If you’re curious about whether wine is vegan, you’re not alone. Today’s consumers are paying more attention to the ingredients in what they buy, especially in food and beverages. People want to know how things are made, where they come from, and what impact they have on the environment. The moral of the story? Product transparency matters. That’s why health-conscious products like vegan and organic wines have become more popular in recent years.
Interested in understanding what vegan wine is and how it’s made? This comprehensive guide has you covered.
Is All Wine Vegan?
Not all wines are vegan. In fact, most wines aren’t vegan—or even vegetarian. While the wine itself may be vegan, the processes used to make and bottle the wine often are not. When it comes to making vegan wine, it’s more about the methods used than the ingredients themselves.
So why are some wines not vegan? We’re glad you asked. One reason is that the term “vegan” is open to interpretation. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) don’t define the term or regulate whether products are labeled vegan or non-vegan.
Another reason why most wines aren’t vegan is due to the fining processes used to make them. Fining is a process that removes excess tannins to make wine less bitter and soften its taste. It removes impurities from the wine, improving its flavor, clarity, and brightness.
Traditional fining ingredients contain animal byproducts. Although the fining agents are filtered out of the wine itself before bottling, the fact that they’re used to make the wine prevents it from being vegan. These animal derivatives aren’t just used in the wine itself. They’re also used to make the corks and beeswax seals used for bottling.
What Makes Wine Not Vegan?
The animal-derived fining agents are what make wine not vegan. Here are a few examples:
Egg whites are just what they sound like: the whites of eggs. Since eggs come from chickens, they’re not vegan. Egg whites are added to wine barrels to remove harsh tannins. The positively charged egg whites latch onto the negatively charged tannins and land at the bottom of the barrel.
Casein is a protein found in animal milk. Since milk comes from cows and other animals, it’s not considered vegan. Casein is often added to white wine to enhance its clarity and remove oxidative taint.
Gelatin is also a protein, but instead of milk it’s found in animal bones and hides—which are neither vegan or vegetarian. Gelatin is used in winemaking to make red wines more supple and white wines appear brighter.
Isinglass is derived from the swim bladders of sturgeon and other fish. Just like animal bones and hides, fish bladders are not vegan or vegetarian. Isinglass removes solids and color from white wine to give it greater clarity.
Lastly, we have chitosan. Chitosan is a carbohydrate found in crustacean shells. It’s used in white wines to extract excess phenols and color.
What Is Vegan Wine?
No animal byproducts are used in the processing, clarification, or filtration of vegan wine. No bottling or packaging products—like wine corks and seals—contain animal byproducts either. Additionally, no animal testing was conducted in the production or distribution of the wine.
Since fining agents are typically what make wine non-vegan, here are some animal byproduct alternatives that are used in modern winemaking processes to ensure that wine is 100% vegan.
Vegan Fining Agents
PVPP is a man-made plastic that removes excess phenols and colors from white and Rosé wines. It is both vegetarian and vegan.
Bentonite is purified clay that binds protein colloids in white and rosé wines. It is also vegetarian and vegan.
Activated charcoal—also known as activated carbon—is a form of carbon that removes odors and excess color from the wine.
How to Tell if Wine Is Vegan
The best way to determine whether or not a wine is vegan is to check the label on the bottle. Unfortunately, most wine labels don’t specify whether the wine is vegan or include a list of fining agents used in the winemaking process. Since vegan labels aren’t regulated by the USDA or FDA, winemakers aren’t legally required to list certain ingredients used in the winemaking process. That’s why distinguishing a vegan wine from a non-vegan wine can be so difficult for the everyday consumer.
Since wine labels aren’t reliable, there are some other methods you can try to tell if a wine is vegan. You can try asking an employee at your local wine store or contacting the wine brand to find out if their wine is vegan.
How Vegan Wine Compares to Non-Vegan Wine
On average, vegan wine isn’t more expensive to make or produce than non-vegan wine. Just like non-vegan wines, vegan wines are available at a range of prices. Whether you’re looking for a cheaper or more expensive wine option, you can find what you need at most local wine shops.
Vegan wine tastes just as good as non-vegan wine. Since the fining agents are filtered out of the wine before it’s bottled, they don’t affect the taste. As a result, pairing vegan wine with your favorite sweet and savory foods isn’t difficult. We recommend pairing it just like you would non-vegan wine, according to its acidity, tannins, sweetness, and other characteristics.
With the number of health and environmentally-conscious wine lovers on the rise in today’s market, vegan wine is becoming more available by the bottle. The hard part isn’t finding vegan wine but being able to identify it. Labels can be confusing, and you can’t always trust a bottle that claims to be vegan, given the lack of federal regulation for vegan products.
Thankfully, money talks. As consumer demand for vegan wine increases, winemakers will be more incentivized to create transparent labels.
Vegan Wine Brands to Try at the Wine Cellar Group
As your dependable guides to vegan wines, we’ve compiled a list of premier vegan wine suggestions.
When you want to buy wine online, look no further than The Wine Cellar Group. Our Cellar Collection features boutique-style red, white, rosé, and sparkling wines from around the world. Whatever you need, we have it. Browse the collection today to find your favorite vegan bottles.