What is a Vegan Wine? Are all wines vegan or not? If not, why? And how can I tell if a wine is vegan-friendly?
The reasons why not all the wines are Vegan (or even Vegetarian)?
As we all know, wine is produced from grapes. It is essentially created by the alcoholic fermentation of grape juice, which is carried out by yeasts (either indigenous or cultivated) that convert the sugars of the juice into alcohol. So far all of this seems to be very vegan friendly ...
The reason why not all the wines are vegan or even vegetarian-friendly has to do with how the wine becomes limpid and a process called "clarification." All young wines are cloudy and contain microscopic molecules such as proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics. These are all natural and in no way harmful to our organism. However, we ,as consumers, want our wines to be bright and clear.
Most wines, if they stay long enough in the tank, will self-stabilize with the slow sedimentation of these particles. However, wine producers, traditionally, use a variety of sedimentation aids, called "clarifying agents". The use of these agents helps and accelerates the precipitation of the molecules that cause the 'fog' in the wine. Essentially, clarifying agents act like magnets and attract molecules around them. Thus, they merge with the clarifying agent, creating fewer but larger particles, which settle down faster due to gravity and can then be removed more easily.
Traditionally, the most commonly used clarifiers are casein (milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein) and fish bile (fish bladder protein).
The aforementioned auxiliary agents do not remain as additives in wine, but they settle down with the mites that cause the fog and they are removed.
Casein or albumin clarification is commonly accepted by most vegetarians, but all four are out of bounds for vegans because of the tiny traces that can be absorbed into the wine during their use.
There is also good news though ...
Today, many winemakers use clay agents as clarifiers such as bentonite, which are particularly effective in clarifying and removing unwanted proteins. Activated carbon is another medium that is used and it is vegan and vegetarian friendly.
In addition, the transition to more natural vinification methods, allowing nature to follow its course, means more vegan and vegetarian friendly wines.
A growing number of wine producers around the world have made the choice not to apply clarification and / or filter their wines, letting them self-stabilize. Such wines usually refer to their label "un-fined and / or un-filtered".