Is wine vegan?
I may be an gym-lover, but I also love a glass of red when I unwind at the weekend, and this is one of the first questions I asked when I went vegan!
It’s just fermented grape juice, right?
Alas, it’s not quite that simple: yes, some wine is vegan, but this depends on what has been added during the processing of the wine.
How Wine Is Made
It is easy to think that all wines are processed using the juice of the grape only. Perhaps this was true, but for a long time now, other ingredients than only the “juice of the grape” have been added during the manufacturing process.
We have got the Ancient Romans to thank for this! They started adding other ingredients to increase the life span of their wine. The wine they drank travelled with them the length and breadth of the Roman Empire, and so they added bone marrow and fish bladders for the wine to ensure it lasted longer.
As a matter of fact, today we still add gelatin derived from fish bladders to wine. It is labelled as isinglass.
What Makes A Wine Non-Vegan?
It is the refining agents that make some wines not vegan. If you like to drink wine, you need to look for a wine which is classified as vegan. Just like with beer, you should check the ingredients on the label.
When wine contains isinglass, gelatin, fish oil, egg albumen ( comes from egg whites), casein or bone marrow, your wine is not vegan. On occasion, your wine may also contain chitin. This is a fibre from crustacean shells.
What Makes A Wine Vegan?
Even vegan wine needs to be refined. Once the grape has been processed, vegan fining agents are added. On your vegan bottle of wine, you may find the following ingredients listed:
- Silica gel
- Plant casein
- Bentonite Clay
Sometimes, what is known as vegetable plaques are also added during the refining stage.
Does Vegan Wine Taste Differently?
Unless you are a wine connoisseur or sommelier, you will probably not taste the difference. What you make pick up when you drink a vegan wine is that it is less full-bodied. It appears more liquid and not as heavy as a wine which is not produced according to vegan methods.
Once you have been drinking vegan wines for a while, you may find your taste buds change. If you drink a non-vegan wine, you will often experience it as less refreshing.
The colour looks slightly different as well. Vegan wines are less red and don’t cling to the glass in the same way. That is the vegan red wine drinking experience.
When it comes to rose and white wines, very few vegan wine drinkers say that they notice any difference at all.
Can You Buy Vegan Sparkling Wines?
Yes, you can. This is where vegan refining agents come into their own.
If you have ever tried a vegan sparkling wine and then quickly tasted a non-vegan sparkling wine, you will instantly pick up on the difference in taste.
Vegan sparkling wines are much more refreshing. They are a bit on the fizzier side perhaps, but that is what makes the tasting experience so unique.
Are Vegans Wine Better For You?
The jury is out on this one. It is hard to answer the question with a definitive yes and no.
When you are concerned about the “healthiness” of wine, it is best to drink organic wine. Organic wines do not contain sulphates. Once sulphates have been removed, you are going to notice the difference in taste.
Also, sulphate-free wine is far less likely to give you a hangover or trigger migraines. Not a bad little bonus, eh?
Red wine is packed with antioxidants that have a range of health benefits. Drinking sensibly is not going to do you any harm. Doctors in Mediterranean countries still recommend their patients have a glass of red per day.
Vegan wines can sometimes be more expensive- due to the costlier refining agents- but you won’t need to remortgage the house, it’s only pennies- and a small price to pay to keep your favourite drink cruelty-free.
If you’re unsure if your wine is vegan, check out Barnivore’s neat little online vegan-verifier (I’m not sure if that’s what they call it exactly, but it should be!)
And if you like your grains as well as your grapes, check out our blog “Is Beer Vegan?”