I did not expect to write about this subject. Biodynamic production and natural wines, those were imminent topics for a wine-blogger. Is wine vegan? – I didn’t see that one coming. Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased that this cat is out of the bag. I feel that people should be able to access information that is important to them regarding consumer products. I just never thought about this aspect in wine before, so it threw me a bit off guard. It all started when M sent me a link to an article on the Decanter website about Duval-Leroy going vegan…
Lets start with answering the question: no, a wine is not necessarily vegan-friendly. The reason that all wines are not vegan or even vegetarian-friendly has to do with the clarification-process of the wine. A young wine is naturally hazy, and we (most of us) like our wine crisp and clear. Thus, producers use fining-agents to speed up the process of settling. This goes into the category of things I did not care to know, however substances such as egg white, milk protein, gelatin (animal protein) and fish bladder protein (!!) are used as agents in this part of the process. There are also vegan-friendly fining agents: clay-based bentonite and activated charcoal.
An alternative way to clear the wine is let it stand. And I am not talking about a few extra weeks, rather a few extra years. This of course might be quite an investment, and perhaps not even in the best interest of a wine that should be consumed young. For fine wines made for ageing, like champagnes, this is not a problem. So I am not surprised that it is a champagne house coming out with the announcement to be 100% vegan-friendly. Sure several of the well-aged bubblies already are, like my old friend Champagne Fleury, even though it is not separately stated.
How do you spot a vegan-friendly wine then? Firstly I want to mention that there is a clear movement towards more natural winemaking methods. Allowing nature to take its course, means more vegan and vegetarian-friendly wines in the future. Yay for that! An increasing number of wine producers around the globe are choosing not to fine or filter their wines, leaving them to self-clarify and self-stabilize. Such wines usually mention on the label ‘not fined and/or not filtered’.
Disappointingly (apart from mentioning whether it has been fined or filtered) wine labels do not typically indicate whether the wine is suitable for vegans or what fining agents were used. One has to do some research on the producers website or the internet to be able to recognize a vegan-friendly wine. If a wine is labelled to be a natural wine or produced according to biodynamic methods that is of course a good start. However the use of some animal products is allowed also in biodynamic production (rules vary by country) which means that this labeling is no guarantee for a vegan friendly wine. Here are a few websites that you can visit for more information: Vegan Wines Online (UK online shop for vegan wines) & Vegan Wine Directory.
After having thought about this aspect for a while, I think we at the Winecurious should to take some action. Even if I myself am a fan of meat and cannot imagine life without bacon, I want to respect peoples choices in cuisine as well as offer good wines also to vegans. Perhaps we cannot offer a fully vegan selection, however we can at least have this information clearly available. We are quite rigorous already with having a full picture on the production process, so why not include this information to our line of inquiry from our partners. I hope to be able to update this information on in our web-shop during the beginning of the year.
What do you think? Will vegan wines become a trend, like nature wines, or is the segment too small to receive media attention? I have a hunch that this is not the last we hear of the subject…