blanc and stainless steel fermentation.

Grenache (Garnacha) has spicy high points from the hot and dry conditions favoured by this variety. It is very popular in blends including GSM which is a red wine blended from Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre.

Durif (Petite Sirah) is a wine variety from the crossing of Syrah and Peloursin in France. It boasts big tannins and ripe fruits. Rutherglen, a small town in Victoria, Australia favour this variety.

For Mataro (Mourvedre/Monastrell), worldwide it is best to look to Bandol for its rose in Provence where it is the most noble grape variety. In warmer global regions, this variety gives some body to thinner blends like GSM in Barossa Valley in Adelaide in particular.

When exploring the vast array of potential travelling companions we went with Virgin Wines, Fountainhall Wines and Rutabaga who represent some of the best online and local independent retailers.

With decades of experience with food and drink in and around Aberdeen and Scotland, there’s some perfect pairings in the mix for you to enjoy, too.

Black Flag Winemakers, Mataro/ Durif/ Shiraz, Barossa Valley/ Langhorne Creek, Australia, 2017 – 14% alc./vol.

A big, rich blend with hints of high-percentage dark chocolate and peppery spices, this wine goes perfectly with curried cauliflower, potato, tomato and chickpea with some fresh flatbread – a winner indeed!

Black Flag Winemakers, Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills, Australia, 2018 (Vegan) – 13.5% alc./vol.

This cheery bomb of a Pinot Noir has some background Chinese-style five spice. Sit back and enjoy or whip up a cheeky bakewell tart made with pickled cherries as your fruit variant. Mmm…

Black Flag Winemakers, Shiraz/ Durif/ Grenache, McLaren Vale, Australia, 2016 (Vegan) – 14.5% alc./vol.

From a small cache of wine produced with an exclusive original artwork by artist Charlie Roberts copied for this wine label, this big wine offers a little spice but lots of fruit with deep tannins. For this dish, cook up a delicious chilli-oil-marinated cauliflower steak cooked over a high heat (to char), with grilled tenderstem broccoli, and an artichoke puree.

Black Flag Winemakers, Grenache, McLaren Vale, Australia, 2018 (Vegan) – 14% alc./vol.

A subtle but generous wine from old vines, its sophisticated, soft fruity palate benefits from a little oak ageing. A beetroot, shiitake mushroom risotto with some peppery rocket and pea shoots would pair perfectly.

Xanadu, Exmoor, Cabdernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, Australia, 2017 (Vegan) – 14.5% alc./vol.

Our only pick from Margaret River has to be a Cabernet Sauvignon from one of the regions founding vineyards. Big, juicy dark fruits with a long finish. It has also spent 14 months in oak barrels. Homemade vegan haggis spring rolls incorporating pearl barley, mushrooms with tomato chilli jam accompaniment is the go-to for this bottle.

D’Arenberg, The Hermit Crab, Viognier/ Marsanne, McLaren Vale, Australia 2018 – 13.5% alc./vol.

A recognisable-brand bottling from a well-established house. At the forefront you’ll fine stone fruits with it ending on a citrusy finish. Rhone in style, it is best paired with vegan gnocchi rolled through toasted walnuts and wilted radicchio. Grate over some dairy free cashew cheese for a little extra indulgence.

Some Young Punks, Quickie, Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills, Australia, 2017 (Vegan) – 12.5% alc./vol.

These young winemakers have created a Sauvignon Blanc with a little texture and with a little time in oak for an old-world style twist. There’s a real bit of body and structure with this wine. How about a Caesar-style vegan salad sans anchovies to tantalise the taste buds?

Berton Vineyard, The Winemaker’s Reserve, Shiraz, Padthaway, Australia, 2017 (Vegan) – 14.5% alc./vol.

Big with spice, plummy fruits and dark chocolate notes resonate through this high-octane wine. Good value, pair it with a dairy-free chocolate brownie as your dessert treat, finishing it with end-of-season raspberry compote.

Wild and Wilder, Tabula Rasa, Semillon/ Sauvignon Blanc/ Arneis/ Petit Manseng, Adelaide Hills, Australia, 2018 (Vegan) – 13% alc./vol.

With this little “stubbie” you get the perfect mid-week drop. Two generous guilt-free glasses full of predominantly refreshing Semillon. A dry palate with a zesty gooseberry flavour, try it with some lightly pickled mackerel over a soba noodle salad laced with fresh ginger and chilli. – BUY AT RUTABAGA

Chaffey Bros Wine Co, Battle for Barossa, La Resistance! Grenache/ Syrah/ Mourvèdre, Barossa Valley, South Australia, 2016 (Vegan), – 14.5% alc./vol.

A juicy drop of red with peppery highlights the GSM blends are a Barossa staple. Pair with a rustic meat-free lasagne with plenty of in-season mushrooms. – BUY AT RUTABAGA

The Musician, Cabernet Sauvignon/ Shiraz, Coonawarra, Australia, 2016 (Vegan), – 13.5% alc./vol.

A blend which is more than three quarters Cabernet Sauvignon, it shows plenty of red ripe fruits throughout. Pizza is a great vegan staple so char some of your favourite vegetables and make your own music. – BUY AT RUTABAGA

The Wrong’ un, Shiraz/ Cabernet Sauvignon, Western Cape, South Australia, 2018 (Vegan) , – 14% alc./vol.

Another blend but with more than three quarters Shiraz, it’s big smooth blackcurrant flavours that feature in this wine that has spent a little time in oak. Fantastic value for money. Tabbouleh (a Levatine vegetarian salad) with all your favourite seasonal vegetables, herbs and confit garlic is best, and be sure to serve with hummus and warm bread – perfect! – BUY AT RUTABAGA