Vegans And Drinking- Uncovering The Vegan Wine Saga

Posted: Dec 16, 2018

Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir- I can’t imagine life without an elegant glass of wine. Relax, rejuvenate, unwind or leisurely- wine is an indispensable part of life, at least for me. When I first encountered Veganism, I hadn’t given a thought to what goes inside it until I went wine tasting. That’s when it occurred to me, is wine vegan? Is it just grapes or there’s a defenseless animal’s suffering, hidden somewhere amidst each sparkling drop of wine? Let’s unravel.

Is Wine Vegan?
Wine is made from grapes, so it is vegan in spirit. But, the way in which wine is processed might take away the plant based nature of the drink.
But how can something made from grapes, not be vegan?

To understand this point, we have to take a walk into the wine-making basics. Brewing wine is a slow process. Pressed grape juice needs to settle before the fermentation. Once fermentation is initiated, the wine continues to mature, and during this time-period residual solids began to settle as sediments in the bottom of the barrel. This way the wine ‘clarifies’ itself in a natural way.

This process inevitably takes a long period. But, the market pressures the modern brewers, to speed up the clarifying process. This process is called ‘fining.’

During fining, animal products are often used as processing aids. They are injected into the wine casks to bind and remove sediments. The most used fining agents are gelatin and Isinglass. Gelatin is made from bone, skin and tissue extracts, and Isinglass is made from the dried bladder of a fish.

Fining process cannot be skipped, as it is often done to stabilize wine that has no time to clarify itself naturally over time. It is also used to correct winemaking faults like flavors, color or cloudiness. As they are removed after fining is complete, the binding agents don’t feature in the ingredients list.

Few other animal-based finings are egg whites, casein ( a protein found in milk), Chitosan ( derived from shells of crustaceans).

No Vegan Wine?!
The good news is, with the increase in the demand for vegetarian and vegan wines, the brewers are using non-animal based fining agents, like Poly-vinyl-poly-pyrrolidone (a man-made plastic substance which absorbs excess phenols and colors), and Bentonite (It is pure clay with negative charge to create vegan wine. It binds protein colloids in wine, and also make them heat stable.)
Some vegans prefer grapes from farms that use plant based fertilizers.

There is a huge number of wineries that cater to the vegetarian and vegan clan. Look at the label, or ask your merchant. Got doubts? Refer to this article for a hands-on list of the best Vegan Wines out there.

By Mayuri Rajvanshi
December 14, 2018

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