It might be easy to assume that all wine is vegan as it comes from the fermented juice of grapes. But not all wines are created equal so we’ve created a handy little guide to help us understand, is natural wine vegan?
What is natural wine?
Natural wine is the product of a movement amongst winemakers, grape growers and of course wine drinkers, where wines are made with wild yeasts (found organically on the fruit) and guided through spontaneous fermentation. From soil to bottle, very little has been added or manipulated in the way of chemicals and preservatives and what we are left with is a joyful and unique expression of flavour, character and terroir.
“We prefer rootling in the earth around the vines getting our snouts grubby; we’re simply positing an alternative way of making wines that doesn’t involve chucking in loads of additives or stripping out naturally-occurring flavours. Working the land in an environmentally-sustainable way has to be a (morally) positive activity.” – Les Caves de Pyrene, The Revised Alternative Natural Wine Manifesto
Why wouldn’t my wine be vegan?
Conventional winemaking goes through an array of processes in the cellar to help the finished product stabilise and clarify. It regulates the consistency, appearance and taste of the wine so the consumer knows what to expect every time they buy a bottle. It eradicates haziness, sediment and minimises the risk for potential flaws.
A winemaker would carry out clarification in 2 stages:
Fining: adding a fining agent to the liquid encourage solid particles to collect together so they’re easier to remove.
Filtering: removing the solid particles that have formed during the fining process.
There are 5 common processing agents typically used when clarifying wine and 4 of these are derived from animal products such as egg whites, milk, fish oil, blood and bone marrow or isinglass (a protein found in fish bladder membranes). Although these materials are not additives, because they are removed, it can be impossible to guarantee that no residue would be left behind in the finished wine. It would also be fair to assume that most vegans and vegetarians wouldn’t be comfortable with the use of animal products in any step of winemaking.
Is natural wine vegan?
Natural wine, naturally, adopts a less is more approach and the winemakers under this umbrella produce unfined and unfiltered wines by default. This means that natural wine is the perfect option for vegans and vegetarians.
The call for change from the use of animal derived processing agents is largely underway due to consumer demands and plenty of conventional and natural wines will state whether they are vegan on the bottle. Small natural winemakers who work independently, although producing vegan wines, may not stipulate on their labels so if you need a little more clarity, get in touch!