What makes a wine vegan? Ask Decanter
Given that wine is the product of grapes and yeast, some may assume that all wines would be appropriate for vegans – those who do not consume any kind of animal product – but this isn’t always the case.
Wine bars and retailers have started to market some wines as vegan friendly in response to the growth of veganism in several countries, including the UK and US. According to The Vegan Society, 600,000 people in the UK were vegan in 2019, compared to 150,000 in 2014. Furthermore, according to Ipsos in 2022, almost half of Brits aged 16-75 are now considering reducing their future intake of animal products.
‘Veganuary’ is increasingly part of the New Year calendar, slotting into the post-festive detox trend. For January 2022, over 629,000 people signed up to take part worldwide, according to The Vegan Society – almost 50,000 more than in the previous year.
The increasing move to veganism may be founded through people’s concern for animal welfare, their own health or climate impact. Whatever the reasons behind it, many consumers are now looking to have the same levels of clarity in terms of what is in their glass, as exist for what is on their plate.
It is often traditional fining agents that can make a wine unsuitable for vegans.
Egg whites or casein (a protein found in milk) can be used to remove tiny particles of sediment in a wine that cannot be removed by filtration.
However, other ways of doing this are becoming more popular.
‘Traditional fining products that were egg/fish/milk derived have probably – we think – moved on to a lot of vegetable-based products,’ said Kristin Syltevik, of the Oxney Organic Estate in East Sussex, England, speaking in 2018.
‘Vegan wines are made without animal products, so winemakers either leave the particles to sink naturally to the bottom of the wine, or use non-animal fining products usually bentonite, a form of clay or pea protein,’ said former Waitrose & Partners wine expert, Matt Johnson.
Other animal products used in wine production may include beeswax (used to seal bottles) and agglomerated corks (which use milk-based glues).
In reality, many wines are vegan friendly. However, it can be difficult to tell. Regulations in the EU and US do not currently require wineries to list fining agents on labels.
More wine retailers and producers have started to help consumers make a choice by highlighting which of their wines are vegan friendly.
Majestic Wine previously told Decanter.com that it defined vegan wine as those that ‘will not have been fined, filtered or come into contact with anything derived from an animal or dairy source’. It currently stocks over 270 wines listed as vegan, compared to just 39 in 2018.
Waitrose Cellar has over 500 wines listed as vegan on its website.
Decanter’s Weekday Wines also shows which wines are labelled vegan and vegetarian, as well as those that are organic and biodynamic.
Updated May 2022.
Ten vegan-labelled wines to try:
The following wines were recommended by Decanter experts, and are also vegan.