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Vegan & Vegetarian Wines

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For those who adopt a Vegetarian or Veganism lifestyle, choosing a bottle of wine as your preferred liquid refreshment may not be as straightforward as one would think. Whilst wine label information is slowly becoming more informative and regulations dictate certain details must now be disclosed, there are still aspects of a wines history missing from wine labels that could aid consumers further in their decision making process, especially those with a vegan or vegetarian philosophy.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF A WINE IS VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN?

Many would believe that a wine labelled as ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’ would be a good starting point, but this winemaking process has no bearing on whether the wine will be suitable for vegetarians or vegans. What is important is how the wine is treated or finished in the final stages of production and it is this which can create a potential moral hazard!

Most winemakers choose to clarify and stabilise their wines before bottling by using a practice known as fining. There are good reasons to do this not least because fining a wine not only makes the wine look clear, but it also lowers the risk that the wine will take on unwanted flavours or aromas in the bottle before it is opened.

In order to ascertain if a wine is suitable for a vegetarian or vegan you need to know how the wine is ‘fined’. The substances used by winemakers for fining can be derived from many sources, some of which are animal based.

For example gelatine (protein from animal bones and cartilage), isinglass (swim bladders from fish) are certainly not suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Other fining agents such as Casein (milk protein) and albumen (egg whites) would be considered acceptable fining agents for vegetarians but would still be unacceptable for strict vegans.

Thankfully, for vegans there are non-animal alternatives that do exist and which are used by winemakers all over the world. Some of these include bentonite (impure clay), kieselguhr (sedimentary rock), kaolin (clay mineral) and silica gel. In addition there are winemakers who choose not to fine their wines at all, those who choose to filter only and those that choose to neither ‘fine’ nor ‘filter’ and often declare their wine ‘unfiltered’.

It is worth noting that none of the fining agents actually remain in the wine at all after clarification, but the fact that they have had contact with the liquid is an important consideration for some people.

IF A WINE IS FINED WITH THE FOLLOWING, IT IS SUITABLE FOR VEGETARIANS AND VEGANS:

  • Bentonite (clay base)
  • Kieselghur
  • Kaolin
  • PVPP (polyvinylpolypyrolidone)
  • Use of tangential filter
  • No fining

IF A WINE IS FINED WITH THE FOLLOWING, IT IS SUITABLE FOR VEGETARIANS BUT NOT FOR VEGANS:

  • Casein (milk)
  • Albumen (eggs)

IF A WINE IS FINED WITH THE FOLLOWING, IT IS NOT SUITABLE FOR VEGETARIANS OR VEGANS:

  • Gelatine (protein from animal bones / cartilage)
  • Isinglass (fish swim bladders)
 

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