Vegan wine is wine that is made without using any animal products during the winemaking process. While it might seem surprising that wine could contain animal products, traditional winemaking often involves the use of substances like gelatin, egg whites or fish bladder proteins (isinglass) to clarify and stabilise the wine. These substances help to remove impurities and unwanted particles from the wine, making it clear and bright.
Vegan wines, on the other hand, avoid these animal-derived products and instead use plant-based or mineral alternatives for clarification. This can include substances like bentonite clay or activated charcoal. The use of these alternatives ensures that the wine is suitable for those following a vegan diet.
Determining whether a wine is vegan is not as straightforward as it may seem as there is no legal definition of vegan and labelling is voluntary. The assessment of veganism can extend beyond the wine itself to include packaging, labels, ink and glue. Cross-contamination in vegan wine can occur if it is aged in barrels that previously contained non-vegan wine or if equipment is shared between vegan and non-vegan products without proper cleaning.
Some producers gain certification from bodies like The Vegan Society. Certification is important for consumer confidence, though terms like “suitable for vegans” can be used without third-party audit.
More wineries are focusing on vegan-friendly wines and the significant change in recent years is the labelling aspect in that some wines may have been suitable for vegans but were not labelled as such.