As strange or shocking as it may seem, wine can contain animal products. This can be frustrating for vegetarians and vegans as it is can be difficult to tell if a wine contains animal products or not.
So, let’s talk about what animal products are used in the winemaking process and why, and what you can do to avoid them.
In order to make wine, yeast is used to ferment crushed grapes. Fermented wine contains naturally occurring substances, such as small particles of proteins, tannins and tartrates. These are often removed in a process called ‘fining’.
Fining clarifies the wine by adding a fining agent that attracts any suspended solids. This lightly filters the wine and ensures that the wine is microbiologically stable.
Fining agents include gelatin, egg whites and special forms of clay and charcoal.
What wines are vegan?
Today many winemakers use activated charcoal and clay-based fining agents that are, of course, vegan friendly.
Some winemakers produce wine using natural winemaking methods, where wine is not fined or filtered. Instead, the wine is left to self-clarify and self-stabilize over time.
Usually, the wine label will mention if this is the case, e.g., ‘not fined and/or not filtered’.
It is also worth noting that not all wines are fined. Some mass-produced white wines, for example, are not fined. They are often filtered using a sheet filter to remove any particles.
Sheet filters work by passing the wine through a material that contains a series of very small holes that filter out larger particles.
Where can I find vegan or vegetarian wine?
The good news is that plant-based and vegan diets are more popular than ever and the food and drinks industry are reacting to this.
Many wines are now labelled as ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’. Organic supermarkets usually have wines that are both organic and vegan, but many mainstream supermarkets, including Aldi, now sell vegan-friendly wines.
If you live in the EU, you can look out for the V-Label, which is an internationally recognized symbol for labelling vegan and vegetarian services and products.
The V-Label acts as a guarantee so that consumers can be sure that a product is free of any animal-based ingredient, as this seal of quality is only awarded after an exhaustive series of tests and audits
If you are interested in natural wines in general, see our article on wines without sulfites.