If you’re a vegan, did you know that you may unknowingly be drinking wine that isn’t vegan? Many vegans are surprised by this and ask 'How is wine not vegan? It’s just fermented grape juice, right?!'. Unfortunately, that is usually not the case, and the wine you’re drinking may not be vegan for two main reasons.
Why not all wines are vegan-friendly reason 1 - fining agents
The first reason is fining agents. Fining is a purely cosmetic and commercial process. After the wine has been made but before it’s been bottled, it’s still a bit cloudy. So to make the wine bright and visually appealing, fining agents are added to the wine. These fining agents then bind to tiny undissolved particles suspended in the wine and gum them all together, so they can easily be filtered out. Unfortunately, these fining agents are often animal products; gelatine (from animal skin, bones, and connective tissue), egg white albumin (derived from chicken or duck eggs), casein (from cow’s milk), and isinglass (slurry made from fish bladders).
Fining is fairly unnecessary since, given enough time, the wine will clarify naturally in a barrel or tank. Hence fining is often used by commercial wineries that prefer to rush their wines out to market. Natural winemakers tend to not fine their products, or if they do, use natural substances like bentonite clay or activated charcoal.
Why not all wines are vegan-friendly reason 2 - MOGS
The second reason is “material other than grapes”, or MOGS. When grapes are machine-picked instead of hand-picked, it is a fairly violent and indiscriminate process. MOGS refers to all the material that ends up among the picked grapes, including twigs, leaves, insects, and small animals that may live on or among the vines.
Mechanically picked grapes are then mechanically sorted, which is an imprecise process. This means that not only are animals unnecessarily killed, but they can also end up in the fermenting vats (yuk!).
Which wines are vegan friendly?
If you're vegan, wines made from hand-picked grapes that are unfined, or at least not fined using animal products, will be what you’re looking for. Wine producers may include a vegan-friendly logo on the back of their bottles, although this isn't always the case.
If you're unsure about whether a particular wine is vegan-friendly, the best thing to do is contact the producer directly and ask them. They should be able to tell you definitively whether or not their wine is vegan.
At Feravina, we only select natural wines that are vegan-friendly that fit these criteria. Check out our selection of vegan wines here.
Which wines are dairy free?
People who have dairy allergies may also benefit from choosing vegan wines, or dairy-free wines, because the milk protein casein can be used in the fining process. You may have heard of “milk washing”. This is a process where wine is fined using the milk protein casein, which gives the wine a creamier mouthfeel. As the name suggests, this means that the wine is no longer dairy-free. See some dairy-free wine brands here.
The bottom line is that not all wines are vegan-friendly or dairy free. You can drink wine if you’re vegan, or dairy free, however, be sure to check the labels of the wines you purchase to make sure they don't use any animal products. Alternatively, you can contact the producer directly to inquire about their fining and MOGS practices.