Veganism continues to grow in leaps and bounds. What started as a mere trend for hippies, is now a global lifestyle movement, and it presents an ideal opportunity for wine makers to be a part of this thriving movement. Other industries have already tapped into the vegan market, as evidenced by the presence of vegan meat alternatives, vegan eggs, vegan clothes, shoes and pretty much everything you can think of. However, a majority of winemakers have not yet made the necessary changes to cater for the vegan market, which is a shame because vegans love their red wine as much as the next person.
This might have something to do with the fact that a lot of people still have a misconception that because wine is made from grapes then it should naturally be a vegan product. On the contrary, most of the wine available out there is not vegan-friendly at all, as it goes through a cleansing process that includes fining agents like fish bladder protein, egg whites, gelatine, animal and milk protein. Winemakers use these fining agents to remove particles and turn the wine from a murky appearance to a clear and translucent drinking liquid. Needless to say, all these ingredients are a no-go for vegans, and any chance of having them intermix with the final product makes conventional wine brands out of the question for vegans to use.
On the bright side, there is a growing number of boutique wineries that use plant based fining agents like activated charcoal, carbon, bentonite and potato and pumpkin protein, which are all as efficient as the animal-derived agents, but without the cruelty. Others even opt for the sustainable solution of allowing the wine to refine itself or self-stabilise as they call it, and the labels on such wines come with words like “not fined or not filtered”, and they’re definitely vegan.
Accessibility and Regulation
While the general population still requires a lot of education in order to catch up with the trend of vegan, organic and biodynamic wines, certain metropolitan cities make them accessible through specialty wine stores that stock these types of wines. Unfortunately, industry regulators have been very slow on the uptake, as there are currently no labelling policies compelling wine makers to specify whether or not their wines have been fined or not, or what fining agents were used.
You might be wondering then, how will I know if the wine I’m buying is really vegan if winemakers aren’t labelling their wines? Well, you’ll be glad to know that vegan wines are often certified by non-profit organisations such as the Canadian VegeCert, which inspects and analyses the entire production process to ensure that the winemaker uses only vegan ingredients and fining agents, while ensuring that all suppliers used by the manufacturer are vegan as well.
What about organic wine?
Just because a wine is labelled as ‘organic’ doesn’t necessarily make it vegan. The organic label is simply a sign that the wine has been produced without the use of harmful chemicals in the form of pesticides and fertilizers, but it might still have been refined with animal-based fining agents.
Where to buy vegan wine
Shopping for vegan wine at your local grocery store can be a confusing experience, as most of the sales staff will probably have no idea what you’re referring to. Online shopping on the other hand, makes the process much easier, thanks to the presence of platforms like Barnivore. Barnivore provides a detailed and comprehensive list of vegan alcoholic beverages, including wines, and all you have to do is type in the name of the wine you’re looking for, and you’ll soon find out whether it’s vegan or not.
If you’re still unsure, or unable to find the wine you’re looking for, then you can always approach the winemakers yourself, call them up and inquire about the kind of fining agents they use. Most vineyards are more than happy to interact with their customers and share what goes into their winemaking process.