Not All Wine Is Vegan. Here's Why

Eating a vegan diet has become so much easier over the past few years, as a plethora of plant-based milks, plant-based cheeses, and even lab-grown and plant-based meat have hit supermarket shelves and restaurant tables at a never-before-seen pace — one that is expected to continue to grow by leaps and bounds well into the next decade, according to Fortune. Got a bacon craving? There's a vegan option for that. Need some cream cheese to schmear on your bagel? There's a plant-based option for that, too.

Those who adhere to a diet free of animal products may pay less attention to beverages such as soft drinks, juices, beer, and spirits, which don't contain any meat, eggs, or dairy ... or do they? Take wine, for instance. Basically just grape juice that is fermented for up to three weeks and then aged, it would be logical to assume that wine is vegan, as it is made from fruit. But if you're a strict vegan, you'll want to pay close attention to labels when purchasing wine, as a lot of what's on the market is not vegan at all.

'Fining agents' are often not vegan

If you've been drinking wine assuming that it's free of animal products, we've got bad news. According to Wine Enthusiast, many modern wines are made with egg whites, the milk protein casein, gelatin, fish bladders known as isinglass, and other animal derivatives. Why? These products are introduced in a process known as "fining." 

Traditionally, wines clarify all on their own, with residual solids in the wine falling to the bottom of the bottle as the wine ages. When serving the wine, consumers can just pour slowly to avoid getting any sediment in their glass or pour from a decanter. But modern winemaking is often rushed. That's where "fining," an accelerated way to remove unwanted substances, comes in. According to Wine Enthusiast, during the fining process, one of the animal derivatives listed above is introduced into the wine, binding to sediments that are then filtered out, along with the fining agent. Since the animal derivative is not included in the bottle of wine, it doesn't need to be listed among the ingredients.

So how do you ensure your wine is truly vegan? Any unfiltered wine will be labeled as such; that means it includes natural sediments and did not go through fining, or, as Vegan Wine Box notes, went through fining using charcoal, clay, or other non-animal-derived substances. Otherwise, ask your local wine seller, who will be able to let you know which bottles are vegan, or check the database of vegan wines at Barnivore.