Is Your Fine Wine Vegan or Vegetarian?


Considering wine is actually just crushed grapes, you would assume that wine is a vegan product, right? Well, not necessarily. Although wine doesn’t have actual animal products added into the wine, there are several animal products used to clarify even fine wines.

For those who are strictly vegetarian or vegan, it is imperative to seek out wines that state that their products are vegetarian or vegan. In many cases, there are products used that would not suit either the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, and so special care should always be taken. But what exactly is added to your fine wine, what are they used for and where can you find them?

What is vegan wine?

Essentially, vegan wine is a wine that does not use any animal-derived products to clarify the wine. Vegan wines either use plant-based products or even synthetic products to remove the particles from the wine. The addition of animal products in no way influences the aroma or flavor of the wine, but is used purely to clean the wine. This cleaning process can also often smooth out tannin and stabilise the wine – but is never used for flavour.

The most common vegan-product used to fine the wines is Bentonite. Bentonite is a type of clay that is used to bind the protein in either white or rosé wines so that the particles can be removed.
A synthetic alternative, Poly-Vinyl-poly-Pyrrolidone, is used to remove excess colour and is made from plastic bits. Although this isn’t necessarily a vegan product, it isn’t an environmentally-friendly product.

So what are the standard animal-products used?

Egg White: Vegetarian but not Vegan

In many cases, egg white is a common additive used to clarify your wine. Naturally, wine is a murky colour, which is often not considered appealing to the market. So, in order to make the white brighter, egg-white is added. The protein in the egg helps collect all the tiny pieces in the wine and have it sink to the bottom – making it easier to separate the particles from the actual wine and remove it.

Casein: Vegetarian but not Vegan

Casein is a protein found in milk that has a similar effect on the wine as egg white. But apart from clearing the wine, the oxidative taint is also removed, often using skimmed milk.

Gelatine: Neither Vegetarian nor Vegan

Gelatine, which is not only used in wine but many other food-products, is derived from the bones and hides of animals. When used in wine, it helps brighten the colour of wine, as well as adding suppleness.

Isinglass: Neither Vegetarian nor Vegan

Isinglass is derived from fish-bladders and is used a lot less than in previous years. When used, however, it is used to brighten the wine and remove small particles – much like with egg whites.

Chitosan: Neither Vegan nor Vegan

Chitosan is derived from seashells and is used to filter the wine, as well as removing excess colour from white wines. When the wine is poured over these crushed shells, they trap any particles that need to be removed.
But animal products aren’t just used to clarify the actual wine but is even used in the other parts of the winemaking process.

Non-vegan methods in Farming and Bottling

Non-vegan materials like beeswax are frequently used to seal bottles. Milk-based glues are also often used for agglomerated corks. Although the actual wine may be vegan, these products add to the complexity of seeking out strictly vegan wines.
There are also instances where animal-products are even used during the farming processes that can influence those who choose to be strictly vegan.

Many times, fertilisers used in the vineyards are made from bone-meal or fish-waste. Both these fertilisers are made from dead animals. For many producers who choose to be strictly vegan, however, all fertilisers are made from plant-based materials.

How To Know if Your Wine is Vegan?

By law, not all countries are required to state on the label that their wine is vegan or vegetarian. They don’t even have to display on the bottle if there are animal-derivatives.

However, due to a large influx of people seeking out vegan and vegetarian wines specifically, you are sure to find a vegan/vegetarian sign on the label that tells you that the wine is vegan. If not, many back-labels will state that the wine is vegan.
If you are concerned about how your wines are made, you can easily research wineries  focused on producing vegan-friendly wine. Once you know, you can purchase those wines frequently.

A great example of this the Yealands range from New Zealand, Napa Cellars from the USA and Rutini from Argentina and who focus on producing vegan-friendly wines.

What are Biodynamic and Organic Wines then?

Terms like “biodynamic wines” and “organic wines” are used in the wine industry to highlight different methods of winemaking.
Essentially, biodynamic wines are all about incorporating nature into all elements of the winemaking process. This includes using the position of the moon and stars to determine when to pick the grapes, as well as when to drink the wine. Biodynamic wines also don’t believe in the addition of any synthetic products in the vineyards or the wine.

Organic wines, however, are all about not using synthetic products in the vineyards or the winemaking process – but are not focused on including all of nature’s elements like with Biodynamic wines.

Not all biodynamic wines or organic wines are necessarily vegan, however. There are instances where producers can be both biodynamic and vegan; or organic and vegan – but it isn’t an automatic connection.

Where Can you Buy Vegan/Vegetarian Wines?

TWB Cellar Limited offers an incredible range of fine wines that offer vegetarian and vegan options.

TWB Cellar Limited is a leading online wine retailer that offers a range of fine wines from across the world. Choose your favourite vegan-friendly options and let them deliver wine anywhere in Kenya.

With so few businesses that sell alcohol online in Kenya, make sure you get to the best alcohol retailer for all your vegan and vegetarian wines.