Q: Can Vegans Drink Wine?
A: Most wines are processed with non-vegan clarifying agents (such as egg whites). There are, however, a few wines that are vegan and you can learn what to look for when choosing wine.
Why is Most Wine Not Vegan?
Isn’t wine, afterall, just made with grapes?
Most wines are clarified during winemaking with a process called “fining” which most frequently employs the use of animal-based products such as casein (a protein from milk) or egg whites. If wines aren’t fined, most would look hazy. This is where the casein and egg-whites come in. The fining agents “glomb” onto the proteins dissolved in the wine and cause them to precipitate out and collect at the bottom of the tank. The result is a crystal clear wine.
- It’s common for quality white, rosé and sparkling wines to use isinglass (a fish byproduct) for fining
- It’s common for red wines to use egg whites or casein for fining to remove bitter-tasting phenolics
- Old-world wineries previously used ox-blood to fine wine, but this is no longer common today
- Fining agents are removed before wine is bottled
How to find vegan wines
Vegan wines are uncommon, but they do exist. Wherever winemakers are practicing minimalist intervention in the cellar, is where you’ll most likely find wines that are unfined and unfiltered. Remember to check with the winery or importer to be sure.
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Here are some useful tips on vegan wines:
- Wines that are unfined and unfiltered are vegan
- Wines filtered only with sterile filters (ceramic filters) or cross-flow filters are vegan. Be sure to check with the producer
- Several mass-produced wineries use sterile filters instead of animal products
- Some wineries use bentonite to fine protein from white wines instead of isinglass
- Biodynamic wines can be made in a vegan way when they are unfined but since the farming process uses animal bones (for special compost mixtures) it negates this.
- If a wine is organic, that doesn’t guarantee it’s vegan
What About Sulfites in Wine?
You’ve probably seen the words “contains sulfites” on a bottle of wine. Find out why sulfur dioxide is used in winemaking and how wine stacks up to other products like french fries, dried fruit, and soda.
The Bottom Line on Sulfites in Wine
Special thanks to winemaker, Sam Keirsey, at Karma Vineyards for detailed information about common fining agents and their uses.