Wine is not the type of thing people typically think of as vegan or not. Sure, wine is essentially nothing more than fermented grape juice, but that’s not to say it hasn’t come into contact with animal derivatives. Keep in mind, vegans are not just vegetarians; they don’t eat anything with animal derivatives of any kind, at all. It might surprise you to know wine is not always vegan. Some winemakers use animal products in the production of their wine, while others don’t. So, to answer if wine is vegan or not, really depends on the wine.
Filtering is an essential part of the winemaking process. Before a wine is read to drink, it must be filtered to remove excess yeast, protein, and other unwanted substances. “Fining agents” are used for this task. A fining agent can be made from a variety of different substances. Sometimes those substances are animal derived, and sometimes they are not – it depends on the winemaker. The types of animal derivatives that are used as fining agents include: fish oil, casein, isinglass (fish bladder), bone marrow, and gelatin — just to name a few.
How Do I Know if a Wine is Vegan?
Unfortunately, there is just no easy way to tell if a wine is vegan or not. Even if you’re in a restaurant or a bar, the person serving it to you probably won’t to tell you. Only a wine connoisseur who is familiar with the winemaking process for a specific wine will know for sure. You are just going to have to learn which wines are vegan.
This task is somewhat daunting, but luckily a lot of people have already worked hard to take a substantial amount of the work out of it. There are some decent sources online for vegan wines. A Vegan Wine Guidehas been published online at FromMars.org. There is also Barnivore, a website dedicated to vegan alcoholic beverages. I’ve found both resources to be quite helpful.
Nonetheless, it is still challenging to know which wines are vegan and which ones aren’t. I have found that in general red wines are typically vegan but whites are not, but it’s no guarantee. Hundreds upon hundreds of different wines are out there and it’s really more about the winemaker rather than the type of wine. You can memorize a handful of wines that are vegan but you can never know all of the wines that are out there.