Uncorked: What on earth is vegan wine?

It might surprise you to learn that some wine isn’t completely meat-free. Tom Harrow filters through the options for oenophiles taking part in Veganuary this year

Friday 06 January 2023 15:46 GMT
Most wine is, incidentally and joyously, vegan
Most wine is, incidentally and joyously, vegan (Getty/iStock)

With hundreds of thousands of people signing up to take part in Veganuary this year, one of the most asked questions, naturally, is whether eschewing meat products also means giving up wine.

Since when was wine not vegan, I hear you ask? It’s a good question, and one that we’ve asked our expert gurus at the Independent Wine Club.

As part of our Uncorked series, demystifying the world of wine for curious oenophiles, we explain why some filtration processes have historically blurred plant-based lines and what to look out for when picking a vegan vino.

Q. What is vegan wine, and is it any good?

A. Yes! It’s an easy question for me to answer as most wine is, incidentally and joyously, vegan. There are, however, instances where they aren’t and with awareness and interest in veganism on the rise, it brings attention to these few cases but the long and short of it is – vegan wine, whether intentionally or not, is great.

It is strange to think that a drink, and a grape drink at that, would involve anything animal-y but indeed, there are some winemaking practices that will lose a bottle of vino its vegan status. Sometimes, wine will go through a fining process (filtration) to remove certain compounds and help with removing cloudiness from the final product. This clarification process is where the plant-based lines are blurred as it can involve passing the wine through a myriad of very non-vegan things. Egg whites are used for their albumen, bone marrow for gelatin, isinglass is another fining agent which comes from what is effectively fish guts and some wines are even purified in ox blood (although this latter was banned in the EU in 1997).

All of these are very effective for their purpose, and creative to say the least but of course, not vegan. That doesn’t mean though that vegan wine must be unfiltered.he same creativity has allowed for a modern cog to turn and bentonite – a compound found in clay – comes to the rescue. So, there you have it. Vegan wine is (and always has been) brilliant, and you could even say, ahead of the curve?

Got a question for the wine gurus? Send it to hannah.twiggs1@independent.co.uk or tweet @hannah_twiggs.

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