You may assume that fermented grapes fit nicely into the vegan category. When you get an organic bottle, you are in the clear.
Think again. Don’t worry, they aren’t putting animal blood along with the grape skins (although, according to wine history, they used to). However, they are putting animal products into the process of making wine. This is through the process of fining.
Not all wines are fined, but fining is the process of clarifying the wine through additives. Although its a lovely idea that making wine is a pure process, there are sediments that linger that need to be removed in order to make the wine look like an appetizing selection. Chunks in your wine just aren’t going to cut it, are they?
The additives used in the fining process are designed to bind to the molecules that are causing a lack of clarity, making them bigger and more able to precipitate out of the wine.
include egg whites and casein. Non-vegetarian options include gelatin and isinglass obtained from the bladder of fish. There are some vegan options, but they are a rarer choice: activated charcoal and bentonite, which is clay-based.
The fining process
Although the fining process does give the wine the clarity that people are looking for in their vino, it does have a downside. Valuable aromatic molecules or flavor notes can seep out in this process, so there are some premium wine companies that will refuse to use it. After all, with time, most wines will self-fine and self-stabilize.
Even if you aren’t sure if your wine has been put through the fining process, rest assured that only trace amounts of the fining process are left in the glass that you drink. If you are searching for the vegan wine list, note that it is rare for the fining process to be made public or for a bottle to be labeled vegan.
Ingredients is Key
The ingredients that may be used and will make the drink not suitable for vegetarians are for example isinglass (which is made from fish bladders), gelatin (which comes from cow bones) and animal albumin (which sometimes consists of dried blood powder). Though none of these fining agents stay in the finished product, most vegetarians and vegans will try their best to drink beverages where no animal products have been used during the making process.
Luckily for them and me, there are vegetarian wine options available. Not all wines go through fining at all, and even if they do, there are vegetarian finishing options which are used, like bentonite clay.
It can be frustrating for vegetarians and vegans to know that there is no obligation on the part of winemakers to declare the use of animal by-products in the wine-making process. In fact, the only real way of knowing if a wine is vegetarian is to look at what is written on the label of the bottle, or the specifications on the website you are buying the bottle from. If it says vegetarian or vegan on the site or the label, it probably is.
Whats on the Labeling?
If there are no such markings on the label or the website, you can be pretty sure the wine is non-vegetarian – isinglass is still the number one fining agent used in wine-making.
Are there exceptions?
The only exceptions are wines which are labeled as unfiltered. This is in fact not a very rare label, because some wine connoisseurs prefer wine to be unfiltered because of the special character of these wines.
The best shops to get this stuff!
Most good shops for buying wine on line will write in the product description if the wine is vegetarian or vegan. Not all bigger shops on line are interested in offering vegetarian wines, though. It can be beneficial to look in smaller on line wine stores instead.
Organic is important
Especially shops specialized in organic wines have been known to have a wide range of vegetarian and vegan wines in their selection, and these are usually very well labeled, too. You could try your local wine shop to see what they have, but you’ll be likely to find the best selection of vegetarian wines on line.
Find out how it’s made from the source
Unfiltered red wines are a safe way to stay in the vegetarian frame of mind if this matters to you. Or go straight to the winery and ask them about their wine-making practices. There are also starting to be companies that specialize in natural wines. If you find a bottle that you like, stock up (like we have to tell you to do that!).