Is Wine Vegan?
Since wine is made from grapes and grapes are vegan, shouldn’t wine be vegan too? No animal products here. Ah, all very logical but not so fast!
By the end of the winemaking process, wines are hazy and have tiny particles floating in them, such as proteins and tannins. They are not harmful but we LOVE our wine to be clear and bright. If the wine was left long enough, these little particles would fall to the bottom. But we don't have time for that!
So wine is clarified through a fining and filtering process. Winemakers use a variety of fining agents. These agents act like magnets and attract the floating particles. This creates fewer but larger particles, which can be more easily removed. Some common fining agents are milk proteins, egg whites, animal proteins and even fish proteins. Traces of these agents are absorbed into the wine and then, the wine is no longer vegan.
Luckily, many winemakers use clay based fining agents and activated charcoal. Wines clarified using these agents will remain vegan. Also, many winemakers are electing not to fine or filter and the bottle will indicate so but there will be some sediment at the bottom of the bottle and your glass!
Natural and Low Sugar Wines
There are some wine styles that are catching people's attention - in particular, natural wines and low sugar wines. Here’s a quick guide.
Natural Wines - There is no regulated definition but the term ‘natural wine’ usually refers to a wine made of grape juice and not much else. The grapes are organic, sustainably or biodynamically farmed and then they are hand-picked. Only native yeasts are used. No additional yeasts or other additives are added during fermentation. Usually, little or no sulfites are added. This results in a wine with a different flavor profile… a bit yeastier and a bit less fruity. Natural wines may also have a cloudy appearance.
Low Sugar Wines - During the fermentation process, the yeast eats the sugar in the grapes and produces alcohol. Any leftover sugar is referred to as residual sugar. The standard definition of “sugar free” wine is anything that is statistically sugar free, at 1 gram per liter or less residual sugar. Since residual sugar is not required to be listed on the label, opt for drier wines for less residual sugar.