Vegan Wine Guide Frequently Asked Questions

Vegan Wine Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

About this document

1. About vegan wine

2. About vegan beer

3. About vegetarian wine

4. Organic wine

5. Labelling

6. Finding vegan wine

7. Buying vegan wine

8. Making vegan wine

9. More information

About this document

This document tries to answer frequently asked questions about vegan wine such as:
  • What is vegan wine?
  • Why is all wine not suitable for vegans?
  • Where can I get vegan wine?
  • How do you make vegan wine?
The master copy of this document is held at http://vegans.frommars.org/wine/faq.php. Refer to that copy for the most up to date version of this document. The author of this FAQ is Des Keane, < des AT frommars * org >. Last updated: 18 Feb 2005.

1. About vegan wine

1.1 What is vegan wine?
Vegan wine is wine (a fermented, alcoholic grape drink!) that is made using no animal-derived ingredients.
1.2 Why are all wines not suitable for vegans?
Many wines are made using animal-derived ingredients to assist in the processing of the wine. Whilst these ingredients in the main are filtered out of the wine before it is sold, the use of animal ingredients in the creation of the wine makes them unsuitable for consumption by vegans. Typically these ingredients are used as processing aids in the "fining" or filtration part of the winemaking process to help remove solid impurities such as grape skins, stems, pips, to remove the yeast used in the fermentation process or to adjust the tannin levels in certain wines. This is done to end up with a clearer, brighter, better tasting and more presentable wine.
1.3 What animal ingredients are commonly found in wine?
The most common animal ingredients used in wine making are isinglass (a very pure form of gelatine from sturgeon fish bladders), gelatine (extract from boiled cow's or pig's hooves and sinews), egg whites (or albumin) and caseins (a protein from milk). Very occasionally blood has been used as an additive - "sangre de toro" means "bulls blood" - but rarely literally any more. This ingredient was declared illegal for use in European wines in the aftermath of the outbreak of BSE (mad cow disease).
1.4 Are animal ingredients needed to make wine?
No! Many wines are made differently - hence vegan wine.
1.5 What alteratives exist?
Bentonite or kaolin are two minerals that are used for fining by some winemakers. Some filter manually without the use of additives, or not at all.
1.6 Does vegan wine taste different to other wines?
No. There are many wines of many different types that are suitable for vegans from around the world and across the spectrum of grape types and price ranges.
1.7 What about vegan champagne?
There are many champagnes that are suitable for vegans. There are also vegan sparkling wines, vegan red wines, vegan white wines and vegan rose wines. There are no categories of wine that I am aware of which there isn't some wine suitable for vegans.

2. About vegan beer

2.1 Hey, wait a minute, does this mean not all beers are vegan either?
Unfortunately not. Beers are processed in many of the same ways as wine, often using isinglass to filter the end product. More information on beer suitable for vegans can be found on Geraint Bevan's Vegetarian Beers list.

3. About vegetarian wine

3.1 What is vegetarian wine?
Vegetarian wine is wine that has been produced without the use of additives that required animals to be killed. The use of eggs and dairy processing aids is okay for a wine to be suitable for vegetarians.
3.2 Why are some wines suitable for vegetarians but not for vegans?
Some wines are processed using egg whites or casein, an egg by-product, which means they are suitable for vegetarians but not vegans. Typically white wines use these processing aids.

4. Organic wine

4.1 Is organic wine suitable for vegans?
Not necessarily. In fact, no more so than any other wine. Organic wine is produced without chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and with carefully restricted amounts of chemical preservatives (sulphur dioxide normally). Nothing is required with regards to the use of animal-derived ingredients.
4.2 Is organic wine suitable for vegetarians?
Not necessarily for the same reasons as it may not be suitable for vegans.
4.3 But I thought organic wine was "natural"?
Animal-derived ingredients are considered "natural". In fact organic farmers may use animal blood and bonemeal (crushed animal bones) which are slaughter house by products in place of chemical fertilisers, as well as any processing aids that are used in the wine itself.

