Many wines are not vegan…
Most wines are surprisingly not vegan! “But wine is made from grapes!” you may say. Do not worry. It comes as a shock to a lot of people. The truth is, wineries process their wines using several different methods.
Wine producers use the term ‘MOG’ which stands for ‘Matter Other than Grapes‘ when talking about non-grape components in their harvest. Mechanical wine harvesters pick up more than just grapes! As a result, a lot of “stuff” can get into the yield such as mice, frogs, and bugs, which is sad, so let’s not dwell on that for now!
When wine is first produced, it comes out hazy and full of particles from the orchard. Some wines are filtered through a large sieve, but ‘fining’ is the most common practice of cleaning up wine. Added to the wine is a product that adheres to the unwanted particles. Then, that product is removed taking those particles with it. Casein (a milk product), gelatine (made from animal bone marrow), albumen (made from eggs), and isinglass (a fish bladder protein) are the most common fining agents. Obviously these fining products make these wines non-vegan!
Fortunately, if you are looking for vegan wine, there are methods of fining that do not involve using animal products. Bentonite clay (made from weathered volcanic ash) and activated charcoal are examples of vegan fining products.
Is natural wine vegan?
Natural wine should be vegan. It is often unfiltered and unfined. One caveat to drinking unfiltered, natural wine is that everywhere except for France, there is no legal legislation about how natural wines are/should be processed. For more, read my post about natural wine.
What can you do to ensure your wine is vegan?
The first thing you will need to do if you are unsure is research your producers. Secondly, it is best to work with small independent wineries and directly ask about their fining process.