One may think that because wine is effectively fermented grape juice that has been expertly aged and refined for our enjoyment that it is vegan. In fact, it often isn’t. With more Aussies than ever opting for vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets there has also been an increase in demand for vegan wines.
According to Roy Morgan research, nearly 2.5 million Aussies are vegetarians, and we are the third fastest-growing vegan market in the world.
“ As wine is made using grapes, it’s not surprising most people assume wine is vegan,” award-winning winemaker Gwyn Olsen, who recently released two new preservative-free and vegan field blends, Gwyn Olsen Pf Field Blend Red 2019 and Gwyn Olsen Pf Field Blend White 2019. “Many wine lovers are surprised when they find out that wines are not necessarily vegan-friendly due to winemaking techniques.”
So, why aren’t all wines vegan?
When a wine is first made, it looks nothing like the crystal-clear whites and deep reds that make up the finished product. An unrefined young wine can look cloudy and less appealing, with floating, cloudy bits. Although these things are not harmful, it makes the wine look less appealing.
To remove these unattractive elements, winemakers introduce fining agents, which act like magnets to attract the unwanted extras together to form larger bits which are more easily removed by winemakers. And the most common fining agents are not vegan-friendly.
What are the Common Fining Agents?
The most common fining agents in winemaking include casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein), chitin (fibre from crustacean shells) and isinglass (fish bladder protein). Exactly things that vegans are trying to avoid. However, only minuscule trace amounts of these products remain in the finished wine.
What are the Vegan-Friendly Versions?
There are many fining agents that are earth-based such as clay (bentonite), limestone and silica gel. Activated charcoal can also be used as well as plant casein and vegetable plaques.
Do Vegan Wines Taste Different?
There is no discernible difference in wine fined by animal products and those fined using earth-based fining agents. The choice in fining agent has no impact on the taste. Instead, it’s the grape variety, terroir and winemaking method that have the greatest impact on the taste of wine.
Can You Age Vegan-Friendly Wine?
Yes, vegan wines can age just as well as conventional wines. However, if your wine is also preservative-free, it’s best enjoyed within a year if it’s white wine or Rosé, and perhaps two to three years if it’s a red, as the tannins from red grape skins have natural preservatives.
How Do You Identify Vegan-Friendly Wine?
If you want to avoid non-vegan wines, look out for disclaimers on wine labels that contain the words: “May contain traces of egg white or fish products”. However, winemakers are not required to list all fining agents, so to be on the safe side, go for a bottle that has a logo that says the wine is “Vegan-friendly” or states that the wine is “vegan”.
Are You Looking for Vegan-Friendly Wine?
We are constantly looking for ways to refine our services to provide you with the perfect wine for you. If you are keen to find vegan-friendly wine that matches your lifestyle choices, you can either search on Cellarmasters or give our friendly wine advisors a call on 1800 500 260.