Why is wine not always vegan? | Totally Vegan Buzz

Why is wine not always vegan?

Why is wine not always vegan
Wine in Vineyard via Unsplash

After taking the plunge into a vegan lifestyle, many people are shocked to discover that wine isn’t always vegan. 

Wine is made from grapes, grapes are plants, plants are vegan, therefore wine is vegan – simple as that, right? Unfortunately not.

Early in the winemaking process, young wines are cloudy as they are full of unwanted substances. 

To be prepared for consumption, the liquid is filtered through ‘fining agents’ which remove proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics to make the wine bright and clear. 

Though the process can be successfully completed using vegan fining agents, many winemakers use animal products such as blood and bone marrow, casein, chitin, egg albumen, fish oil, gelatin or isinglass.

So while wine should never actually contains animal products once it is on the shelves –  the liquid is simply passed through fining agents which act as magnets to attract the unwanted substance – many winemakers rely on the animal derivatives to make their wine, therefore their products are not considered vegan.  

Is red wine vegan?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what variety of wine you’re after. Whether it’s red wine, white wine, rosé, prosecco or Champagne, all are often made using animal products as their fining agents. 

Can vegans drink wine?

Thankfully, as the number of vegans skyrockets, plant-based fining agents are being more frequently used by wine companies. 

Vegan alternatives to the plant-based substances include carbon, bentonite clay, limestone, kaolin clay, plant casein, silica gel and vegetable plaques.

In addition, wine naturally ‘fines’ itself and becomes clearer over time and some winemakers simply allow nature to take its course. These wines are usually labelled as ‘not fined/not filtered/unfiltered’, and are therefore usually vegan. 

Certified

Some wines include an ingredients list on the bottle, but this is not compulsory in many countries, including the UK, EU and US.

Many vegan wines will display a vegan certified logo, meaning the product has been vetted to ensure no animal products are used. 

Vegans should also be careful that their chosen wine does not use beeswax to seal bottles, or agglomerated corks which contain milk-based glues. Any vegan certified wines will have been tested to ensure these have not been used.

Vegan wine guide

Some vegan wines have not been officially certified as vegan, but they may still not use any animal products. 

An alternative is looking up a specific brand and bottle online to check its ingredients. 

For vegans who are out-and-about and wondering if a bottle is vegan or not, barnivore.com/wine has a pretty comprehensive list of common wines, explaining whether or not they use animal products. 

Many supermarket own-brand wines in the UK are now vegan and feature the vegan certification logo, while some websites can be filtered to only include vegan wines. 

Waitrose, for example, has more than 500 vegan certified wines, while Aldi has more than 30 vegan own-brand wine options.

Online wine orders

Many online wine companies will label their vegan options or have vegan pages. Virgin Wine, for example, has 230 vegan varieties of white wine, red wine, rosé, prosecco and Champagne. 

Alternatively, vegan wine-lovers can seek brands which specialise in natural winemaking methods and avoid using fining agents altogether. 

Buon Vino, for example, specialises in organic wine and allows shoppers to filter to include only vegan wines

Do you have any difficulty buying vegan wines? Share your experiences in the comments section below!

Published by Oli Gross

Oli Gross is a writer and editor at Totally Vegan Buzz. His background is in local newspaper and magazine journalism, and his work has included reporting court cases, celebrity interviews, business analysis, food and drink features and government legislation. Oli’s career and personal ethical values both help shape his reporting of the diverse world of veganism. At Totally Vegan Buzz he specialises in breaking news and features on animal rights activism. Follow him on Twitter @Oli_Gross12

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