Vegan wines are made without the use of any animal products.
Traditionally, animal products have been used during the fining process. Most winemakers choose to clarify and stabilise their wines before they are bottled by using a practice known as fining. There are sound reasons for doing this: fining a wine not only makes a wine look clear, it also lowers the risk that it will take on unwanted flavours and aromas in the bottle before it is opened.
During this process, the liquid is filtered through substances called “fining agents.” This process is used to remove protein, yeast, cloudiness, “off” flavours and colourings, and other organic particles. Popular animal-derived fining agents used in the production of wine include blood and bone marrow, casein (milk protein), chitin (fibre from crustacean shells), egg albumen (derived from egg whites), fish oil, gelatin (protein from boiling animal parts), and isinglass (gelatin from fish bladder membranes). The quantities are small – say 15-120mg/L of gelatine or 10-100mg/L of isinglass – and by its very nature the fining material doesn’t remain in the wine, it precipitates or gets filtered out.
Vegetarian wines may use casein (milk protein) or egg albumens as fining agents. Rather than label wines as Vegan or Vegetarian, here at Vintriloquy we only indicate wines which are suitable for Vegans, partly because there is more information available for wines which have no animal products whatsoever and also because we can be certain that if a wine is suitable for vegans then it is also suitable for vegetarians.
Vegan suitable wines are increasingly common as more and more winemakers are using alternatives to animal-based fining agents. The most popular are bentonite silica clay, kieselguhr (sedimentary rock), kaolin (clay mineral) and silica gel. Some vintners also let the wine's sediments settle naturally, a time-consuming process embraced by the ‘natural wine’ movement. These wines are 'unfined', in which case they may appear cloudy, or they undergo some light filtration, avoiding the use of animal derivatives.