Vegan wines are wines produced without the use of any products of animal origin. They are rapidly gaining in popularity and becoming a common option in many wine shops and restaurants. Many wine-lovers are of the impression that wine is a simple result of the meeting of grape must and yeast, which at first glance seems to be a process free of animal products. However, the reality is different. In fact, although most wines are now suitable for vegetarians, the same cannot be said for vegans looking to enjoy a glass.
The main issue for vegans when it comes to choosing a wine are the fining agents used to clarify the wines. These agents are used to eliminate the tiny solid particles floating in the wine after fermentation so as to produce a clear, transparent and longer-lasting wine. Traditional fining agents were of animal origin such as egg whites, gelatine obtained from fish, or casein proteins found in cows’ milk.
These traditional agents, used for centuries, are being replaced by mineral or vegetable-based products such as a kind of clay called bentonite or proteins extracted from wheat or peas. Some oenologists and wineries have simply decided to allow wines time to clarify naturally as their particles settle to the bottom.
Other animal products which may be used in some wines include beeswax to seal bottles, or milk-based binding agents in some agglomerated corks. Having said that, as more and more people are becoming vegan, so are wines. There is now a wide range of wines bearing the vegan-friendly label which confirms no animal products have been used in their production. In a not-too-distant future, it is to be hoped that European Union and US food directives will take the step to force wineries to list all their fining agents on the wine label too to dispel any doubts about their suitability for vegans.
Vegan wine labels
The private body the European Vegetarian Union is the private body in charge of certifying whether a wine is vegan. If a wine bears their logo on its label, it is a guarantee that no animal products have been used in its production and that it is either a natural non-clarified wine or that any fining agents used are mineral or vegetable-based ones.
It is quite common to see wines labelled as both organic and vegan since veganism often goes hand in hand with environmental awareness. However, not all vegan wines are organic ones – they are two different categories of wine, each with its own criteria to fulfil.