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The vegan’s guide to wine

Unsure what makes wine vegan-friendly? We’re here to help…

The vegan’s guide to wine

You’d be forgiven for assuming that all wines are vegan. After all, they’re just made with grapes, right? Unfortunately not. But luckily, there are plenty of vegan options out there today, and with our guide, you’ll easily be able to find one that suits your palate.

Why aren’t wines vegan?

Well, some are. First of all, it’s important to note the way that wine is produced. Essentially, grapes are crushed and converted, with a bit of help from yeast, into alcohol. However, after fermentation, a wine will contain minute particles that make it cloudy. There are several ways that winemakers can handle this. The wine could be left for a long time, allowing the particles to settle on their own; winemakers could sell their drink as it is, encouraging us to see past the cloudiness; or the wine can be clarified using a process called fining. Unfortunately for vegans, the latter option is the most popular – and it traditionally involves animal by-products.

Ben Revell, founder of exclusive online wine club winebuyers.com, explains: “Fining agents, made from animal products such as gelatin or egg whites (better known as albumen), are used to help remove tiny molecules of proteins, yeast and other organic particles in young wines. This process also helps the wine taste less bitter, and makes it visibly clearer.”

Other fining agents include casein (a milk protein), as well as isinglass – a gelatin made from fish bladder membranes. Many argue that as these fining agents simply sift out unwanted particles and are then removed, technically there will be no non-vegan matter remaining in the finished product. So how strict you want to be is up to you. Fortunately though, there are plenty of lovely veggie and vegan wines on the market today.

“Thanks to the growth of veganism, as well as vegan restaurants, vegan wines have risen in popularity,” Ben says. “To accommodate this trend, many vineyards and producers have adapted their winemaking process to offer a greater choice in wines for those choosing a plant-based lifestyle.”

Vegan wines replace animal-based finers with a form of clay known as bentonite, or with vegetable-based products such as pea protein. That said, while many vegan food products are clearly labelled today, unfortunately this isn’t the case with wine, with some vegan wines not being labelled as such, and vice versa. If you’re unsure, it’s best to contact the winemaker, or simply stick to drinks that are clearly labelled.

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