The Truth About Wine

Blank Wine Bottle.jpg

If you love wine,

and you’re either vegan or even veg-curious, don’t worry, this article is not going to ruin wine for you.

It is however, going to inform you of a practice that not many people know about – even non-vegans – and make you think twice when you’re perusing the wine aisle at your local grocer.

Wine is a unique elixir

known in history for its consumption in romantic settings, as a war time peace offering, a means of enjoyment in celebration, a sorrow-fueled therapist, an inhibition liberator, a food pairing complement, a welcoming gift, a sommelier’s muse, a cooking agent, and a simple beverage option amongst many.

Whether you drink wine or not, you’ve likely come into contact with it in some capacity.

You may have learned that it’s a complicated process to make (but not as complicated to drink).

On the contrary, you may have no clue how intricate it is to create this adult grape juice so many of us enjoy.

I’ll cut to the chase and tell you: some wine is vegan, some is not.

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My reaction when I first found out: “Whaaaaat!?  What the hell does wine have to do with animal products?  Isn’t it just fermented grapes?”

Well, yes and no, past self.

Here’s why:

  1. To regulate the clarity of a wine, aka the clearness, winemakers often use animal by-products to fine or filter a wine
  2. Animal products have certain proteins in them that are attracted to the protein in wine, which makes it easier to remove proteins and yeast, thus altering the smell, taste, and color to the desire of the wine maker
  3. Animal products are also used to make a wine smoother as their properties can eliminate astringent tannins (the bitter taste that derives from grape skins)
  4. Because animal-derived products are used in the production of some wines, remnants may remain, making them unsuitable for vegans or people living with relevant allergies
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So, what are some animal products used to filter/fine wine?

  • Casein (milk protein)
  • Eggs (usually egg whites)
  • Isinglass (fish bladders)
  • Gelatine (derived from animal hooves)

Now where does that leave us?  How can we tell if a wine is vegan or not?

According to the Food Standards Code in Australia & New Zealand,

the General Food Law in the EU, and the FDA in the US, wine labels are required to declare any traces that may remain in their wine as some are severe allergens for some people.  Most wine brands typically print one of the following phrases on their labels to indicate usage of animal products in their production process:

  • “This wine has been fined using the traditional fining process using egg whites or milk. Traces may remain.”
  • “Fining agents: milk”
  • “This product may contain traces of the fining agents milk and egg whites.”
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When a wine is not made using animal products, you will usually see an indicator stating the wine is vegan/vegetarian friendly.  Something to note: organic wine does not mean vegan wine.  An organic wine means it has been created without the use of chemicals and is not mutually exclusive to being created without animal products.

Organic, vegan wine is pretty much the cream of the crop (no pun intended) – no chemicals, no animal products – and the least harmful version of wine for your consumption.

It is very possible to make wine using alternative fining agents.

If you’re keen to make your own vegan wine, you can use these instead of animal products:

  • Bentonite clay
  • Carbon
  • Limestone
  • Kaolin clay
  • Plant casein
  • Silica gel
  • Time

Wait, did you say, time?  Oh, yeah!  Some wineries out there are actually gravity-fed wineries, which means they let gravity do the filtering work for them.  How cool is that?

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Fortunately, creating vegan wines is more common in the industry than you think, so finding a wine suitable for a plant-based eater won’t be that difficult.  Here are some navigational tips for finding vegan wine:

1.     Use to search through a database of 40,000+ vegan wines to see if the wines your local grocer/liquor store is selling are animal-product-free

2.     Read wine labels and look for “Vegan Friendly” or “Suitable for Vegetarians and Vegans”

3.     If there isn’t a distinctly labeled section for vegan wines, check out the organic section first as those wine makers may lean more towards the ethically conscious-side in their production (tread carefully, though)

4.     Look for bottles with tags on them that say “vegan wine”

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Well, there you have it!  I’m not taking wine away from you at all; in fact, I’m doing just the opposite.  You can have your wine and drink it too, in this case!  Just read the label and then you’re off to the races.

Cheers!  Sláinte!  Prost!  Santé!  Salute!  Salud!  Kan-pie!  Na zdrowie!

Kelsey Powell1 Comment