Is not all wine vegan? No, even the majority of the wines are not. But wine is made from grapes? You should think. And grapes are plants anyway, you might think. That is indeed true, but to clear the wine, they often use animal ingredients. This makes the wine less cloudy because the yeast and particles are removed from the wine.

We interviewed Walter Van der Veken of Fairwine. He tells you the difference between organic, biodynamic, vegan and standard wines.

What is used in such a way that wine is not vegan?

  • albumin (egg whites)
  • gelatin
  • isinglass (from fish)
  • casein (milk proteins)
  • milk

The animal product hangs on a cloudy particle, and together they drop down. This is the clarification process. Then the wine is filtered.

Usually, proteins are used. The consumer likes a clear wine and often doesn’t know how that will be. It happened behind the doors of the wine cellar. Most wines are cleared with animal products. Turbid wine is not a bad wine, on the contrary. This is usually healthier and tastier.

The chance that white wine is cleared is much greater than with red wine. With red wine, it is more appreciated that it is cloudy and has character. With white wine, people prefer for clear wine.

How is vegan wine made?

  • Either the wine is not cleared.
  • Either the wine is cleared by letting it sink. So by just having patience, but patience and economic profitability are usually not so good together 😉 If you leave enough time between the ripening of the wine and the bottling of the wine, the sediment drops down, and the cloudy parts are one.
  • Working with non-animal products. The best known is bentonite, a small mineral clay. This is the same, the impurities in the wine are bound to clay particles.

How do you recognize vegan wine?

You don’t know whether animal products are used because the producer is not obliged to mention this on the label. You can ask your wine farmer or some wines have a vegan label or a mentioning “suitable for Vegans”. Then you are entirely sure.

With organic wines, the chance is a bit bigger that they are indeed vegan, but you are absolutely not sure if there’s no label or mention. Organic is, therefore, no guarantee.

  • Vegan label: this is a certificate for which you have to pay
  • Mention on the label.  No fining (= not cleared). Some winemakers put: suitable for vegans
  • In the Jewish kitchen, it’s also not allowed to make contact between plant and animal ingredients. A wine that has the Kosher label also doesn’t contain animal products. A vegan wine or kosher wine comes down to the same thing.

On the website Barnivor, you can check if wine, beer or liquor is vegan or not.

Vegan wine label

The difference between a traditional wine and an organic or biodynamic starts in the vineyard?

No pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and synthetic fertilizers may be used with organic and biodynamic wine. This is frequently used in traditional agriculture, but also of monoculture. The result is that the ground is dead soil because it is wholly sprayed with that stuff. Nonetheless, healthy soil is essential for getting tasty and healthy grapes.

What is the difference between an organic or biodynamic wine?

Organic and biodynamic agriculture uses tools of natural origin. Biodynamic winegrowers use specific preparations that are made (for example) from cow manure or silicon and are diluted very vigorously. Then the vineyards are sprayed with this.

If you are going to view vineyards, a row that is organic and a row that is treated in a biodynamic way, you can clearly see the difference in health and vigor of the plant.

Biodynamic also goes according to the teachings of Steiner, the cosmos in its totality and the ecosystem within the vineyard. For the favorable moments for pruning, the lunar calendar is taken into account.

Most organic wine growers work with manual picking. This is because the grapes are in better condition than if you would do this mechanically. In traditional viticulture, large machines are going to knock the bunches of grapes from the vines. This goes very quickly and efficiently but damaged the bunch of grapes. And this affects the continuation of the winemaking process.

Immediately after harvesting, sulfite is frequently used to prevent rapid fermentation and rotting. Less sulfite will be used in organic farming. Some winegrowers even try to work without sulfite. This requires very hygienic work (manual, small boxes, …).

Manual harvesting has an impact on the quality, but of course also on the cost price.

Vegan wine and the differnce with organic and biodynamic wine

Is sulfite harmful?

Sulfite is not very harmful, but some people are allergic to it.

Wine without sulfite is possible to a certain extent. Some natural wines make the wine stable by just having patience. This requires right conditions for aging and maturing.

Flavor additives

If the wine is too sweet, an acid is added. If the wine is not sweet enough, sugar will be added. In northern regions, one will regularly have a harvest with too acidic grapes so that some sugar will be added according to the guidelines. This is not allowed in organic farming. The wine will thus be more dependent on the season and the year. If it has been a bad year, the wine will taste different, but will also be made differently. The winemaker can still intervene by doing the right thing at the right time.

Do you drink vegan wine?