Curious About Vegan Wine? Here’s What You Need to Know
When it comes to wine, the term “vegan” might not immediately come to mind. After all, wine is made from fermenting grapes, so how could it possibly not be vegan? While the wine itself is fruit-based, certain production techniques used in wineries can make a wine that is not suitable for vegans. The answer lies in the winemaking process, particularly in a step known as “fining.” If you’ve ever wondered what vegan wine is and why it matters, this comprehensive guide will shed light on the subject. From its production methods, why all the wine should (not) be vegan wine to label deciphering, let’s explore the world of vegan wine and its significance in a changing consumer landscape.
What is vegan wine?
Vegan wine is a type of wine that does not involve the use of animal-derived products or by-products during the winemaking process.
Before we delve into what vegan wine is in more detail, let’s explore the fining process.
Fining is a common winemaking technique used to clarify, stabilize the wine and remove unwanted particles like proteins, yeast, and other suspended organic substances.
During this process, fining agents are added to the wine, and they help to gather these particles together, making them easier to remove.
It’s important to note that with the growing popularity of vegan wines, many wineries are starting to label their wines as vegan to promote them.
What makes wine non-vegan?
Although wine is primarily made from pressed grapes (grape must), many winemakers still use animal substances in the process.
During the winemaking process, fermentation occurs, which is essential in converting the natural sugars found in grapes into alcohol. To achieve this, the fruit juice is placed in a fermentation tank where the yeast then triggers a reaction in the sugar, resulting in the production of wine.
However, this stage may cause molecules to appear in the wine, leading to a cloudy appearance. These molecules can be phenolics, tartrates, or tannins, especially in red wine. Despite this, these molecules are natural by-products of the winemaking process and are completely safe to consume.
However, to ensure that wine has a clear appearance, winemakers use fining agents to extract these molecules mainly because most wine consumers prefer clear wine without any cloudiness.
To achieve this clarity, wine is fined for clarification and stabilization.
During this process, a fining agent is added to the wine, which helps eliminate any cloudiness and reduces the tannins’ harshness. Over time, various fining agents are effective in this process.
Animal-based fining agents may include
- albumin (egg whites),
- gelatin (animal protein from boiling animal parts),
- casein (a protein derived from milk),
- chitin (fiber from crustacean shells) or
- isinglass (a protein from the fish bladder).
These substances help remove impurities and sediment, resulting in a visually clear and polished product. However, they also raise concerns for those adhering to vegan principles and are non-vegan wines.
Apart from fines, there are additional methods that may cause a wine to lose its vegan status.
For instance, some winemakers seal their wines using beeswax, and others use animal collagen-based adhesives to attach labels to the bottle.
Moreover, certain vegans object to the use of animal-derived manure or fertilizers, which would disqualify many biodynamic wines that commonly employ horse manure in their vineyards.
How is a vegan wine made?
To produce vegan wine, winemakers may allow the wine to settle naturally so the particles sink to the bottom, or they use non-animal alternatives like
- activated charcoal,
- bentonite clay,
- silica gel,
- plant-based proteins or
- vegetable plaques for fining purposes.
This process ensures that the wine remains free from any animal-related ingredients, making it suitable for vegans.
Furthermore, some winemakers choose not to fine their wines at all, embracing a more natural approach to winemaking.
How can you tell if a wine is vegan?
When shopping for wine, look for a certified vegan label on the bottle. This indicates that the winemaker has voluntarily sought vegan certification from a reputable organization and that the wine meets strict vegan criteria.
Certifications exist to help identify wines that are suitable for vegans. The V-Label trademark, which represents quality vegan and vegetarian products and services, is recognized by the European Vegetarian Union.
In the UK, the British Vegan Society, uses a sunflower as its trademark.
According to the regulations, products labeled with the Vegan V-label must not contain eggs, honey, milk and milk derivatives, animal wax, coloring, or auxiliary substances made from animal products.
Although winemakers don’t typically disclose the fining agents incorporated in their production process (such as clay, egg whites, or milk protein) on their wine labels, it’s possible to identify a vegan wine that hasn’t utilized any fining agents.
You can look out for the term “Unfined/Unfiltered” on wine bottles, as it indicates that the wine was made without the use of fining agents.
Additionally, they must not have been processed or clarified using animal products such as egg white or casein.
Are vegan wines healthier?
Vegan wines can be considered healthier compared to non-vegan wines. There are several reasons for this:
- Fewer chemicals: Vegan wines are produced without the use of animal-derived additives or fining agents, which are commonly found in conventional wines. The absence of animal-derived additives may reduce the risk of allergens or sensitivities associated with traditional winemaking techniques, making them more suitable for individuals with dietary restrictions or allergies.
- More antioxidants: Vegan wines are often made using organic practices, which means the grapes are grown without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides. This can result in higher antioxidant levels in the wine, as the grapes benefit from the natural defense mechanisms against environmental stressors.
