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Wine. It invokes images of lit fireplaces sitting in a cozy spot on your couch wearing your comfiest clothes on a winter day with a glass of wine.
Yet this image may be unachievable if you start thinking, "Is wine vegan?" I was curious if there was more in my wine than just fermented grapes.
If you're new to the vegan lifestyle, it may be surprising to learn that not all wine is vegan. Let's talk more about how this happens.
Wine can be vegan, but it depends on certain factors. While fermented grapes alone are vegan, sometimes, it goes through a fining process, which includes animal products. Lately, vegan alternatives have been introduced and have made wine more suitable for vegans. I'll discuss this further in this post.
The fining procedure for wine has ingredients that are not vegan.
Here's a quick look at the most common fining agents:
So I was wondering how these ingredients got into wine, and I learned it's because of the fining procedure. Every wine goes through this important winemaking step in order to get filtered wine.
The fining procedure is how wine gets clarified. Winemakers choose a fining agent (Like casein, the milk protein) to remove tiny molecules like proteins, yeast, cloudiness, and other organic particles. It's what makes wine clear and more drinkable.
The fining agents used are traditionally animal products that aid in filtering out unwanted molecules. It often leaves behind traces of these fining agents.
This process means that wine is not vegan. It may not even be vegetarian-friendly in some cases. Fining agents like with isinglass or gelatin are not suitable for vegetarians because it means fish or other animal particles are in your wine.
However, the wine itself is suitable for vegans. If the fining procedure could be redesigned to not include animal by-products, then wine could be drinkable for vegans.
Luckily, people are already discovering this winemaking path, and vegan alternatives are available for the fining procedure.
The vegan alternatives for the winemaking process include using clay-based fining agents like bentonite. It has the same results of removing proteins and other particles as the traditional fining process, but it doesn't use any animal ingredients.
Other popular vegan fining agents include:
Here are 3 ways I find out if a wine is vegan.
A few times, I've been lucky enough to find wines that say "not fined and/or not filtered." This means the winery chose to let the wine self-clarify instead of quickening the process with fining agents. A label like this will mean that the wine is vegan.
Another option is to check local organic or health food stores to see if they have any vegan wines. They may have done the research already and have some available.
The last way to tell if a wine is vegan is to do your own research into the wine brand. They may discuss their winemaking proceedings on their website.
Otherwise, I would try to steer away from any wines where you can't tell which fining procedure was used.
Also, winemakers aren't required to put an ingredient list on their wines. Even if they do put an ingredient list, it may or may not include the ingredients they used for the fining procedure. It makes it more difficult to find out if it is suitable for vegans.
Even though it may be difficult at first to determine if a wine is vegan-friendly, there are plenty of options out there.
Wines CAN be made without using animal products like gelatin or egg whites.
Let's take a look at some popular vegan wines:
Restaurants can be unsure if they serve vegan wine. You can't entirely blame them since it's hard to tell if wine is vegan with no ingredient list on a label.
I would try to find out the wine list before you go and do your own research to find their vegan wines. It's an extra step, but it's necessary if you want to avoid non-vegan wine.
Vegan wine does taste good. Using alternative plant-based ingredients as fining agents doesn't seem to negatively affect the taste at all. Of course, you also need to factor in the type of wine you are getting. It pays to get quality vegan wine.
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Is wine vegan? It depends. Although it may initially take some research to find a wine that uses vegan fining agents or doesn't use fining agents at all, vegan wines do exist.
As the plant-based lifestyle continues to grow, I predict that more wineries will drop animal products from their fining process to support animal rights. There are plenty of other natural alternatives to use instead.
If you want to read more, then check out our other blog posts to learn more about the vegan lifestyle.