February 18th is National Wine Day, and we’re always down for a good glass of wine. However, not just any wine will do. In fact, a lot of wine is not vegan. Did you know that many wineries sneak some pretty gross ingredients into their wine during the fertilization and fining processes of winemaking?
What’s lurking in your wine?
According to Frances Gonzalez, the founder of Vegan Wines, a plant-based wine club, and Despacito Distributors, an entirely plant-based wine distribution company, most people aren’t even aware of what non-vegan ingredients are in wine.
“We’re talking egg whites, gelatin, fish bladders, and milk proteins, all of which are used to clarify the wine,” she says. These ingredients bind to and remove unwanted wine sediments during the fining process. In addition, they can camouflage a bad harvest.
Is wine vegan?
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Lots of vineyards also use animal products in their fertilizers, like fish emulsion, feathers, blood, and bone meal,” says Gonzalez.
Even manure used for fertilizer can come from factory farms where the animals are fed chemicals and antibiotics, which is then transferred to the soil, and then the grapes, the wines, and finally, into the consumer’s body.
She believes that most people aren’t aware of what’s in their wine because there is no law that requires winemakers to disclose ingredients, which, aside from animal byproducts, can also include sugar, water, and even dye if the harvest was bad.
This doesn’t have to be the case though.
Can winemakers skip animal byproducts to make wine?
Instead of using animal byproducts, some winemakers use the process of racking to remove the larger pieces of sediment from the wine. This allows the winemaker to move wine from one barrel to another. It uses the force of gravity instead of the non-vegan process.
Others may use different types of fining agents, like bentonite (a clay) to clarify their wines. Or, they may use cold stabilization or filtering processes to remove sediment.
Are vegan wines better?
Gonzalez says that winemakers using vegan practices are better able to retain the grapes’ natural character. Others use hard ingredients which strip or mask the grapes’ character. In addition, they generally don’t have additives like sugar, water, dye, or any of the other 300 (!!) ingredients which can be used in winemaking. She finds that those winemakers who embrace minimal intervention practices and work with nature, rather than against it, produce a superior product. So, in short: yes, they are better.
How can you tell if wine is vegan?
“There’s no way to tell except by doing your research,” she says. “You can’t know what the vineyard uses to fertilize the soil or what the winery’s fining processes are unless you talk to the winemaker.”
Her company does this by visiting vineyards around the world to meet the winemakers. Theypersonally vet every wine they sell and distribute.
Apps like Barnivore only tell you if animal byproducts are used in the actual wine itself.
Where can you find wines that are vegan?
If you’re looking for an easy way to find vegan wines, discover five vegan wines you can enjoy tonight. Always look at labels — some wines will clearly mark a wine as vegan. Keep in mind that most don’t consider the fertilizer when designating it as such. And, of course, use services like Vegan Wines and their wine club to get your wines animal-free.