What makes a wine vegan? Ask Decanter
Given that wine is the product of grapes and yeast, some may assume that all wines would be appropriate for vegans – those who do not consume any kind of animal product – but this isn’t always the case.
Wine bars and retailers have started to market some wines as vegan friendly in response to the growth of veganism in several countries, including the UK and US. According to The Vegan Society, 600,000 people in the UK were vegan in 2019, compared to 150,000 in 2014.
‘Veganuary‘ is increasingly part of the New Year calendar, slotting into the post-festive detox trend. In January 2019, 250,000 people signed up to take part in the UK, according to The Vegan Society.
It is often some traditional fining agents that can make a wine unsuitable for vegans.
Egg whites or casein (a protein found in milk) can be used to remove tiny particles of sediment in a wine that cannot be removed by filtration.
However, other ways of doing this are becoming more popular.
‘Traditional fining products that were egg/fish/milk derived have probably – we think – moved on to a lot of vegetable-based products,’ said Kristin Syltevik, of the Oxney Organic Estate in East Sussex, England, speaking in 2018.
‘Vegan wines are made without animal products, so winemakers either leave the particles to sink naturally to the bottom of the wine, or use non-animal fining products usually bentonite, a form of clay or pea protein,’ said Waitrose & Partners wine expert, Matt Johnson.
Other animal products used in wine production may include beeswax (used to seal bottles) and agglomerated corks (which use milk-based glues).
In reality, many wines are vegan friendly. However, it can be difficult to tell. Regulations in the EU and US do not currently require wineries to list fining agents on labels.
More wine retailers and producers have started to help consumers make a choice by highlighting which of their wines are vegan friendly.
Majestic Wine previously told Decanter.com that it defined vegan wine as those that ‘will not have been fined, filtered or come into contact with anything derived from an animal or dairy source’. It said in November 2019 that it stocked 200 wines listed as vegan, compared to 39 a year before.
Waitrose have 500 wines listed as vegan on its website.
Decanter’s Weekday Wines also shows which wines are labelled vegan, as well as those that are organic and biodynamic.
Updated January 2020.