In an age where vegetarianism and veganism is on the rise (thanks to evidence that proves consumption of meat and dairy produce is fuelling global warming) – it’s evident that what we consume is becoming more than just fuel for the soul, but rather a widespread responsibility for the environment in which we inhabit.
And so the research from dieticians and climate change activists (we are looking at you Greta Thunberg) may be proving to be making a positive difference when it comes to our food choices… but, have you actually stopped to think about the wine we drink and its effect? After all, isn’t wine just grapes? It turns out, not all bottles of the magical liquids are made the same. And if you are going to go Vegan, then you may as well be ALL in. Drinks included…
Traditional wine making v’s vegan wine making process
In general, people think of the winemaking process as crushed grapes, poured into wooden barrels and then left to ferment until it turns into wine. This is not always the case. With the mass production of wine, there are many processes which go into the juicy goodness.
It’s not always clear by looking at the label on a bottle of wine how it has been made or if it is plant-based. Although labels are beginning to change with the demand for plant-based products.
So, let’s talk about the filtration processes in wine making, and why this matters. Winemakers use filtration processes to clarify wine, making it a clear constancy. They remove the sediment and cloudiness which grapes naturally have when fermenting. It also helps prevent the wine from re-fermenting in the bottle.
As a basic guide to how wine is filtered, traditionally the fining process (filtration) uses casein which is a milk protein, albumin also known as egg whites, gelatine an animal protein, or isinglass a fish bladder protein. For most vegetarians the casein and albumin fining process are usually acceptable, but not for vegans. As there are small traces absorbed into the wine during the process.
While some winemakers use clay-based fining agents like bentonite to filter out unwanted proteins. Or they can use activated charcoal, limestone, and silica gel, these are vegan-friendly.
It is important to note, not all wines go through the fining process, these are also vegan and vegetarian friendly. On the label it may read ‘not fined’ or ‘not filtered’ which is when the wine has been left to self-clarify and self-stabilise. These wines are usually ‘natural’.
It takes time for the wine to go clear in the natural fermentation process, this can be part of the reason why winemakers use faster fining processes.
You are probably wondering if there are any health benefits to opting for knowing if a wine is fined or not at all. It is up to personal preference.
Another consideration in wine consumption can be if a wine is natural or not. When a wine is ‘natural’ it can be healthier as a result of being made from certified organic grapes. They do not have chemical fertilisers, pesticides or industrial herbicides used on them. Meaning the crops do not have any residual chemicals. The wine can only come from land which has been organically farmed for a number of years. This also means the wine comes from sustainable agriculture.
Typically, winemakers who do not use chemicals directly in the production of wines, they say there are only safe quantities present in the bottle.
In natural wine, everything in the bottle is grapes. In other wines it may not be just grapes hiding your favourite bottles.
How to choose your wine
While this all may sound a little technical, there are some ways of making sure you are getting vegan and vegetarian friendly wines. With more wine stores specialising in organic, biodynamic and, natural wines popping up. It is becoming easier to be in the know. Just look out for the labelling and be sure to check out your more boutique sellers over commercial.
The topic of wine making is complex, it is a starting point for knowing how to choose wine based on how it is made and what may be in it.