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Champagne Drappier Carte d’Or Brut NV

Champagne, France, $45

For those resolving to eat a plant-based diet in 2021, there are a number of excellent champagnes that forgo the use of animal-derived agents (such as albumin, isinglass and gelatin) during the clarification process. Champagne Drappier, with roots in Urville that go back to the early 1800s, was the first family to plant pinot noir in Côte des Bars in the 1930s. Today, this historic champagne house, led by Michel Drappier, enjoys a stellar reputation for the quality of their pinot noir-based bubbly, a style embodied by their Champagne Carte d’Or.

Crafted from a blend comprising 80 percent pinot noir, Drappier Carte d’Or is the golden color of sunshine captured in a glass, its richly saturated hue in part due to a philosophy of more natural winemaking with minimal use of sulfur. Diminutive bubbles swiftly rise like fireworks ascending from the depths of a liquid gold ocean, repeatedly forming elegant rings at the surface. The nose is abundant with apples and orchard stone fruits, and hints of vanilla and pastry dough. The mouthfeel is generous, showcasing yellow apples, candied citrus, and Drappier’s signature quince note. Red currants, pursued by wet gravel, emerge on the finish. The wine is perfectly balanced, with focused acidity and an integration that is nearly flawless. Sip this sparkler with fried squash blossoms, chickpea burgers, and vegan sushi.

Complex and exuberant, this champagne is worth every penny of its $45 price tag.

Skeleton Grüner Veltliner 2019

Burgenland, Austria, $10

The philosophy behind Skeleton Wines appears as bare bones as the crisp, minimalist graphics on their labels. The company’s self-professed mission is to showcase the most popular grape varieties from around the world. They currently offer a wine produced from Austria’s flagship white grape, grüner veltliner, estate bottled by Adolf and Heinrich Fuchs. At one point dubbed “gru-vee,” and even “groovy,” to overcome marketing hurdles presented by the tongue-twisting name, grüner veltliner is a zesty and particularly affordable wine.

In the glass, Skeleton Grüner Veltliner is a bright, spirit-lifting canary yellow. The nose offers an inviting pastiche of pears and lime-scented geraniums, sprinkled with grüner veltliner’s characteristic white pepper notes. Citrus oil and tropical fruits, led by papaya, awaken the palate on the attack. Beeswax gently blankets the tastebuds on the midpalate, riddled by a refreshing acidity that manifests as an intense and flinty minerality. White pepper has a spicy and pleasing presence throughout, most notably on the finish of this vegan wine. Often consigned to summer sipping, grüner veltliner is an engaging wine for year-round enjoyment. Refreshing on its own, this wine would also be an excellent choice to accentuate white asparagus soup, Vietnamese lemongrass pho with rice noodles, and vegan pesto-stuffed sweet potatoes.

There’s a lot here to like, literally. Enjoy one full liter for a mere $10. Now that’s groovy.

Keuka Lake Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2018

Finger Lakes, New York, $22

After becoming enamored of the Finger Lakes region during a visit, Mel Goldman left a career in industrial and agricultural development in developing countries to plant vineyards in Hammondsport. With small-plot vineyards planted on slopes rising above the southern end of Keuka Lake, the moderating effects of the Finger Lakes help ripen several hybrid and European grape varieties, including cabernet franc, a native French grape involved in the natural cross that resulted in cabernet sauvignon. Goldman has been producing all vegan wines at Keuka Lake Vineyards for at least the past 10 years.

Keuka Lake Vineyards Cabernet Franc is produced entirely from cabernet franc. This wine’s translucent ruby hue simply shines in the glass. Sour cherry and plum, accompanied by sweet marjoram notes, immediately introduce themselves. Fruit aromas slowly unravel to reveal a subtle hint of wood that has been softened by the use of neutral oak barrels. Cherry transforms to luscious raspberry and blackberry on the palate, with well-balanced acid making an appearance on the finish. Tannins are detectable but tame. More refined than robust, this silky wine is produced in the Old World style of a Chinon from the Loire Valley. A versatile wine to accompany an array of dishes, this red is an ideal pairing partner for mushroom bourguignon, green lentil curry, and ratatouille over squash ribbons.

For a reasonable $22, this well-structured and approachable wine is a great choice for red wine-loving vegans.

Renée B. Allen, CSW, FWS, CSS, is a wine and spirits expert and the director of the award-winning Wine Institute of New England, which offers wine and spirits education and events. Allen is a professor at the University of New Haven, a wine competition director and judge, and can be seen on WFSB’s Better Connecticut.

This article appears in the January 2021 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.