Vegan wines? Isn’t wine already vegan - after all it is made from grapes?
Well, it’s a little bit more complicated than that! In the following blog, you’ll discover how a wine can be vegan or not!
I’ll look, in simple terms, at some of the processes involved in making wine, and then it will all become clear - hopefully!
Firstly, the grapes are picked from the vines, sorted, de-stemmed and crushed. The juice is then separated from the solid remains of the grapes, by pressing, either before fermentation (for white wine) or after fermentation (for rosé or red).
The fermentation turns the sugar in the grapes into alcohol, giving us wine.
This wine, however, is not the finished product. Before the wine is ready for sale, other processes take place. For example, most of us want a nice clear wine without any obvious ‘bits’ in (such as grape skin or dead yeast cells), so these are removed by various methods, such as racking (which lets the sediment fall to the bottom of the container, then the wine on top is pumped into a different container).
Another method for clarifying the wine, which is widely used, is fining - and it is this process which can make the wine either suitable for vegans or not.
Fining agents remove the haziness and any tiny bits of skin etc. that are suspended in the wine. Wine producers can choose from a range of fining agents, but they can be made from products of animal or mineral origin. The ones from animal origin are generally egg whites, casein (a protein from milk), gelatine or isinglass (from fish bladders) and obviously, these would not be acceptable in a vegan diet. There are alternatives which come from mineral sources like bentonite clay, or activated charcoal from carbon, amongst others. Filtration can also be used, either with or without the fining.
It can be argued that, as fining agents do not remain in the wine, but are removed with the tiny particles which they are designed to attract, they do not constitute an ingredient. This would make all wines vegan friendly!
However, it is true that the fining agents touch the wine, so vegans who want to avoid such wines need to know which are available to them. Unfortunately, many producers, especially in Europe, don’t label their wines as vegan friendly, so although many wines on the shelves are suitable for vegans, it can be hard to tell which!
With an increasing awareness of different lifestyles, it is getting easier to find wines to suit all sorts of criteria such as vegan friendly, low sulphite/sulphite free, organic and biodynamic. Naturally, if you are spending time to find the right wine for you, the chances are that you will get a better quality wine than one which is picked off the shelf without much thought. So raise a glass to something different!Cheers!