Veganism is one dietary choice that isn’t going anywhere. It’s been steadily rising in popularity over the last decade with movements like Veganuary, converting more and more of us to an animal product-free lifestyle.
With the boom of vegans around the world, we find we are being asked questions such as ‘is wine vegan?’, ‘is all wine vegan?’, Or ‘how do I know if wine is vegan-friendly’ more often.
So, we thought it was about time to clue you in on the world of vegan wines, how to spot them, and what makes them vegan because there are some really special tipples that you might be missing out on.
Is All Wine Vegan?
You might be surprised to learn that many wines aren’t vegan-friendly. Logically, it makes sense to think that all wines are vegan. It is just fermented grape juice right? Unfortunately not.
Many of your favorite wines may have a small amount of a variety of animal-based products. Which automatically scrubs them off the safe list for those following a vegan diet, even if you don’t find any mention of them on the wine label (more about that later).
I bet you’re wondering why random animal products are making it into your wine. Follow me.
Fining Wine…Not Fine Wine
When you crack open a beautiful bottle of wine the last thing you want to be accosted with as you take your first sip is a gritty texture. It is not the kind of sign that indicates you have a good bottle of red on your hands.
That’s where the fining part of the winemaking process comes in.
This important part of creating a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon or Riesling involves using a ‘fining agent’ to remove any naturally occurring sediment molecules. Fining creates the crystal clear and smooth beverage you’re used to.
Now, before you think this is a filtration type deal, it’s not. Fining agents actually act like a little sponge. Sucking up all those imperfect additions to your wine that could make it cloudy and murky in appearance.
Traditional fining agents tend to be animal-based. Although these fining agents are filtered out at a later stage of the process, trace amounts of them are still detectable. So, naturally, this is what makes many wines unsuitable for our vegan pals.
Some traditional fining agents that many wine crafters still use include:
- Casein (a milk protein)
- Albumin (egg whites)
- Gelatin (A gelatinous protein usually derived from the bones of cows and pigs)
- Isinglass (Protein from fish bladder)
All of these animal by-products act as the perfect little sponge for the wine fining process but with the rise of vegan demand in all areas of the food and drink industry our winemakers have had to become incredibly innovative to include the vegan community.
So, How Do They Make Wine Vegan-Friendly?
Right now, there are two ways that winemakers can craft a vegan-friendly wine.
Firstly, by choosing not to fine their wines in the first place. By not using a fining agent they remove the animal product from the wine entirely and create one less step in the wine-making process. The only difference between a wine that has been fined and a wine that hasn’t is its appearance.
A wine that hasn’t been through the fining process may have a cloudier appearance. However, it still goes through a filtration process so most detectable sediment is removed and the wine palate isn’t affected at all. So, it will taste the same as a wine that has used these fining products.
The second option for winemakers is to use a vegan-friendly fining agent. Some popular fining agents suitable for vegans include activated charcoal, pea protein, and bentonite, a type of purifying clay.
What Else Makes Wine Vegan?
There are a couple of other things to keep in mind that may make a wine vegan or not and surprisingly it has nothing to do with the wine itself.
Beeswax is a common product that is used to seal the mouth of the wine bottle. Now, we know animal derived products from bees can be a bit of a debatable subject when it comes to some vegans but for those who abstain from honey and beeswax-based products, it’s important to know the mouth of your bottle may be sealed with it.
The cork is another part of the bottle you’ll want to keep a close eye on as a vegan. Many wine companies use agglomerated corks. It’s a fancy term but it basically refers to corks that use milk-based glues in their composition.
It may not be of massive concern to some vegans but it’s definitely something to be aware of if you are trying to branch out into more vegan-friendly and animal cruelty-free wines.
What Wines Are Vegan?
This is where it can get a little tricky because it’s not actually a requirement for wine companies to have to state whether their wines have used an animal-based fining agent or not. In today’s very careful society it seems a little odd but because only small amounts of the mining agent are detectable in the final product, legal bodies like the FDA haven’t posed any regulations around listing fining agents on wine labels.
Check out the wine label on that bottle of red in your wine rack if you don’t believe us.
It’s even rarer to find wine labels that explicitly let you know they’re vegan with a ‘vegan-friendly’ label unless they are specifically marketing to our vegan friends. Not always, but typically if it has terms like organic and biodynamic on the label, there is a good chance the wine is vegan
However, smaller retailers are becoming more helpful when it comes to finding vegan wines without having to traverse the entire country.
MYSA’s store is a great example, as we have a filter for if a wine is vegan or not!
From white wines to red wines, and any other wine you can think of, we know we have one that will suit your palate and your dietary requirements.