Last week we gave you some info on how and why the trade is having to adapt quickly the the rapidly expanding vegan market. But how can you start if you don’t know yourself which of your booze is vegan and what makes it so?

Fear not, for our tireless squadron of blog writers are here for you. Here is a brief lesson on vegan wine and how to spot it.

Wine is made from grapes. I hope that isn’t too much of a surprise.  Simply put, grapes are pressed, and the juice is collected. Yeast is added, which then converts the sugars found in the juice into alcohol. All sounding pretty vegan so far, right?

The next step of the process is where the uncertainty lies. Once the grape juice has been fermented, the wine is hazy and contains tiny particles of tartrates, tannins and proteins. These are all naturally formed during the fermentation process and are completely safe for us to drink. However, the current market demands for our wine to be clear, clean and bright.

To remove the particles, and make the wine clean, clear and bright, winemakers will use a process called fining. If left, most wines will settle, and these molecules fall to the bottom of the bottle, creating a clear, bright wine. However, many winemakers will use fining agents to help this process. The haze-causing molecules in the wine will stick to the fining agent like a magnet and form larger lumps in the wine. These larger lumps are then filtered out before bottling.

 The most commonly used fining agents include:

 Albumin (egg white)

Casein (a protein found in milk)

Gelatine (a protein derived from animals)

Isinglass (fish bladder protein, also used in beer production)

If the first two are used, this is usually acceptable by most vegetarians but all four are off strictly limits for vegans. This is because minute traces of the fining agent may be absorbed by the wine during the fining process takes place.

The good news

All is not lost. Many winemakers, including lots of our families at the Wine Rascals, are using clay based fining agents such as bentonite or activated charcoal. Not only are they vegetarian and vegan friendly, they are also extremely efficient at filtering out unwanted protein molecules.

Even more good news. Some winemakers are choosing not to filter or fine their wine at all, and let nature take its course, leaving them to self-clarify and self-stabilise. Currently in the UK, these are labelled as ‘unfiltered’ or ‘natural’ wines.

The bad news

Now for the bad news. At the moment, it is not compulsory for wine to be labelled as vegan or vegetarian, or to even state which fining agent (if any) have been used. This makes it almost impossible for vegetarians and vegans to identify which wines they can and can’t drink just by reading the labels.

At the Wine Rascals, we have a large range of wines suitable for vegetarians and vegans. We encourage our customers to clearly state if a wine is vegan, organic or bio-dynamic. That way, we will see less of the bad news and shout about the good news.