Have you noticed on some bottles there is text saying that this bottle of wine is Vegan Friendly, or possibly a logo indicating that a bottle of wine is Vegan Certified? I have noticed that more people are asking for vegan-friendly wines.
What exactly is a vegan-friendly wine?
Grapes are fruits so by default are vegan. The natural fermentation process is vegan, but maybe not the wine. Why not? The answer is how the wine is fined to remove suspended yeast particles in the wine. People, in general, do not want to drink a cloudy wine. We like to see a clear, bright wine in our glasses.
What materials can winemakers to remove these dead yeast particles leaving a clear wine (aka fining the wine)? It was common in the past to use something called isinglass is a substance similar to collagen obtained from the dried swim bladders of some tropical and semi-tropical fish. The yeast particles cling to the isinglass and precipitate out of the wine. The wine can then be siphoned off leaving the isinglass and yeast in the barrel or stainless steel vat. But you never get 100% of the isinglass out of the wine, which is a problem for vegans. Egg whites and milk may also be used for the same purpose, but again not 100% of the egg white or milk would be removed. Plus if a person has a fish, egg, or milk allergy, there is the chance that they could react to what remains in the wine.
Luckily there are alternatives to isinglass, egg whites, and milk for fining wine. Bentonite, a type of very fine clay made of aluminum-silicate that is formed from volcanic ash. Another material is Polyvinylpolypyrrolidone (PVPP). I have read that PVPP it is an inert material that presents no known acute or chronic health hazards.
But do you need to fine a wine? In general wineries do fine wines in part to make the wines clear but also to stabilize the wines so that the wine in the bottle does not re-ferment from yeast leftover from the original fermentation process. Some wineries do not fine or filter their wines, which is more common in red wines, leaving you with a deeper coloured wine and sediment in your bottle if you leave it in your cellar over time. Depending on the fining product used, you can get reduced colour and tannins in addition to the removal of the yeast particles, sometimes to the detriment of the wine. Some people say that unfined wines are the only way to taste the wine as it was made.
If you would like to know more about the science and implications of using various fining products here is a good article by the Australian Wine Research Institute to read.
Vegan vs Vegetarian
What is the difference between being a vegan and a vegetarian? A vegan diet excludes all meat and animal products covering cows, pigs, sheep and other animals, poultry and other birds, fish, seafood, dairy and eggs, whereas a vegetarian diet excludes meat, poultry, ?sh and seafood, but not dairy and eggs. There are some variations for vegetarian diets as well including pescatarian which allows eating of fish, dairy and eggs.
There are more than one vegan certification organization around the world, each with their own rules and regulations. Two vegan certifying organizations I identified through a google search are:
You may want to delve deeper into how these two organizations manage their certification.
Casually I have heard that many wineries have moved away from isinglass and that bentonite is more commonly used to now fine wines. Some BC wineries put either text or logos on their bottles to show that their wine is vegan-friendly, such as Okanagan Crush Pad’s Haywire wines and Summerhill Pyramid Winery. Each of these wines has different logos showing them to be vegan-friendly. I cannot tell if the logos are associated with a particular certifying body, but will try to find that answer and update this article.
Watch for an upcoming article where I will review some vegan-friendly BC wines for you.