What is vegan wine?

Surely, wine is vegan friendly because it’s made from grapes? 

Given wine is made from grapes you'd be forgiven for thinking it'd be vegan, but sometimes there are additions to the grape juice during the winemaking process that makes them non-vegan.

To help you navigate the wine world if you’re vegan, Amy Miller, co-creator of Vineful, Australia’s first mindful wine service, gives us the low down on what exactly vegan wine is and how to find it.

Why are some wines non-vegan?

Although it’s hard to imagine how an animal product is used in wine, Amy reveals that it’s quite common amongst winemakers.

“When a wine is first made, it looks nothing like the crystal clear whites and deep reds you find on the shelf at your local bottle shop,” Amy explains. “A young wine is much more unrefined and contains bits called 'floaters' in it, and can appear cloudy.”

While Amy says these particles aren’t harmful, it makes the wine look less appealing. “To remove the cloudiness and the floaters, winemakers introduce fining agents, which are like magnets and attract the molecules,” she explains. “The molecules coagulate around the fining agents and are easier to remove.”
This is where the animal product comes in. “The most common fining agents in winemaking are casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein from boiling animal parts), chitin (fibre from crustacean shells), blood and bone marrow and isinglass (fish bladder protein). In other words, exactly the things that you are trying to avoid if you are vegan,” she adds.

How to identify vegan wine

If you’ve chosen to follow the vegan way of life and are wanting to eradicate animal products from your diet you can still enjoy a drop of wine, you just have to do a bit more detective work.

Amy recommends looking out for disclaimers on wine bottles that say things like, ‘may contain traces of egg whites or fish products’.

The good news is there are vegan-friendly fining agents that can be used instead. “Many of these alternate fining agents are earth based such as clay (bentonite), limestone and silica gel. Activated charcoal can also be used as well as plant casein and vegetable plaques,” Amy explains.

Natural wines are normally vegan-friendly wines

Another easy way to enjoy animal-friendly wines is to consider natural wines, Amy suggests. “Natural winemaking processes leave the wine unfiltered, which means all that cloudiness and sediment we talked about is left to self-stabilise,” she tells. “So, if you’re searching for a vegan-friendly wine and you come across a naturally produced wine, it’s usually a safe bet and some of these wines may specify that it’s ‘not fined and or not filtered’ on the label.”

For more information on natural and animal-friendly wine, visit Vineful. Vineful scours Australia and the world to curate the most ‘mindful wines’ on the market, which are wines that have been made with the consumer’s lifestyle and the environment in mind, such as organic, preservative-free, vegan and biodynamic wines. Vineful even plants a tree for every wine box sold to help support the environment and future generations to come.

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