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Going plant-based can be tough, and it’s even harder when you can’t drink your favourite wines.
As wines are made from grapes and yeast, many people believe that all wine is vegan - however, this isn’t always the case.
Whether you’re on a plant-based diet for health reasons, for moral reasons, or simply to try something new, it’s always beneficial to know what you can and can’t consume and why.
Keep reading to find out whether you can drink wine and other beverages on a plant-based diet, and what the benefits of plant-based wine are.
Wine is essentially fermented grapes, so you may assume that wine is okay to drink if you’re on a plant-based diet.
This is partly true - many wines are suitable if you’re vegan or plant-based. However, some wines contain animal products.
Let’s start at the fermentation process. Fermentation is the part of the winemaking process where yeast is added to the grapes, triggering a reaction in the naturally occurring sugars in the grapes.
This process has several outcomes - heat, bubbles, and most importantly, alcohol.
Fermentation is the key to making wine, but it can give the wine a hazy or cloudy appearance. Right after a wine has been fermented, it can have molecules floating around.
The molecules are often phenolics or tartrates, and sometimes tannins if it’s red wine.
The molecules are completely natural, and won’t harm you if you drink them - however, many people prefer a clearer, smoother wine.
Many vintners will only sell their wine if it’s crystal clear - which is why wine goes through the fining process.
The animal products get added during the fining process - fining agents are added to filter the wine and ensure that the wine is clear, fresh, and smooth.
It can also get rid of any unwanted textures, aromas, and flavours caused by the sediment. Many fining agents contain animal products - some ingredients may include:
Although the fining agents are removed once the wine has been fined, a trace of the animal product may remain, making it unsuitable if you only consume plant-based food and drink.
The good news is that there are options that don’t contain animal products. Some vintners will use pea gelatine instead, which is a suitable alternative. Some other alternatives include silica gel, silica clay, or kaolin (clay mineral).
More and more people are opting for a plant-based diet for a reason - it’s thought to be a lot better for your health and for the environment. Most plant-based wines are better if you're on a low carb diet too, which is always a bonus.
You may have heard through the grapevine that the occasional glass of red wine is good for you. This is partly true - as wine contains an antioxidant called resveratrol.
Resveratrol is an anti-ageing chemical that can protect you from cancer as well as lengthen your lifespan.
Organic wines typically contain higher levels of resveratrol - up to 32% more than your standard red wine.
Vegan and plant-based wines contain fewer sulphites. Sulphites (aka sulphur dioxide) are chemicals that can cause an allergic reaction, which can present itself in a rash, blotchy skin, and even stomach issues.
People with severe asthma may also want to steer clear of sulphites, as it can have dangerous effects.
If you ever get a headache after drinking a glass of wine, it’s probably due to high levels of sulphites.
Many vegan and plant-based wines are also organic, which reduces the number of chemicals used in the winemaking process.
Organic vintners don’t use artificial chemicals on their vineyards - so their herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers are all-natural.
Nothing artificial is added to the wine during the filtration process, so organic and plant-based wine is far less likely to cause you health problems if you drink it in moderation.
One of the main reasons that people opt for plant-based and vegan options is because it’s better for the environment.
Chemicals used in vineyards can damage the soil and prevent crops from growing in the future, as well as affecting the nearby wildlife and water supplies.
The animal farming industry is also very harmful to the environment, but on a much larger scale.
It’s one of the leading causes of global warming, and one of the biggest polluters on the planet, producing more waste than any other industry.
An exceptional amount of energy is required to feed, transport, store and maintain livestock, and thousands of acres of our forests are cut down to accommodate the demand for space.
Our forests absorb greenhouse gases, so deforestation is heating up our planet.
Another key reason that people opt for a plant-based diet is to prevent animal cruelty.
Making positive changes, whether it be going completely plant-based or simply enjoying a plant-based wine can reduce the demand for animal products.
Lower demand for animal products means that fewer animals are suffering in slaughterhouses and farms.
In the UK, over a billion animals are bred and killed for food per year - and most of these animals will spend their lives cooped up in cages, and many will be killed before they reach two months old.
Adopting a plant-based diet for one month will save around 30 animals. Animals will suffer simply to ensure that wine is clear - the egg whites used in the fining process will most likely come from a chicken that has never seen sunlight, or gelatin and bone marrow will come from livestock that has suffered.
It’s not just wine that you need to watch out for when choosing an alcoholic beverage while on a plant-based diet.
Keep reading to find out whether beer and spirits are vegan.
Contrary to popular belief, not all beer is vegan or plant-based. If you have a plant-based diet, it’s important that you’re careful when choosing your alcohol of choice.
Similar to wine, animal products get added during the fining process. Products such as gelatin or isinglass will be used to ensure the beer is smooth and clear, instead of cloudy.
However, many beers are vegan - some brewers will use moss as a fining agent, which is perfect for those who have an entirely plant-based diet.
Some brewers will add honey to their beer, which can also make the beer non-plant-based.
Many brewers won’t advertise their plant-based beers as plant-based, so if you’re unsure, always check the ingredients or ask other people who have a plant-based diet what their go-to beer brand is.
The majority of spirits are suitable if you have a plant-based diet. However, cream-based liqueurs are unsuitable, as they typically contain animal products unless stated otherwise.
Some spirits will also use honey - usually types of whiskey, rums, or liqueurs, and honey can make an alcohol non-plant-based.
Another alcoholic drink to watch out for is Campari. Campari contains an ingredient called cochineal, which is a red dye made using dried female insects. Cocktails may also contain animal products, usually in tiny amounts.
The Vegan Society confirmed that pretty much all brands of hard liquor are plant-based, and use vegan processing to ensure that spirits are inclusive for everybody.