- Lower sulfite content: Vegan wines are usually lower in sulfites compared to conventional wines. Sulfites are naturally occurring compounds that are created during fermentation, meaning that all wine contains some level of sulfites. However, some winemakers may add extra sulfites to preserve the wine’s freshness, prevent oxidation, and protect it from harmful bacteria and fungi. It’s important to note that high levels of sulfites can cause allergic reactions in certain individuals. Vegan winemakers tend to use fewer sulfites or avoid them altogether, making the wines potentially more suitable for people sensitive to sulfites.
- Resveratrol content: Resveratrol is a potent antioxidant found in grape skins. Red vegan wines, especially organic ones, tend to have higher levels of resveratrol, known for its potential health benefits, including its role as a potent antioxidant and its positive effects on heart health. Resveratrol is an effective antioxidant that can lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, and inflammation. It also has anti-aging properties and can benefit your body’s longevity.
- Environmentally friendly: Vegan winemaking practices often align with sustainable, eco-friendly and animal welfare principles, making them a better choice for those concerned about environmental impact.
It’s important to note that while vegan wines offer some potential health benefits, moderate consumption of any wine is key to maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
We delved deeply into the subject of wine and health, so make sure to read our article about ten benefits of drinking wine for your health.
Does vegan wine taste different?
No in terms of fining agents, as the choice on fining agents makes no difference in terms of organoleptic differences.
But yes, regarding winemaking methods, because vegan wines are typically organic and produced without additives, preservatives, or artificial ingredients, they often taste more vibrant, lively, with a fuller and richer flavor profile than non-vegan wines.
The flavor profile of wine is more significantly affected by factors such as the grape variety, management in the vineyard and cellar, and the terroir.
Are all-natural wines vegan?
Most natural wines are vegan-friendly, but not all vegan wines are natural wines. The reason for this is that the fining process that many wines go through can make them unsuitable for vegans.
Producing natural wines is made with minimal intervention and without the use of any additives, or animal-based fining agents or any fining agents at all, for that matter.
Natural wines are often unfined and unfiltered, which means they retain more of the natural sediment and cloudiness, but they are vegan-friendly.
Vegan winemakers have to follow strict standards when it comes to choosing their fining agents, but they still use them, although they differ from the ones used in conventional wines.
Conversely, natural wines generally avoid the use of fining agents altogether.
It’s best to look for wines that explicitly state they are vegan if you are looking for vegan-friendly options.
The future of vegan wine
The popularity of veganism and plant-based lifestyles shows no signs of slowing down, and the wine industry is taking notice.
As consumer demand for vegan wines grows, winemakers are likely to continue adapting their practices to meet this market trend.
We can expect to see more wineries switching to vegan-friendly production methods or introducing dedicated vegan wine lines.
Vegan wine brands
When it comes to finding the best vegan wine brands, several options are available to suit different tastes and preferences. Here are some popular vegan wine brands known for their quality and commitment to vegan winemaking practices:
- Avaline: Avaline is a well-known 100% vegan wine brand founded by actress Cameron Diaz and Katherine Power. They offer a range of vegan-friendly white, red, and rosé wines made from organic grapes without the use of animal-derived fining agents.
- Frey Vineyards: Frey Vineyards is one of the pioneers in organic and vegan winemaking. They have been producing vegan wines for decades, focusing on sustainable practices and delivering a wide variety of red, white, and sparkling wines.
- Lumos Wine: Lumos Wine is another reputable vegan wine brand that produces high-quality wines sourced from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They follow vegan-friendly winemaking methods and offer a diverse selection of wines, including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
- Bella Luna Winery: Bella Luna Winery is a vegan-friendly winery located in California. They produce wines from organic grapes, free from animal-derived ingredients, and with a focus on sustainability.
- Cooper’s Hawk Vineyards: Cooper’s Hawk is a winery that produces a selection of vegan-friendly wines. They have a diverse range of reds, whites, and rosés that cater to different palates.
- DAOU Vineyards: DAOU Vineyards is a California-based winery known for its high-quality wines. They offer several vegan options, including their Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
- Bellissima Prosecco: Bellissima Prosecco is a brand founded by supermodel Christie Brinkley. They produce vegan-friendly sparkling wines, including their Bellissima Prosecco Brut and Bellissima Zero Sugar.
These brands offer a variety of wines, including reds, whites, and sparkling wines, all made without the use of animal products. It’s essential to check the label or the winery’s website for confirmation that the wine is indeed vegan-friendly.
As the demand for vegan products grows, more wineries recognize the importance of offering vegan-friendly options.
In response to this trend, some wines are now labeled as “vegan-friendly” or “no animal products used,” making it easier for consumers to make informed choices.
Choosing vegan wine goes beyond a simple dietary preference; it reflects a broader commitment to ethical, environmental, and health considerations.
As a consumer, understanding what vegan wine entails and how to identify it empowers you to make conscious and informed choices that align with your values.
Valentina Silovic is an experienced sommelier and content creator with over a decade of expertise in the wine industry. She has worked in various settings, from luxurious hotels to cozy wine bars, and has explored the grandest wineries in Croatia, tasting and discussing an uncountable number of bottles along the way.
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