5. Labelling

5.1 Does vegan wine have a special label?
Not usually. Occasionally a wine may be marked as suitable for vegans - e.g. Penfolds Clare Valley organic red wine - but that's rare. The Co-op supermarket chain labels its own brand wines as "suitable for vegetarians and vegans" when appropriate.
5.2 Does vegetarian wine have a special label?
Not usually. However many supermarkets in the UK and Ireland at least label a lot of their own brand wines as "suitable for vegetarians" when appropriate. They don't use a recognised vegetarian symbol, such as that of the Vegetarian Society. The existence of "suitable for vegetarians" on the label doesn't mean that the wine either is or isn't suitable for vegans. The lack of any mark of suitability signifies nothing either, as most wines are not marked for suitability at all.
5.3 Are the ingredients in wine on the label?
Generally not. In Europe at least it is not permitted by law to include the ingredients on wine. The Co-op supermarket is braving the law by defying this and they do provide the ingredients to their own brand wine. See here for further details.
As some processing ingredients are largely removed from the end product, some winemakers don't consider isinglass for example to be an "ingredient" in their wine, as they remove it (apart from traces) before bottling the wine.
5.4 Are additives to wine labelled?
Generally not, although sulphide content (a preservative) is often labelled in the USA.
5.5 Is the nutritional value of wine labelled?
Sometimes - legislation differs from country to country. So number of calories and other information is often found on the label. Alcohol percentage is always labelled.

6. Finding vegan wine

6.1 Where can I find a list of wines suitable for vegans?
The Vegan Wine Guide has a large list of wines suitable for vegans. Geraint Bevan's Vegetarian Beers list also includes many vegan wines and beers. VNV Victoria has a list of mainly Australian wines and spirits. Many supermarkets provide details on their websites of which wines are suitable for vegans - Tesco, Asda. Is It Veggie has gathered lists from many supermarkets. Some off-licenses and supermarkets offer a list of wines (and other products) which are suitable for vegans by e-mailing or telephoning them, e.g., Odd Bins, Threshers, Co-op. The Vegan Society's Animal Free Shopper is now available online (free registration is required to access it), listing a number of wines suitable for vegans.
6.2 Where can I find a list of wines suitable for vegetarians?
Remember that all vegan wines are also suitable for vegetarians! So those wines and additional wines suitable for vegetarians but not vegans are available from the same places as above.
6.3 What if I'm interested in a particular wine but it's not on any list?
Often the best way to find out is to contact the winemaker directly. If they have a website with an e-mail address they are often responsive to a genuine and interested enquiry, or they may have a telephone number or street address. Some of the larger congolmerates can be a little more difficult, but often they too answer. Remember to be polite and provide enough detail to understand your enquiry - many winemakers, or for larger companies often their customer services or marketing department representatives, have never heard that wine may not be suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Some of them will say there are no animal ingredients, just isinglass. Sometimes it takes a second round of conversation to confirm the latter piece of information.

7. Buying vegan wine

7.1 Where can I buy vegan wine?
Equipped with a list, it is possible to buy vegan wine in many supermarkets and off licenses (liquor stores). There are also many sources online (see below).
7.2 Can I buy vegan wine online?
There are two main ways to buy vegan wine online - from supermarkets and from specialty wine stores. The first thing to remember though is that wine is heavy. Shipping costs may therefore be prohibitively high. Sometimes supermarkets deliver from the nearest store to your house, keeping shipping costs much lower, so this can be an option. Often online wine stores specialising in organic wines also keep and identify a good stock of wine suitable for vegans (and vegetarians).
UK
USA

8. Making vegan wine

8.1 Who makes vegan wine?
Lots of people, see the lists to start with. There are some winemakers that make exclusively vegan wines, such as:
8.2 Can I make vegan wine?
Yes. It's no different than making any wine, except that you ensure you use non-animal fining ingredients, such as bentonite.
8.3 How do you make vegan wine?
Get a book about homebrewing.

9. More information

9.1 Where can I go for more information about vegan wine?
The Vegan Wine Guide, the master source of this FAQ, has a lot of information. Satya magazine ran a series of articles in November 2003 about vegan and organic wine. Peta's Carla Bennett talks briefly about vegan wine in this article.
9.2 Mailing lists
There is a mailing list devoted to discussing vegan wine: < veganwine AT googlegroups * com >. It is archived at http://groups-beta.google.com/group/veganwine.