Is there vegan wine?
In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is it vegan wine?” and will discuss what makes wine not-vegan.
Is there vegan wine?
Yes, there is a vegan wine. For the most part, the public has no idea that wine, although being created from grapes, may include ingredients originating from animals. Substances known as “fining agents” are used to remove impurities throughout the winemaking process. Organic particles, such as protein, yeast, cloudiness, and “odd” smells and colors, may all be removed with this method. Animal fining agents often used in winemaking include bone marrow, milk protein, chitin, egg albumen, fish oil, and gelatin (a protein obtained from boiling animal parts), as well as isinglass, which is generated from the shells of crustaceans and seaweed (gelatin from fish bladder membranes).
The use of fining agents in winemaking is widely known as a processing aid to clarify, enhance the wine stability, remove off-flavors, and, particularly in red wines, soften sensory properties such as bitterness and astringency by modulating phenolic composition. Focusing on protein-based fining agents, they can have a different affinity to different types of phenolic compounds. Proteins interact with wine phenolic compounds initially through hydrogen bonding and hydrophobic interactions, forming soluble complexes. Subsequently, phenolic compounds are removed by precipitation through self-association of the complexes formed or formation of insoluble protein aggregates (cross-linkages between proteins) incorporating the target species. This precipitation induces reduced astringency and depends on the protein to tannin ratio as well as on the amino acid composition, tertiary structure, hydrophobicity, and molecular mass of proteins (1).
For those who want to manufacture vegan wine, several typical fining agents are safe for animals. Vegetable plaques may also be substituted for the plant casein and silica gel, as well as for carbon and other natural materials like bentonite clay. Your local organic or health food shops, as well as co-ops and local organic winemakers and co-ops, can help you find vegan wines.
Vegetal proteins have been already isolated from cereals, legumes, potatoes, seaweeds, grape seed extracts, and yeasts. Other vegetal non-proteinaceous products, such as polysaccharide-based agents isolated from cell wall material of fresh apples and grapes or their respective pomaces, have shown great potential for wine fining purposes (1).
Barnivore.com has a comprehensive list of vegan wines.
What makes wine not-vegan?
Many Bordeaux châteaux still use the simplest, most traditional method of fining. There are a lot of tannins in Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wines when they are still in the barrel. The most abrasive tannins are eliminated from the wine by adding natural egg whites to the barrels, agitating them, and then letting them settle to the bottom.
Egg whites have a positive ionic charge, whereas young tannins have a negative ionic charge. During the blending process, the egg whites’ positive charge binds to the negative charge of the tannins. The albumen of egg white is composed of peptide linkages that form hydrogen bonds with the hydroxyl groups of tannins. Upon neutralization, the particles agglomerate and settle to the bottom due to increased mass (2). After they’ve settled to the bottom, the less-tannic wine may be drained away and reused. You may also use powdered egg whites.
Other products derived from animals
Excess phenolic (the tannins found in both red and white wines) are removed by using a variety of additional animal-derived compounds. A few frequent examples from the world of viticulture and enology
The effect of using casein is different from egg white, thus it does not form hydrogen bonds to tannins. Casein flocculates exclusively due to the low wine pH, but the presence of tannins is necessary for precipitation and clarification (3).
To enhance the purity of white wines and eliminate any oxidative taint, casein, a protein found in milk, is added to the winemaking process. In certain cases, such as with crystal-clear Sauvignon Blancs, skim milk is utilized to attain this goal.
Gelatins are also positively charged and are used for the removal of excess tannins from wine. They bind with larger molecules with more phenolic groups that allow more hydrogen bonding sites (2).
Red and white wines may both benefit from the addition of gelatin, a protein obtained from animal skins and bones. While tannins may help white wines become more vibrant, they frequently come at the sacrifice of red wine’s suppleness.
Isinglass is a positively charged fining agent, available as a liquid, sheet or flocculated isinglass. Isinglass, derived from the swim bladders of sturgeon and other fish, was utilized significantly more extensively in the past. By eliminating particulates and extra color, it enhances the purity of white wines. Crustacean shells provide the raw material for the carbohydrate known as chitosan. When used on white wines, its positive ionic charge helps to eliminate unwanted colors and phenols.
