Vegan and the Big O: Compare and Contrast

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I must say that I had a little trouble finding Vegan wines, ready to buy, here in the Cleve. While the wine stores I went to were happy to order it for me, I got myself into a conundrum for time; I wanted to post the comparison tasting soon after the initial post. So I took a little trip over to World Market Explorer on the West side, where I found a ’10 Pinot Noir from McManis Family Vineyards.

The Organic wine, an ’09 Bonterra Zinfandel, I found with no trouble at Heinen’s, my local supermarket.

According to the vegan beer, wine and liquor site, Barnivore, McManis is vegan friendly and uses only Diatomaceous earth and paper filtration.

Commenter Natural Ed had some great suggestions and I did take a road trip out the Whole Foods to try to find them. It felt a little like the Amazing Race for wine. Unfortunately, both stores didn’t have any of them in stock. I was pressed for time to order online, so I stayed with the McManis for the tasting. I had wanted to find two of the same varietal, but it was tricky enough to find a Vegan wine much less two Zins. I know that comparing Pinot and Zinfandel is a little like comparing apples to oranges, but I tried to keep an open mind about the quality of the wine itself. That said, I happen to like both Pinot Noir and Zin. For me, I didn’t taste any tangible difference between the organic and traditional; when they’re good, they’re good. And I’d expect the opposite is equally true.


We began with the Vegan Pinot Noir from McManis. The first impression was that it appeared a bit cloudy almost opaque in the glass. It had such a light bouquet that all of us had to get our noses far into our glasses to detect the light berry essence on the nose (which, for me, actually ended up on my nose). Shelly found a spicy, berry vibe that she thought was good. Cindy described a ‘dirty berry’ taste, while Terri found it to have a ‘Gurdy’ or astringent feel as it went down. I thought it tasted grippy, very earthy, young and thin. As a Pinot, I wasn’t expecting it to be as full as a Zin or Cab, and maybe I’ve been spoiled by Pinots from Oregon and Washington, but it did seem too simple and light for one hailing from California. I sipped more to see if it would evolve and gain some depth and it did, slightly, when I paired it with a little green pepper and tomato.

Smooth Operator

Yes, I know it’s a Sade song, but I think I accurately describes the Organic Zin from Bonterra. It was much richer in color (which is true of most Zins when compared to Pinot), with a full bouquet of rich berry that we could smell when I poured. It was a smooth and well-balanced with a flavor of deep blackberry, and a pepper kiss on the finish. Cindy described its quality as ‘full and creamy’ which it was. We agreed that it was very smooth with no bite; more complex by comparison. It was enjoyable on its own or paired with vegetables or crackers and hummus.

I know that our experiment had its flaws; comparing two different vintages and varietals being the most glaring. While we thought the McManis Vegan Pinot tasted young, the Zin had an extra year which could account for the complexity and richness.

The earthy overtones in the Vegan Pinot might be due to the fining process itself: could the earthy clay used to filter the wine, increase that quality in the taste?

My take away from this was that I was not put off Vegan wines at all; I’d like to try more.  I’d also like to test my hypothesis of clay fining’s influence on the final taste of vegan wine.

I enjoy trying new things and this study hall didn’t disappoint. It was a great night to experiment and to catch up with some great friends.

My next posts will be about the wonderful world of Icewine. With old man winter blowing into the Cleve tonight, it seems quite timely.


Thank you to Natural Ed for his great suggestions:

[From Whole Foods:

Pizzolato Prosecco made with Organically grown grapes & Vegan

Pizzolato Organic Italian Cabernet No Sulfites Added & Vegan

Biokult Austrian Grüner Veltliner – made with Organically grown grapes & farmed biodynamically
Spartico Organic Spanish Tempranillo No Sulfites Added & Vegan

From Trader Joe’s:

ALBERO, Spanish Wines made with Organically grown grapes & Vegan


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