Vegan wines? A question that gets asked again and again - 'Why are wines not vegan?' Or 'How can wine be anything but vegan?' Surely wine is made from grapes...
We'll try and explain. As simply as possible.
The grapes are picked, sorted, de-stemmed and crushed. The juice is then separated from the skin & grape pulp by pressing - either before fermentation (for white wine) or after fermentation (for rose and red wine).
The fermentation turns the sugar in the grapes into alcohol, giving us wine.
At this point the wine is usually cloudy, but most of us want a nice clear wine and definitely no bits such as grape skin or dead yeast cells. So the bits are removed by various methods. Racking, a method which lets the sediment fall to the bottom of the container, then the wine on top is pumped out into another container
Another widely used method for clarifying wine, is Fining. It is this process that makes a wine suitable for vegans or not. Fining agents remove the cloudiness, all the tiny bits of skin etc.. Wine producers can choose from a range of fining agents, which are made from animal or mineral origin. Animal based fining agents are usually egg whites, casein (a protein from milk), gelatine or isinglass (from fish bladders), so of course these would not be acceptable for a vegan diet. Fining agents from a mineral source are bentonite clay or activated charcoal from carbon. Filtration is another option which can be used either with or without fining.
Some argue that as all fining agents are removed from the wine, then the wine is still vegan friendly. However, as the fining agents touch the wine, then vegans need to know that. There are many wine producers in Europe who do not state on their labels whether the wine is suitable for vegans or not - most of them will be, but of course you don't kow for certain, either way.
We've been talking about sulphites for years - low sulphite or sulphite free. Whether the wine is organic and or biodynamic, Vegan friendly is another category to add to the label, all part of our lifestyle changes and awareness. Another step to finding the right wine for you.