Stroll around the beautiful cities of Lisbon or Bordeaux, and it is likely that you will be as enchanted by the beautiful pastries as you will be by the wine. Pastéis de Nata, the delicious custard tarts which date back to before the 18th century, are thought to have been invented at the Jeronimos Monastery in the Confeitaria de Belém area of Lisbon, and cannelés, the spool-sized pastries which taste of custard and rum, are attributed to the city nuns from Saint Eulalia church.

Apart from divine intervention, they both have something else in common. They are a by-product of winemaking.

Many winemakers use egg whites to 'fine' wine, port and sherry, which is a way of clarifying the wines before they are bottled, and historically the surplus egg yolks were donated to convents who used them to make pastries and desserts like tocino del cielo. The egg white attracts and catches any cloudy particles in the wine, and when this debris is removed, all the egg white goes with it, so there isn't a trace of it left in the wine.

However, because it is used in the process, it doesn't comply with the vegan diet. It's not the only animal-related product which is used in this way. Vegetarians avoid wines that are fined using isinglass, a fish derivative, as well as gelatine which is derived from animal collagen; and also on the vegan list is casein which is a milk protein.

While there's no specific definition for vegan wine, there are plenty of vegan-friendly wines out there. Do they taste any different? It's impossible to say unless you're comparing like with like.



While a fining agent doesn't actually leave any taste on a wine, by removing any cloudy particles it does change its texture. Natural wines, which are unfined and unfiltered and often hazy, are vegan-friendly, and so are wines which are fined using inorganic materials like charcoal, a clay called bentonite, and a synthetic polymer, PVPP.

There is no requirement for wine to be labelled as vegetarian or vegan, but increasingly, wine producers are starting to include it on the back label. M&S has over 200 vegan-friendly wines, including Vinalta, Craft 3, Delacourt and Gold Label. In Spar, Eurospar and Mace, look out for the Grifone range, and in Tesco, check out the Faustino Rivero Ulecia, Marques Del Atrio and Casa Roscoli ranges.

SuperValu has over 100, with some on offer at the moment: Espiritu Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc are €7.49, Street Talk Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc are €8.99, and Gigondas Remy Ferbras is €12. O'Brien's has over 150 vegan-friendly wines, with 12 of them on offer at the moment.

For an interesting, unfined natural wine, check out the independent off-licences that specialise in these, like Green Man Wine, Loose Canon, and 64 Wine in Dublin, Le Caveau in Kilkenny, and Bradley's and 1601 Kinsale in Cork, and you'll get plenty of advice. In the meantime, listed left are three reasonably-priced options.

€14.95 reduced from €18.95, 12pc, from O'Briens and obrienswine.ie Deliciously fresh, the crisp flavours of green apple and pear and a hint of pepper on the finish make this a lovely match with seafood. If you haven't yet tried Grüner Veltliner, spring for this vegan-friendly bottle while it's on offer.

Made by Foxrock native Neasa Miquel and her husband Laurent, in the Languedoc region of France, this vegan-friendly Pinot Noir is filled with bright raspberry flavours, and a touch of ripe cherry but still holds its own in a savoury way.

€9.99, 13.5pc, McHugh's, Jus de Vine, Gibney's, The Coach, Martin's, Ardkeen Stores, Daly's, Foley's, Timony's, McEntee's, No 21, O'Donovan's

A winner in the Irish Wine Show Star Awards, this vegan-friendly and organic Nero d'Avola from Sicily is ripe with juicy blackberries, plums and a hint of spice. Great with pizza or lasagne.

The first wine dinner of the year is a big, gloriously Italian one. Ristorante Rinuccini in Kilkenny is celebrating its 30th birthday with an exclusive Barolo Wine Dinner on Tuesday, January 29. Enzo Brezza from Azienda Agricola Brezza Giacomo will be hosting the first in this series of events, pairing his wines with dishes from an eight-course menu of typical Piedmontese dishes created by Rinuccini's Executive Chef, Antonio Cavaliere. Tickets €80, see rinuccini.com

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