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What is Vegan Wine?

At first glance, this might seem odd. Wine is made from grapes and yeast: if this isn’t a vegan product, what is? As it happens, truly vegan wines are rarer than people think. Here’s why...

WINE CLARIFICATION

When wines are made, they go through a lot of different processes before arriving bottled at your table. After the grapes have been picked, prepared, and fermented, the wine is generally then clarified to remove sediment before bottling. Most winemakers remove all the little bits of grape and yeast cells to make sure the wine is clear rather than murky, and can’t re-ferment in the bottle.

There are lots of different ways for wines to be clarified, including:

  • Racking – moving wine from one barrel to another, leaving the dregs behind at the bottom of the original barrel
  • Filtering – passing the wine through various materials or membranes in order to trap the sediment
  • Cold stabilization – chilling the wine to a very low temperature and removing the crunchy bits of tartaric acid that form
  • Fining – adding a protein that binds with the sediment and makes it easier to trap whilst filtering

Fining is the point that can make a lot of wines out-of-bounds for some vegans, as a lot of fining agents are non-vegan proteins such as blood and bone marrow, milk proteins, egg albumen, fibres from crustacean shells, fish oils, and gelatins, amongst others. Once these have been added into the wine, the final product is technically no longer vegan.

VEGAN WINE

Whilst this is not a sticking point for all vegans, if you want to drink vegan wines, don’t despair, there are a wide variety of wines that have been produced using completely vegan-friendly techniques.

Vegan fining agents are starting to become more widely available, with winemakers using things like carbon, bentonite clay, limestone, kaolin clay, plant casein, silica gel, and vegetable plaques to ensure their wines are completely animal-friendly.

You can also drink wines that haven’t been fined or filtered at all. Natural wines are growing in popularity, and many of them are of exquisite quality and flavour – as well as being totally vegan.

Nowadays, there’s a lot more awareness about vegan products, and many winemakers are starting to provide this information by labelling their bottles as such. While a lot of vegan wines still don’t mention it on the label, the need for awareness is catching on, and it’s becoming far more straightforward for consumers to make informed choices about what they’re drinking.