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Is wine vegan?

If you’re thinking, isn’t all wine vegan? It’s actually not! 

When it comes to checking if your wine is vegan or not, it’s less about the what and more about the how. Depending upon the winemaking technique, sometimes animal-derived products are involved in the wine producing process — even if they aren’t necessarily in the drink itself.

So if you’re curious to know why your wine wouldn’t be vegan, here’s what you need to know.

The truth about “fining”

Winemaking isn’t a speedy process. The grapes need time to settle and clarify or else there will be sediment (think: little grape particles clinging to the glass). Since many wineries are in a rush to produce their batches, they often rely on something called “fining” to speed the process along.

Fining is the technique of using a collection of ingredients to get rid of unwanted stuff from the wine or correct any mistakes like cloudiness or weird flavors. They’re like a fast-forward button and magic eraser for winemakers.

Here’s where the animals come in: some fining agents include:

  • casein (a milk protein)
  • albumin (egg whites)
  • gelatin (animal protein, usually from cows or pigs)
  • isinglass (fish bladder protein)

If you’re wondering why these ingredients aren’t listed anywhere — the reasoning is that since the ingredients are eventually filtered out of the wine, they’re not necessary to include on the label. However, if this makes you uncomfortable — there are some simple tips to help you navigate your wine selecting! 

Here’s what to look for 

Be on the lookout for “unfined” on the label. That’s a good sign the wine clarified naturally over time without any animal intervention (hooray!). Also, bentonite (a purified clay) and activated charcoal are two completely vegan fining agents, so if you see those on the label you’re good to go.

Thankfully, apps like Vegaholic offer fast, accessible lists of vegan wine, beer, and liquor. And Barnivore features a massive database of wines noting which are vegan-friendly and which are not.

And here’s a list of some vegan-friendly wines to keep in mind next time you’re shopping:

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Have you ever wondered what makes wine vegan? Well, it essentially comes down to the fining agents, which are used to prevent bitterness and cloudiness in wine. Most conventional fining agents are animal by-products such as casein, a milk protein; albumin, which is derived from egg whites; or even isinglass that comes from sturgeon bladder! Instead of these animal by-products, here at Summerhill we use bentonite clay, a calamus clay that is mined. It binds to the unstable proteins in wines to prevent cloudiness. Another vegan tool that we use is time! By leaving barrels full of wine for a longer time and topping them up regularly, a small amount of oxygen pulverizes (or fines) the harsh phenolics that fining agents will remove. While this is a slower and more costly process, due to topping and storing the barrels, we believe that it leads to a better result by letting Mother Nature run her course as opposed to adding animal derived fining agents! #summerhillwine #vegan

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