What Is Vegan Friendly Wine?
Surely all wine is vegan friendly as its made from grapes? Not always! Discover why some wines contain animal products and learn how to identify wine that’s vegan friendly.
Full of fruity grape goodness, for those who have made the choice to be vegan you might think choosing wine is easy. It’s made from grapes after all. However, it’s the other things winemakers add to the wine during the winemaking process that may turn a vegan friendly wine into something that contains the very things you’d rather avoid.
Vegan friendly wine is not as common as you’d expect
Why? This is likely to be your first question upon discovering that all wines may not be vegan friendly. It’s an understandable question. Wine is made from grapes so it should be simple. Get to know a winemaker and you’ll discover that winemaking is anything but simple! Once the grapes have been picked, getting the grapes from the vine into the bottle is as much of an art as it is a science, but in this case we’ll focus on the science.
When a wine is first made it looks nothing like the crystal clear whites and rich, deep reds you find on the shelf at your local wine dealer. A young wine is much more unrefined and contains bits called floaters in it. It can also appear cloudy. These things are in no way harmful. They’re actually tiny molecules such as proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics, but it’s not the look most winemakers are going for ...
‘You’re so fine.’ To look good, winemakers introduce animal products
Due to the issues described above, an important step in the winemaking process is called ‘fining’. This is how winemakers create a wine that looks good enough to drink. If left long enough, most wines will self-stabilize and self-fine, but as you can imagine, time is of the essence in modern day wine production.
To counteract the cloudiness and floaters, winemakers introduce fining agents. These are like secret agents that go in undercover and weed out the undesirables! In science-speak, these fining agents are like magnets. They attract the molecules winemakers don’t want to keep so that the molecules coagulate around the agents and are easier to remove.
The most common fining agents in winemaking are blood and bone marrow, casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein from boiling animal parts), chitin (fibre from crustacean shells) and isinglass (fish bladder protein). Unfortunately these are exactly the things that vegans are trying to avoid.
Vegan wines: a down-to-earth choice
The good news is there are a range of animal-friendly fining agents that can be used to make vegan wine. When we say vegan wine is a down-to-earth choice, we mean it! Many of these alternate fining agents are earth based such as clay (bentonite), limestone and silica gel. Activated charcoal can also be used as well as plant casein and vegetable plaques.
How to identify Vegan Friendly wine
If you’ve chosen a vegan lifestyle and are trying to eliminate animal products or by-products you should look out for disclaimers on wine labels that contain the words: “May contain traces of egg white or fish products.” In Australia, we’re pretty good at including these disclaimers but unfortunately that’s not always the case with wines from overseas.
On the bright side, with the move to more mindful winemaking practices, natural winemaking is becoming more common. Natural winemaking processes leave the wine unfiltered, which means all that cloudiness and sediment we talked about is left to self-stabilize. So if you’re searching for a vegan friendly wine and you come across a naturally produced wine, it’s usually a safe bet. In addition to this, some of these wines may specify that it’s ‘not fined and / or not filtered’ on the label.
Looking for Vegan Friendly wine?
Vineful only sells wine that is underpinned by mindful practices and if you’re keen to find vegan wine that matches your lifestyle choices, we can help. We also sell a delicious range of organic and biodynamic wine, as well as preservative-free options.