Q: I’m hearing a lot about vegan/vegetarian wines these days, but what does that mean?
A: Surprise! Not all wine is vegan or vegetarian-friendly. This can be a little confusing because, as many of us know, wine is made from grapes and yeast. Sounds pretty vegan-friendly, right? The trouble for vegetarians and vegans mostly has to do with how a wine is clarified and stabilized in a process called “fining”, which can include animal ingredients.
All newly-made wines are hazy and contain molecules like tartrates, proteins etc. that will stabilize over time. They’re not harmful but wine drinkers usually like to buy wines that are clear and bright- so fining agents have been used to speed up the process.
Traditionally, the most commonly used fining agents were casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein) and isinglass (fish bladder protein). That said, many winemakers are now using clay or charcoal-based fining agents which are vegan-friendly. Also, as we see interest in more natural winemaking methods (including self-stabilization with time) vegans will find more wines that work for them.
Want to learn more about vegan wines? Check out Canadian company VegeCert or the online community Barnivore to find information about vagan producers. For a very in-depth look at what makes a wine vegan or not, check out this post on Wine Align. Finally, stay tuned for updated product listings on our site over the next few months as we work hard to update vintages and farming methods plus indicate if a wine is vegan-friendly and more.
-Jenny Gammon, certified sommelier with Bishop’s Cellar and failed vegetarian. Owner of several well-loved vegan cookbooks.
Do you have questions about wine, beer or spirits that you’d like us to answer? Send your questions to [email protected] to be featured in a future segment!