The Vegan phenomenon has been going on for a little while now but it seems that it has literally exploded in 2018 (remember #veganuary ?)
Only a couple of years ago, we were all going bananas about gluten-free and this health craze is still going strong, with some breweries for example using anything but wheat, and instead opting for millet, rice or even quinoa (very middle-class beer indeed!)
When it comes to wine, there’s no gluten in sight, however, it can be tricky to know if a wine is vegan or vegetarian as it not that obvious and labelling is not always clear. The good news is The Society recently introduced a directory of vegan wines (and vegetarian wines too!) on our website, so now you can shop with confidence.
So, is vegan wine a trend or a real wake-up call?
It seems like the nation is suddenly becoming:
1- Health conscious (that’s a first…)
2- Animal-welfare conscious. Fair enough. If I was working in an “abbatoir” (God forbid!), I would also probably stop eating meat. But then I prefer blocking the horrific images of pigs being slaughtered and thinking of them happy, having a good time in spa-style mud pool. And then bacon magically appearing on my supermarket shelf (Note to self: must stop living in fairy land…!)
But what is vegan wine anyway?
As we all know, wine is made from grapes. So far, so good. No animal-related components there. The issue arises when it comes to the fining process.
All young wines are hazy (due to tiny molecules such as proteins, tartrates and tannins). However, we wine-drinkers like our wines to be clear and bright!
Producers use a variety of aids called ‘fining agents’ to help the process along. Essentially, the fining agent acts like a magnet – attracting the molecules around it. They coagulate around the fining agent, creating fewer but larger particles, which can then be more easily removed. The problem is that a lot of these are derived from animal products.
Traditionally the most commonly used fining agents were casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein) and isinglass (fish bladder protein). They are not additives to the wine, as they are precipitated out along with the haze molecules.
But today, to the great joy (and probably relief) of wine-loving vegans, many winemakers use clay-based fining agents such as bentonite, which are particularly efficient at fining out unwanted proteins. Activated charcoal is another vegan and vegetarian-friendly agent that is also used.
And an increasing number of wine producers around the globe are now electing not to fine or filter their wines at all, leaving them to self-clarify and self-stabilize. Such wines usually mention on the label ‘not fined and/or not filtered’.
So there you have it. Now, you can be a vegan AND enjoy good wines!
Happy drinking !