Can Vegans Drink Wine?
Veganism is becoming increasingly popular, and there are more options than ever available that contain no animal products thanks to this rise in demand.
Wine is no exception - there are vegan options available whether you’re a dedicated vegan, vegetarian, or you’re just making positive changes to your lifestyle.
But what makes wine non-vegan? Keep reading to learn more about vegan wine, including what makes a wine non-vegan and where you can find wine suitable for vegans.
Is All Wine Vegan?
You’d think that wine is suitable for vegans - after all, it’s just fermented grapes, right?
Well, you may be surprised to learn that most wines contain animal products or animal-product residue - but you can still find wines suitable for vegans.
Vegan wine is made the same way as regular wines, with small exceptions happening during the fining process.
You’ve probably tasted vegan wine without even reading it - it tastes the same as non-vegan wine.There are more wine options available for vegans than ever in 2021, with vegan options being sold in bars and supermarkets all around the world. This is to meet the demand, as more people are opting for a vegan lifestyle.
According to The Vegan Society, there were only around 150,000 vegans in the UK in 2014, but this number rose to a huge 600,000 in 2019 and is probably even higher in 2021.
Animal products may not be listed on the wine labels - this is because the majority (if not all) of the animal product is either evaporated or filtered out during the fining process.
The agents used (which contain the animal products) aren’t technically an ingredient, so many manufacturers will leave them off the label.
Unfined wine is a type of wine that hasn’t gone through a fining process. This is a more natural option that some wine-lovers prefer to more commercial wines you’ll find on the shelves of supermarkets.
Unfined wine is almost always vegan - it hasn’t been through a fining process which is where a wine usually stops being vegan. Many people actually prefer unfined wine, as it retains the natural flavours and textures.
However, others don’t like it as much as fined wine as it can appear cloudy and save sediment floating in it.
Allowing the wine to fine naturally can elongate the winemaking process, as instead of fining the wine, the vintner has to let gravity do the job
This takes years of sitting in barrels for the wine to become clear enough for consumption.
What Makes Wine Non-Vegan?
A wine turns non-vegan during the fining process. First of all, the wine gets fermented.
Fermentation is where the natural sugars of the grapes get converted into alcohol - the grapes sit in a fermentation tank and grows yeast, reacting to create the key ingredient, alcohol.
The next stage of the winemaking process is the wine fining. The fermentation process can leave the wine looking cloudy with sediment floating around, which is completely natural.
However, most people prefer a clearer, smoother wine - which is why wine is put through the fining process.
The fining process helps to stabilize the wine and clear out any excess sediment. Wine that hasn’t been fined doesn’t typically have the fresh, clear look we know and love.
The fining process can also get rid of any unwanted tastes, aromas, and textures. Sometimes yeast and proteins can remain in the wine, and fining helps to get rid of this.
So, the exact moment a wine becomes unsuitable for vegans is the moment where fining agents are used.
Fining agents are essential to the fining process, but unfortunately, most wines use animal products as fining agents.
Some ingredients commonly used as fining agents include blood, bone marrow, gelatin, casein (milk proteins), fish oil, fish bladder gelatin, egg whites, and chitin (from crustacean shells).
During the fining process, the fining agents get removed either by evaporation or filtration.
Although the agents are removed, the wine doesn’t class as vegan as animal products have been used in the winemaking process.
There may also be traces of the animal products left in the wine after it’s been filtered, so it’s best for vegans to steer clear.
The good news is that there are alternative to animal-product fining agents that are suitable for vegans, vegetarians, pescaterians, and anybody wanting to make positive changes.
Some examples of cruelty-free fining agent alternatives include pea gelatine, silica clay, silica gel, kaolin (a type of clay mineral), and kieselguhr (sedimentary rock).
Does Vegan Wine Taste Different?
Nobody should have to settle for a poor quality product just because they’re making cruelty-free choices - and the same goes for wine.
Thankfully, vegan wine tastes no different to regular wine. The animal products used in the fining process either evaporate or get filtered out, and they don’t contribute to the wine’s flavour in any way.
Chances are, you’ve already tried vegan wine without realising it - not all winemakers will advertise the fact they’re vegan on the label.
Vegan wine is made the same way, using the same grapes and ingredients - the only exception is the fining agents.
Instead of using animal products, many vintners will use natural, vegan alternatives which also contribute nothing to the overall taste of the wine.
However, you may notice a difference in taste and texture if you get unfined wine, which is also vegan.
Unfined wine tends to be cloudier as it hasn’t been fined, and you may notice small sediment floating in the wine.
However, if it’s left to sit long enough, gravity should separate the sediment for you.
Where Can I Find Vegan Wine?
It can be difficult figuring out which wines on the shelves of your favourite supermarket are suitable for vegans - especially as many vegan wines don’t advertise that they’re vegan on the label.
If you’re in doubt, you can always search the producer on the internet, as they make have a website that will clear up any doubt.
One of the best options is searching online. Plenty of online wine sellers will have vegan sections on their website with delicious options to choose from like us with our selection of vegan wine.
Another way of knowing if a wine is vegan or not is by looking out for the words ‘unfined’ or ‘unfiltered’.
This is wine that hasn’t gone through the fining process, and therefore hasn’t been in contact with any fining agents that contain animal products.
You can also ask for recommendations from people in the vegan community - whether you ask your vegan friends or ask a question in a Facebook group, you’re sure to get some excellent vegan wine recommendations.
There are more and more vegan wine options becoming available to cater for the rising number of vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, and flexitarians.
Being vegan shouldn’t mean you have to go without or settle for a low-quality substitute.