Is All Wine Vegan?

Unless you’re a winemaker or know the exact ingredients in your bottle, it can be difficult to tell whether a wine is vegan. That’s because the fermentation process — and a process called fining — can involve non-vegan products.

Traditionally, fining agents were animal-derived — bull’s blood, isinglass, gelatin and casein (milk protein). But some vegan winemakers are starting to replace traditional fining agents with non-animal alternatives, like bentonite.

1. Grapes

Grapes are a popular fruit and used to make wine, raisins, grape jelly, grape jam and grape juice. They come in a variety of colors, including red, green and purple, as well as seedless varieties.

According to Healthline, grapes contain a high amount of antioxidants and polyphenols. These nutrients help prevent inflammation and support heart health. In addition to these benefits, grapes are also an excellent source of vitamin K and potassium.

Some of the other major benefits of grapes include reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer. They also have a positive impact on brain and heart health.

The skins of red grapes are particularly rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant that can help fight free radicals and improve cardiovascular health. Resveratrol is also a powerful anti-inflammatory.

Aside from the antioxidants and flavonoids, grapes are an excellent source of dietary fiber. They also have a low glycemic index, meaning they help keep blood sugar levels in check.

Another benefit of eating grapes is that they are high in water content. A cup of grapes contains over 121 grams of water, which is good news for people who are trying to cut down on calories.

Organic grapes are often a better option than conventionally grown grapes because they are less likely to be exposed to pesticides. The Environmental Working Group publishes a list each year of the fruits and vegetables with the highest amounts of pesticide residue.

Grapes are an important part of a healthy diet and should be eaten regularly to reap the full range of their health benefits. They are also a great choice for people who are vegetarian or vegan.

2. Fermentation

Fermentation is the natural process of converting sugars in grapes to alcohol, with the help of microorganisms. It is also the basis for many other foods that we enjoy, such as sauerkraut, kefir, cheese and sourdough bread.

Wine is made from fermenting grape juice with yeast, which consumes the natural sugars in the grapes. This process leaves behind residue – including yeast, protein and other organic particles. Vintners use fining agents to clear away this sediment and stabilise the wine before bottling.

The most common types of animal-derived fining agents used by vintners are isinglass (fish bladder), gelatine, egg white and milk protein, but there are a variety of alternatives that can be used instead. Some winemakers prefer to fin the wine naturally, without any added additives.

Alternatively, vintners can use vegan-friendly fining agents such as bentonite clay, limestone, kaolin clay, plant casein derived from peas and potatoes or silica gel. This is an option that can be a bit more time-consuming, but it does mean that the wine will be more suitable for vegans.

Aside from being vegan, fermentation also removes anti-nutrients like phytates and lignans that act as a metal mesh around the nutrients in the food or beverage. These substances can wreak havoc with our digestive systems and inhibit the absorption of nutrients.

Thankfully, the increasing demand for vegan wines is causing many vintners to adopt a more natural approach to the winemaking process. This means that an increasing number of vegan-friendly options are available, as well as the option of not fine or filtering the wine at all – so it’s possible to have a wine that’s both healthy and vegan-friendly.

3. Fining

When a wine is left to clarify on its own, it will self-fine – this is done naturally and will produce a clear, uncloudy wine. However, some winemakers prefer to speed this process up and use fining agents – aids which attract the tiny molecules that are left behind in the wine after it has gone through clarification, allowing them to be removed from the wine quicker.

Traditionally, vintners have used fining agents such as casein (milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal collagen) and isinglass (fish bladders) to help with this process. These fining agents bind to the haze-inducing molecules in the wine and form larger structures which then precipitate and settle on the bottom of the tank or barrel.

This helps the wine be more stable and clarified, as well as making it more attractive to the eye. It also helps to prevent unwanted particles from settling to the bottom of the bottle, which can cause a build up of sediment.

Many vintners today, however, are becoming more aware of the growing demand for vegan products and are increasingly using fining agents which are plant-based – bentonite, activated charcoal, pea gelatine or polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) are all commonly used.

Another reason why vintners are increasingly using more natural methods for fining is that these can help reduce the amount of sulphites in the wine. These are potentially harmful chemicals that can cause a variety of health issues if consumed in high quantities.

So, if you’re vegan and want to find a great wine, there are plenty of options out there. Just be sure to ask the winemaker if they have a vegan wine!

4. Soil

Soil is the symbiotic relationship of minerals, organic materials, air and water that forms the foundation of our life on earth. It provides food and shelter for plants, animals and bacteria that perform a multitude of services.

Soils have a unique ability to absorb pollutants and keep carbon from escaping into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases. The living soil organisms that make up this complex community of fungi and bacteria also help the environment by providing an abundance of vital nutrients.

The chemistry of a soil determines its physical properties and the health of its living population. It also affects the growth and development of plants, ensuring that they can thrive and produce high quality grapes.

For example, humus is an important part of soil, and it is responsible for many benefits that make the soil valuable. It is a rich, nutrient-rich organic material that has been exposed to a variety of physical and biological weathering processes over time.

Wine is made from fermenting grape juice, and during the fermentation process, yeasts convert sugars in the wine to alcohol. This leaves behind small molecules called phenols, tannin and tartrates that can float around in the wine. These tiny particles are not harmful, but they can distort the clarity of the wine. In order to clear these molecules, winemakers will use a process called fining. This is traditionally done using animal products, such as egg whites, isinglass (a collagen derived from the swim bladder of sturgeon), butterfat and other animal byproducts that bind to these particles and precipitate them out.

5. Packaging

While it’s true that wine is all about grapes, the truth is that wine is often filtered using substances like egg whites and casein (milk proteins) or isinglass (fish bladder extract), which makes some wines unsuitable for vegans. Many consumers who identify as Vegan aren’t aware of this, but the good news is that more and more wineries are starting to pay attention to vegan labels.

In addition to avoiding animal-based ingredients, many wineries have begun switching from fining products to plant-based ones. These new alternatives are as effective at filtering wine as the traditional animal-based fining agents, and they’re comparable in cost.

A wine’s clarity is largely dependent on the fining process, which involves adding special filters to the finished product that help remove tiny particles of yeast and other organic matter. This clarifies the wine and helps it to taste more crisp, clear and clean.

Historically, winemakers have used fining agents like egg whites, isinglass and gelatin made from boiling pig skin to make their wine more clear. However, this has recently become a concern for vegans, who want to avoid anything that contains any trace of animals.

The best way to determine whether a wine is vegan is to look at the label or ask the producer directly about it. While some producers may not have a dedicated website or social media account, most are happy to give you this information and are eager to accommodate vegans.

To further help with the search for vegan wine, you can also look for a certification by the Vegan Society or the BeVeg Vegan guarantee. The BeVeg Vegan guarantee focuses on the following: No animal ingredients or animal by-products in processing, clarification or filtration before bottling and packaging; no animal testing.