There is much confusion about vegetarian and vegan wines and we would like to help clear up the uncertainty with this short article.
Wines are made from grapes right? How can grapes not be vegan? All perfectly logical so far, however, the average wine drinker likes a clear wine without any cloudiness or additional tartrate crystals which can build up as part of the malolactic fermentation process. To prevent this, winemakers use proteins to filter these residues from the wine to produce a clear, bright and visually vibrant drink. This is referred to as the “fining” process.
Now here’s the rub. The most common materials used to achieve this are egg protein, casein (a milk protein) or Isinglass ( a fish bladder protein). All of which help to give you a clear, lively & bright wine.
Luckily other agents are available so the “fining” process can be achieved and vegan or vegetarian status can also be maintained. Bentonite is a product derived from Volcanic ash which can be used although it is very strong and can destroy flavour development so must be used carefully.
Charcoal is another permitted option (in white wines only) and although very neutral can also remove flavour due to it’s exceptional filtering properties.
Of course we could leave wines unfined. There is a growing amount of “natural” wine available which follows this route. The main issues that are associated with an unfined wine are that in addition to the cloudiness and other visual impediments, there stands a risk of flavours and odours developing which the consumer may not appreciate. There is also a higher amount of residue which lowers yield thus making the wine more expensive.
How do you know if a wine is vegan/vegetarian?
Sadly not every winemaker shouts about this. Perhaps there is a fear that the consumer who cares less about the agents used and more about the flavour thinks the wine will not be as good. In our experience this argument does not hold as many award winning wines can also be vegan/vegetarian.
Look on the label and you may see a vegan/vegetarian label or symbol. Look also for “unfiltered” or “unfined” as this means that dairy or animal products will not have been used.
Or of course ask us!
We hope that the above guide will help you when choosing wines. Furthermore, we have prepared a list below of the wines that we sell which have either vegan or vegetarian status.