Isn't all wine Vegan?!?
It comes as a surprise to many people that most wines are not Vegan or Vegetarian and often animal products are used during the wine-making process. This includes products such as egg whites, gelatin and something called isinglass which comes from the bladder of a Sturgeon fish. Sounds disgusting doesn't it, but these have been very important for hundreds of years.
So why are animal products used?
When a wine is made it will often appear cloudy and hazy due to organic molecules such as proteins and yeasts suspended in the wine. To clear and clarify the wine, winemakers use processes known as filtration and fining. Filtration simple involves putting the wine through a giant filter to remove larger molecules. However most wines will have much smaller particles which cannot be removed through this method and this is when fining comes in. Most wines will self-fine and eventually clear, but sometimes they need a little bit of help.
What is Fining?
Fining is the process of adding a substance (known as a fining agent) to the wine, which then acts as a magnet and binds to these organic molecules responsible for the cloudiness. This then precipitates out, falls to the bottom of the tank or barrel and is much easier to remove. Usually a process called racking occurs where the wine is drained off to leave the sludge at the bottom. Egg whites are very popular and usually you would just need 2 or 3 per barrel. Other fining agents includes gelatin, casein (a milk protein), Isinglass (which comes from the bladder of a Sturgeon fish) and even Bull's blood, but that is now banned in many countries.
Can you get Vegan wine?
Yes. Many winemakers will use other fining agents that are animal product free - a common one is a clay called bentonite. Some winemakers, in particular natural winemakers will not filter or fine their wines, instead leaving them to do this by itself. It will often be written on the label 'unfiltered/unfined'. It is thought that filtering and fining can strip flavour from the wine too.
If you would like to know if a wine is vegan or not just ask and we will be happy to help.