What Makes Vegan Wine Vegan?

What Makes Vegan Wine Vegan?

Today, around 5% of American adults consider themselves vegetarian. Many more are thinking about reducing animal product consumption. One such product is alcohol. Even though you may not think so, the wine-making process often involves using additives that contain animal-derived elements. Thankfully, not all alcohol, including wine, is created equal.

Is wine vegan? If it is vegan, what makes vegan wine vegan? Let's take a closer look.

Is Wine Vegan?

The short answer is: Not always.

Since the key ingredients in wine are grapes and yeast, many people assume that wine is vegan by default. That's not always the case. The wine-making process can involve several steps that bring unwanted animal-derived products into the picture.

The traditional process of making wine includes several stages:

  • Harvesting grapes
  • Pressing grapes
  • Adding yeast for fermentation (or waiting for natural fermentation to occur)
  • Maturation in barrels
  • Filtration
  • Stabilization
  • Bottling

The entire process of traditional wine-making can take many months or even years. One of the longest parts is filtration. Natural filtration happens when leftover yeast, grape particles, and other debris settle at the bottom of the barrel.

At the end of the process, you get a clear beverage. Wines can undergo either natural clarification or manmade filtration. 

While natural filtration is great, wineries want to sell their products faster. That's why they often speed up the process. One of the key ways to bring tasty wine to your table in just a couple of months is to expedite filtration.

That's where fining comes in.

Wine Fining Process

To speed up the filtration process, wine manufacturers add something called a "fining agent" to the vessel where the beverage is maturing. This agent helps remove the residue, leftover yeast, grape particles, and other substances that make wine "cloudy."

Fining agents work in different ways:

  • Attaching themselves to unwanted particles in the wine, causing them to settle on the bottom of the vessel faster.
  • Neutralizing the electric charge on the unwanted debris, causing them to fall to the bottom of the vessel quicker.

While it's possible to use minerals (e.g., bentonite clay) to fine the wine, many fining agents are animal-based. The most common animal-derived fining agents are:

  • Egg whites
  • Casein from milk
  • Gelatin from fish bladders

To fine the wine using eggs, the manufacturer mixes egg whites with salt and water and stirs them into the wine. The solution binds itself to the debris and causes it to sink to the bottom of the barrel.

Even though winemakers remove all the particles and debris from the wine before bottling it, some residue remains.

At this point, the wine stops being vegan. Not all wineries inform customers about the animal-based nature of their wines on the label.  

Not All Wines Are Vegan

While not all wines are vegan, vegan wine is certainly out there. Knowing why and how the wine strays from being vegan can help you avoid consuming animal-based products. Here is how to choose a vegan wine.

  • Read the label – while the majority of wineries that use animal-derived products for fining don't mention anything on the label, vegan-friendly wineries do. If your wine of choice is vegan, it's likely to have this written on the label.
  • Call the winery – when in doubt, call the winemaker. They can tell you more about the wine-making process they implement.
  • Ask the waiter – if you are in a restaurant, the waiter should have all the information about the wine they serve.

The simplest way to find out whether the wine is vegan is to check Barnivore. This resource has a full list of vegan-friendly wine manufacturers.

What Makes Some Wine Not Vegan?

If the manufacturer uses animal-derived products during the wine-making process, they end up creating non-vegan wine.  Some wineries use a combination of animal-based products for wine fining.

While using animal-based products for fining doesn't affect the quality of wine, it can make a difference for someone who is on a vegan diet. Knowing that animals had to die to speed up the winemaking process is something that may hinder the wine-drinking experience.

What Makes Vegan Wine Vegan?

To make vegan wine, wineries simply don't use any animal-based products. How do they remove the haziness?

  • Allow the wine to clear naturally by waiting for the particles to settle at the bottom of the barrel.
  • Use vegan-friendly minerals for fine fining

The common vegan-friendly fining agents are:

  • Bentonite – a special form of clay that can absorb small particles.
  • Pea proteins – act similarly to gelatin but may not provide the same results.
  • Activated charcoal – charcoal is a great absorbent that can attract unwanted particles and help them sink to the bottom faster.

Some wineries settle for bottling and selling cloudy wine. While cloudy wine isn't as aesthetically appealing as its clear counterpart, the quality and taste are exactly the same.

If you are looking for high-quality and environmentally-friendly vegan wine, Dry Farm Wines invites you to check out its organic collection. Our experienced wine collectors travel the world vetting all of our wines to ensure they are all vegan-friendly, low-sugar, and organic wines to ensure excellent taste and quality.

Become a club member and enhance your wine experience today!
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