What is vegan wine?

The question is being asked more frequently than ever before, according to winemakers, retailers and even those from outside the wine industry, such as journalists, many of whom are being asked to account for a definition of vegan wine.

The latest magazine to publish a story on vegan wine in New Zealand is Good magazine, whose editor, Carolyn Enting, asked me to write a piece called Vegan Vino for the next issue. It’s a modest sized story of 500 words, which provides a readable and, hopefully, succinct snapshot to answer the question.

To read this piece in Good, look out for the magazine in stores in September.

In the meantime, here is an explanation on what vegan wine is – and isn’t.

Vegan wine facts

How and why do animals have a part in the winemaking process?

  • Wine is a vegetarian and vegan friendly product as it is made from grapes
  • Most wine goes through a process called fining to remove small particles
  • The most effective way to fine a way is to use a high protein product
  • Vegetarian products are increasingly used, such as potatoes and peas
  • Bentonite is a type of clay, which is also used to fine wine
  • Traditionally some animal products have been used, such as egg whites to remove particles from high quality red wines
  • Fish bladders, gelatin and milk based casein are also used to fine wine
  • Dried blood was historically used but has now been outlawed in the EU

Are all wines fined with animal products?

No.

Not all wines are fined either.

There is a growing trend in some wine styles to bottle them without fining. Some of these wines can appear cloudy and have been intentionally made this way.

 

How can I know if a wine is vegan friendly?

  • Buy specific brands that make vegan friendly wines. This requires research
  • All Yalumba wines are vegan friendly
  • Some wines from these producers are vegan friendly: Akarua, Astrolabe, Blackenbrook, Brightside and Leconfield wines, which stipulates on its label which wines are vegan friendly
  • The United Kingdom’s shopping chain, Marks & Spencer, has its own range of wines, 70% of which are now clearly labelled as vegan friendly.
  • Any wine that says it is unfined will contain no animal products in the wine itself and therefore ticks the vegan friendly box.

The irony is…

  • Organically certified and biodynamically certified wines are, ironically, the most planet-friendly, in terms of their production processes – and they may contain tiny traces of products such as egg whites in some wines.
  • Vegan friendly wine is not necessarily made from organically certified or (even better) biodynamically certified grapes.
  • This means that non vegan friendly wine may have a lower carbon footprint and may be made in ways that have a lower impact on the environment.

Fast moving consumable packaging compromises

There is no guarantee that every aspect of a wine’s production is vegan friendly because, like all fast moving consumable products that human beings consume, a product’s packaging could contain glue and other animal derived products in its packaging.

This is not only related to wine but to all food and drinks products as well as anything we purchase that comes with wrapping and labelling.

 

Processing agents rather than additives

  • Animal based fining agents are not used in wine as additives
  • They are used in miniscule amounts as processing agents
  • This means they are always removed but it is impossible to guarantee that miniscule traces don’t remain.

Find out more about vegan wines at veganwines.com

 

  • I work as a writer and part-time wine adviser for Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington, New Zealand. I am a trained journalist and have frequently been asked for vegan wine recommendations. In my work in fine wine retail, I am increasingly being asked not only for recommendations but also for an explanation of vegan wine.