Is this to say that all vegan wines are unfined?
That is not always the case. Fining agents that aren’t sourced from animals are available for vegan wines. A wide range of plant proteins have been proposed and are currently used as fining agents in winemaking. Some examples are gluten protein, corn zein, pea, soy and lentil proteins (4).
Plastic produced from PVPP absorbs excess phenols and colors, making it ideal for use in paint and coatings. PVPP is often used to produce the delicate pallor that is characteristic of rosé wines.
PVPP exhibits a high affinity toward wine total phenols and flavonoids. It has been reported to remove these compounds from white wines and to affect the particle size of denatured, aggregated proteins, possibly through cross-linking (2).
It has a negative charge since it is made of pure clay. Protein colloids in white and rosé wines are stabilized by this ingredient, which also binds to them. However, activated charcoal may also eliminate some of the wine’s more appealing qualities.
Fining with bentonite is still the most widely used treatment to prevent protein haze formation in white wines. The mechanism underlying bentonite fining differs from those displayed by all other fining agents analyzed in this study, as it removes wine proteins (carrying a net positive charge at the wine pH) by electrostatic adsorption because of its net negative charge. Bentonite fining was therefore selected as the positive control in the present study by comparing the effectiveness of this treatment to those displayed by the other fining agents (2).
Farming is an option, isn’t it?
Others go beyond winemaking and check to discover whether animal products were employed in agriculture. Rather than using animal-based fertilizers like bone meal or fish emulsion, they choose to use plant-based composts.
As a vegan, what are you supposed to do?
Make sure to check the label on the back or contact your retailer. In response to customer demands for more openness, more winemakers are focusing on this issue.
Click here to check the top vegan wines.
Wine Production in the Future
From the health point of view, animal proteins have allergenic or intolerant potential and their residual presence in the wine may pose an important risk in sensitive individuals. In this sense, according to EU regulation No. 579/2012, all potentially allergenic fining agents present in the wine at a concentration higher than 0.25 mg/L have to be declared on the wine label. In recent years, cultural and ideological aspects are also increasingly influencing the wine market. Thereby, the global increase in vegetarian and vegan consumers has highlighted the necessity to make wines using fining products that represent a possible alternative to animal-derived fining agents (1).
Winemakers across the globe are responding to the growth of veganism and the growing demand for organic and biodynamic wines by adopting a more natural approach. The use of animal products in the winemaking process may be reduced if the winemaking process is allowed to take place entirely organically. The use of clay-based fining agents is accessible to winemakers for wines that do not self-fine.
Even though it’s not typical practice for winemakers to disclose the fining agents they used in the creation of their wines (whether it was clay, egg whites, or milk protein), it’s easy to tell when a wine hasn’t had any kind of fining agent used in it at all (and is therefore vegan). If you’re looking for a vegan-friendly bottle of wine, keep an eye out for the words “Unfined/Unfiltered” on the label, since this indicates that the wine was not filtered.
As a general rule, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a wine is vegan just by glancing at the label. As a result, if you’re unsure whether a wine is vegan, always check the website of the winery.
Other FAQs about Vegans that you may be interested in.
In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is it vegan wine?” and discussed what makes wine not-vegan.
- Río Segade, Susana, et al. Phenolic composition influences the effectiveness of fining agents in vegan-friendly red wine production. Molecules, 2019, 25, 120.
- Yildirim, Hatice Kalkan. Effects of fining agents on antioxidant capacity of red wines. J Inst Brew, 2011, 117, 55-60.
- Chagas, Ricardo, Sara Monteiro, and Ricardo Boavida Ferreira. Assessment of potential effects of common fining agents used for white wine protein stabilization. Am j enol viticult, 2012, 63, 574-578.
- Marangon, Matteo, Simone Vincenzi, and Andrea Curioni. Wine fining with plant proteins. Molecules, 2019, 24, 2186.