Our guide to vegan wine
If you’re a vegan or you’re thinking about becoming vegan, there are so many things you have to think about in order to live a fulfilling vegan life.
And who would have thought, of all the things you have to contend with when you adopt a vegan lifestyle, that there can be animal products in wine?
At Pull The Cork we label wine vegan meaning that particular wine, from the moment the grapes enter the winery, do not come into contact with any animal products whatsoever.
What does vegan mean?
So what does vegan actually mean? Veganism is a surprisingly grey area. The one thing all vegans have in common is that they follow a plant-based diet, refraining from consuming any foods and drinks (including wine) that are made from animals or animal by-products.
Some people choose to just follow a vegan diet, whereas others are much more strict, adopting a wholly vegan lifestyle.
A vegan lifestyle, according to The Vegan Society, is one where you live a life that seeks, as far as possible, to not exploit or harm animals for either food, clothing or another purpose, i.e. for use on a farm, and to encourage the exploration and use of non-animal based products, with the aim to be kinder to humans, to animals and to the environment.
What is vegan wine?
We wrote a blog post on why it’s so hard to determine what makes a vegan wine. Check it out if you have time.
But essentially, where veganism enters the winemaking process is what is contested – because when does wine actually become wine?
- When the grapes are crushed?
- Before that then when they’re harvested?
- When they’re grown?
It’s a tough one to say for sure. Hence our need to define what vegan wine means to us (and so you can, therefore, understand it too).
Because there can be lots of different interpretations of what it means to be vegan, here at Pull The Cork we made the decision in our Wine Certification that for us, wine’s life begins the moment it enters the winery. And therefore (as we stated at the beginning of the article) a vegan-friendly wine is one that has been made without the use or inclusion of any animal parts, from the moment the grapes enter the winery.
Isn’t all wine vegan?
You may be wondering where we’re going with this. Isn’t all wine vegan you might be thinking. Wine is after all just crushed grapes.
If only life were that simple.
No, not every wine is vegan. And here’s why.
Wine is not always vegan-friendly because unfortunately, some wines are still processed using animal by-products, such as:
- Milk protein (casein)
- Isinglass (fish bladder protein)
- Egg whites (albumin)
- Gelatine (animal protein)
Egg whites, milk and gelatine you’ll have probably heard of, but isinglass?
What is isinglass?
Isinglass is a substance, a kind of gelatine obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish and is used in the fining process of some white wines. Yup. You read that right.
Fish bladders in your wine.
What is fining in winemaking?
Here’s the thing, like poker straight cucumbers and perfectly round apples, we consumers have come to expect nothing but perfection in the products we purchase to eat and drink. And that includes wine.
But wine is the juice of crushed grapes, and when you crush grapes and leave them to ferment, no matter how much you sieve the resulting elixir, there will always be remnants left behind. And in some cases, these colloids (the unwanted particles left behind in the wine) can render a wine unstable, affecting its taste, its appearance, even its smell.
So over the years winemakers have sought to remove these final impurities from their wine, to extend their shelf life as long as possible and make them more appealing for mass consumption.
It’s worth noting that this process will happen naturally, the sediment will fall to the bottom of the tank if you leave the wine to sit for long enough – makers of natural wine* will attest to that. But when you’re driven by your bottom line, hanging around waiting for unwanted particles in your wine to settle isn’t feasible.
Which is where the fining process comes in. The most common fining agents are animal products such as the ones listed above. To use fining agents, you simply add them into the wine and the unwanted particles bind to the agent, forming sizable clumps that can then be filtered out.
The great news is that with the widespread knowledge of these practices and the request by consumers for a more inclusive (vegan-friendly) approach to winemaking, a large number of winemakers have ceased using animal-derived products when making their wine, instead opting for a clay-based mineral called bentonite instead, or activated charcoal.
One point to note, be they vegan or animal-derived products, fining agents don’t alter the taste of the wine. They are simply used to clarify the wine.
Pull The Cork Vegan Wine Guide
So are all wines labelled as vegan or not?
Sadly no, while the rules and regulations surrounding food labelling are getting stricter, the requirements to label wine (bar any allergens) aren’t necessary just yet. So you don’t always know if your wine is vegan-friendly or not.
So we’ve put together a handy vegan wine guide on our website to let you know when you’re choosing your next epic bottle of red wine, that it’s a vegan red wine. If you aren’t sure, you can always check out our selection of vegan wines. We clearly label each bottle of vegan wine on our site with this symbol:
You can see at a glance if your chosen wine is vegan friendly or not.
Wines suitable for vegans
So what wines are suitable for vegans? The answer is plenty. If you are a red drinker, you’re in luck, as are you if you’re a white drinker, a rose or an orange sipper.
Browse through our selection of vegan wines or reach out and let us know what you like in a wine and we can steer you towards something that will tickle your tastebuds. We do after all have over 200 different vegan wines for you to choose from.
*In our opinion fining isn’t sexy, nor is it necessary, therefore if you like your wine natural and untampered with, opt for the natural, low intervention wine that we are renowned for. We promise you, it’ll blow your mind. If you aren’t sure where to begin, try our entry-level low intervention mixed case.