There’s no steak in the bottle so what’s the score with vegan wines? Well, while producers have stopped short of increasing the body of wine with the addition of the odd chop, they do sometimes use animal derived products to clarify their wines in a process called fining.
All young wines are hazy and contain tiny particles such as proteins, tartrates and phenolics, these are all natural and from the grapes themselves so are in no way harmful. While these may actually be beneficial for the ageing of a wine and also mean more flavour, many people prefer their wine to be clear and bright. If left long enough most wines will self-stabilise (naturally being vegan wines)and self-fine but producers use a variety of aids called ‘fining agents’ to help the process along.
These fining agents bind to the tiny particles and work essentially like a magnet – attracting the molecules around them. They coagulate around the fining agent, creating fewer but larger particles, which can then be more easily removed through filtration. The most commonly used fining agents are casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein) and isinglass (from fish). They are not additives to the wine as they are removed at the end of the process. However these are off limits for vegans because tiny traces of the fining agent may be absorbed into the wine during the fining process.
The good news is there are several vegan friendly products that can be used for fining such as carbon, bentonite clay, limestone, kaolin clay, plant casein, silica gel and vegetable plaques. Wines that have used any of the above as a fining agent or are unfiltered and unfined are fair game for vegans! Hurrah for vegan wines and cin-cin!
P.s. There will be many more of our wines that are suitable for vegans (particularly red and fizz) but it’s very hard to squeeze the information out of winemakers sometimes!