You may ask "What is vegan wine?" or even "Why the hell would wine not be vegan!?"
The good news is that vegan wine is probably more common that non vegan wine so most of the time you’re probably not drinking something that’s been infused with animal by-products. The bad news is that additives don’t need to be disclosed on wine labels. For some baffling reason wine is not subject to the same stringent labelling laws found within the rest of the food industry. So far too frequently you won’t know if a wine is vegan or not, and whilst most wine is vegan, there is a a lot out there that isn’t. Furthermore, most wine is not additive free. In fact only a tiny, minute, proportion is.
We focus on wines that have low or no added sulphites and no other additives. Sulphites maybe the one that a lot of people talk about but it is only one of many possible undisclosed ingredients.
Animal products that are known to be used in wine today include:
• Blood and bone marrow
• Casein (milk protein)
• Chitin (fiber from crustacean shells)
• Egg albumen
• Fish oil
• Gelatin (protein from boiling animal parts)
• Isinglass (gelatin from fish bladder membranes)
Other common additives include:
• Calcium Carbonate
• Tartaric, Malic, or Citric Acid
• Dimethyl Dicarbonate
You may very well ask why!? Well… Animal products have been used for a long time for fining wine. Egg whites were traditionally stirred into wine after it had completed fermentation to remove the bits. All the left over yeast cells and fruit pulp would cling to the egg white and then sink to the bottom of the barrel. A little tap (just above the bottom) would then be opened to draw off (or rack off) the clear wine. In more recent years lots of other animal products have been used for fining but there are plenty of vegan alternatives. Many of the producers we work with won’t fine or filter their wines at all. It is still possible to achieve a clear wine, if you leave the wine for long enough, for suspended particles to settle naturally. Alternatively you can just present the wine cloudy. This can be a bit of a shock for those used to wine being crystal clear, especially with white wines, but the wines don’t taste worse for it. It is no different to hazy cider or beer or even cloudy lemonade. The remaining fruit pulp can add to the texture and even flavour of the wine.
So that’s why some wine isn’t vegan but what about the rest? Well… in short sugar is added before fermentation to make wine more alcoholic. Calcium carbonate may be added to reduce acid. Acid maybe added to increase acidity. Acetaldehyde is a colour stabiliser (and a hangover amplifier!). Dimethyl Dicarbonate sterilises to create a stable product.
So the real reason many wines aren’t vegan or additive free is that many wineries want to control and alter how their wine tastes to meet a market demand. They also want consistency. When you’ve spent all that money on creating a wine brand, you don’t want one bottle tasting different to the next!
We see things differently. Wine should be made in the vineyard. Variation from one bottle to the next just shows that its alive and authentic. If a white wine is a bit cloudy or your red wine has a light spritz, try challenging your pre-conceptions. This might not be what you expect wine to taste like. Maybe you don’t think it tastes like wine at all! The important thing is… does it taste nice? Ultimately this is what we assess when we try wine and if the answer is yes… we put it on the shelf.
If you would like to brows our range of vegan wine click here.