Today we are celebrating the International Vegan Day, but before opening your bottle to celebrate it we want to aware you with some facts about vegan wine. “What!, Isn’t all wine vegan”?
Not, unfortunately for our vegan and vegetarian winerists, wine is not all about fermented grape juice, so not all wine is vegan. No matter the type, most of wines are filtered and clarified with fining agents that are made from animal products.
Why are animal products used as fining agents?
Fining agents play a role eliminating proteins, yeasts and other molecules which are responsible for giving wine a hazy appearance. Without fining agents, wine will typically become less hazy on its own; it simply takes more time for winemakers. Fining basically speeds up this process which may otherwise take a some months. Moreover, these agents can remove some aggressive tannins, helping the wine taste smoother even at a young age.
How does fining agents work?
Fining agents attract molecules. By collecting around the fining agent, molecules form greater particles which easier to filter out of the wine, to make wine appear clear. Some of the more common fining agents include bull’s blood and bone marrow, milk protein, fibre from crustacean shells, egg albumen, fish oil and protein from boiling animal parts or fish bladder membranes. . However, the once favoured bulls blood is nowadays less common, so the most used agents are gelatine, isinglass (derived from fish bladders), casein (a milk protein) and egg albumen. The problem is that these animal-based products are not used only to filter the wine and then thrown away, but small quantities might get absorbed into the wine as well, making wine unsuitable for vegans.
Photo credit: Sparkling Rhiannon
Is there a solution for vegan wine lovers?
Yes, animal-based fining agents are not the only type of agent winemakers can use for these purposes. Some of the animal-free alternatives are carbon- and clay-based fining agents such as bentonite silica clay, kieselguhr (sedimentary rock), kaolin (clay mineral) and silica gel. As the natural wine industry picks up steam along with the organic and natural food trend of the more and more conscious society, organic and unfiltered wine is becoming more popular in the wine world.
How can I identify vegan-friendly wines?
Unfortunately, there is no law that obliges winemakers to indicate the use of animal fining agents or suitability for vegans on their labels. However, as mentioned above, nowadays is relatively easy to find natural, organic and biodynamic wines. Although these terms on the label are not necessarily a vegan-friendly guarantee, generally speaking if a wine is “unfined” and “unfiltered” this should indicate suitability for vegans. Therefore, if you wan’t to be 100% sure your wine is vegan-friendly, you can always contact the winemaker and ask.