Is Pinot Grigio Vegan?
More and more people are opting for a vegan diet. A vegan diet has numerous benefits, from improved health to animal rights and saving the environment.
However, a vegan diet can be challenging at the best of times, and it’s even more difficult if you can’t enjoy a glass of your favourite Pinot Grigio.
Is Pinot Grigio suitable for vegans? Keep reading to find out whether you can drink Pinot Grigio on a vegan diet, and how you can identify vegan wines.
What Is Pinot Grigio?
Pinot Grigio is a light-bodied crisp and dry wine with aromas of citrus, pear, green apple, and honey.
The wine originated from the French Pinot Gris grape, which made its way over to Northern Italy over the years.
Wine made from the grapes in that region has always been called Pinot Grigio, and it quickly became the largest producer of Pinot Grigio wine in the world.
The grape is grown in vineyards in the North East regions of Lombardy, Friuli, and the Veneto.
It’s then made into the delicious Pinot Grigio we know and love, and imported all around the globe.
There’s often confusion between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio - although Pinot Grigio comes from the Pinot grape family and originated from the Pinot Gris grape, it has some distinct differences.
The different growing conditions in France and Italy create a different taste - with Pinot Gris being sweeter, and Pinot Grigio being drier and crisper.
To achieve the dry and crisp taste we expect from Pinot Grigio, vintners will harvest the grapes from the vine early when they still have fresh acidity.
If the grapes were harvested any later, the grapes would be sweeter and look very different, resulting in a sugary wine.
Pinot Grigio grapes are often greyish blue when harvested, which is where they get their name - Grigio grey in Italian, and Gris means grey in French.
However, when left on the vine, the grapes will turn a pinkish colour.
Pinot Grigio’s signature ‘zing’ comes from the fermentation process. Instead of barrels, it is fermented in stainless steel tanks to produce a clean and crisp taste.
Barrels can be more expensive to maintain, and can result in a vanilla-like aroma, and a heavier taste.
Is Pinot Grigio Vegan?
Most people would assume that all wine is vegan - after all, it’s made from grapes and yeast. However, during the fining process, fining agents are used that often consist of animal products.
When a wine ferments, the natural sugars of the grapes get consumed by yeast to produce alcohol.
However, fermentation turns the wine cloudy and causes sediment to float in the wine.
This is a natural part of the winemaking process, and wine that hasn’t been fined is safe to consume, but many people prefer their Pinot Grigio crisp and clear.
This is why many vintners will choose to put the wine through the fining process.
It’s a way of stabilising the wine and ensuring that it’s clear of excess sediment, giving it the clear look we expect in Pinot Grigio.
Fining the wine also gets rid of any unwanted flavours or aromas from the fermentation process, such as excess yeast or proteins.
Fining agents are also useful in brightening the wine, ensuring that it’s not hazy. It can also remove harsh tannins, and correct any faults in the wine such as oxidation.
Oxidation can cause the wine to age quicker, and give it an unpleasant acidic or bitter taste.
When a vintner fines a wine, they filter the wine through fining agents.
This is the part where Pinot Grigio and other wines usually become unsuitable for vegans, as animal products are often used as fining agents.
Some examples of non-vegan ingredients in fining agents include:
- Bone marrow
- Isinglass (fish bladder gelatin)
- Fish oil
- Casein (milk proteins)
- Egg whites
Although the fining agents are removed after the fining process (either filtered out or evaporated), the end product will still be non-vegan, as the wine has been in contact with animal products.
Some fining agents used are suitable for vegetarians, but not for vegans - for example, egg whites and casein.
The good news is that there are cruelty-free, vegan fining agents that can be used to fine the wine. These can include silica gel, silica clay, pea gelatine, kaolin, or kieselguhr.
Cloudy wine is completely natural, so some vintners will choose to leave their wine unfined.
In fact, many people prefer wine that hasn’t been fined, as it’s a more natural option that is full of natural flavours and textures.
The only downside to unfined wine is that it takes longer to clarify naturally, as vintners have to wait for gravity to pull the sediment to the bottom of the tank.
How Can You Spot A Vegan Pinot Grigio?
Vegan wines can be difficult to spot in the supermarket, and Pinot Grigio is no exception.
This is because wine producers aren’t legally required to state which fining agents they used on the label.
Many wine producers will sell vegan wine without advertising it on the label, but unless it states that it is suitable for vegans, or lists what fining agents it’s used, you can’t be too sure.
You may think that looking for organic wines will help you to identify vegan wines, but this isn’t the case - many organic wines will still have used animal products in the fining process.
However, wine that hasn’t been fined won’t have been in contact with animal products, so if you’re uncertain, you can always purchase an unfiltered Pinot Grigio.
The head of public affairs at Euroveg (the European Vegetarian Union) said that “We don’t have an EU-wide definition for what criteria make something suitable as vegan or vegetarian food.”
This means that there is no agreed definition of what exactly classifies as a vegan product - making it confusing for vegans to know which wine is suitable.
More and more wine producers are adding a v-label onto their wines so people can identify that it’s vegetarian - but this is only good news for vegetarians.
Wines that have a v-label could still have been in contact with animal products such as egg whites or milk proteins.
The good news is that many of the main supermarkets in the UK have vegan sections, making it easy to find suitable vegan products, including vegan Pinot Grigio.
Although it can be difficult to know which Pinot Grigio is vegan in stores, it’s easier to find out online.
A quick search online will bring up many results for vegan wine, and wine that is suitable for vegetarians and pescatarians, and those looking for plant-based wines.
If you’re still uncertain, a good option is to ask fellow vegans what their favourite vegan Pinot Grigio is.
There are countless vegan groups on Facebook and plenty of forums that will have useful tips and tricks for finding vegan wine, so it’s worth a try asking the vegan community.
ThinK Wine Group offers vegan wine options which can be purchased online and in selected venues.
Whether you’re after vegan Rose or vegan prosecco, ThinK wine can provide you with quality and delicious vegan wine options.