Vegetarian and Vegan Wines
How and what makes a wine vegetarian or vegan-friendly may seem a slightly strange concept, in that wine is a fruit derivative.
However an essential part of the winemaking process is the clarification stage and it is here where many wines lose their vegetarian or vegan-friendly status. Clarification is the process of removing all solid particles that are in suspension to leave your wine clear and bright. This is the removal of any remaining bits of grape (skins, pulp or stems), lees (dead yeast cells), proteins, pectins and other sediments that precipitate out during the winemaking.
Wines can be clarified gravitationally by letting tiny particles drop to the bottom of a tank over an extended period of time, but it isn’t a quick process. Whether or not this is sufficient depends on a myriad of factors including grape varieties, the type and style of wine being made and the size of the winery. Not all wines will be stable at this stage even though they appear clear and will require further stablisation treatment.
Filtration can also be used to remove particulates, however ultra-fine filters can remove some of the wine’s character, and wines that have undergone malo-lactic fermentation tend to clog up filters rapidly. Coarser filters can work well to remove visible particles and then most winemakers will turn to ‘fining’to clarify their wines.
Fining is the introduction of a usually negatively charged material or liquid (fining agent) into the wine which attracts foreign particles to form larger clumps that are heavier and therefore quickly fall to the bottom of the tank. Fining ensures wines are not only visually clear and bright, but also less likely to go hazy after bottling by removing proteins and certain tannins that can cause stabilisation issues later on. It can also be a relatively gentle way of clarifying your wine.
Fining agents are commonly from animal derived products such as gelatine, isinglass (fish), casein (milk protein), egg albumen (from chicken egg whites) and less-commonly chitosan (shellfish exoskeletons). Theoretically none of the fining agent will remain in the finished wine, but the fact they have been used changes the wine’s vegetarian or vegan-friendly status. Wines fined with casein (milk protein) and egg albumen (from chicken egg whites) are usually acceptable for vegetarians, but obviously not for vegans. A pescetarian would find isinglass (fish) and the less-common chitosan (shellfish exoskeletons) fined wines acceptable. As an alternative to animal products, Bentonite (a negatively charged mineral clay) can be used to clarify wine as it is good at binding to positively charged proteins. Such Bentonite-fined wines are vegan-friendly, but Bentonite must be used in the smallest possible amounts as it can remove aroma compounds associated with proteins from the wine. PVPP (a synthetic fining agent), vegetable gelatine and centrifuging are all suitable for vegans too.
So to summarise, if a wine is un-fined or has undergone Bentonite fining it will be vegan-friendly and likewise vegetarian-friendly also. If it is vegetarian-friendly it may have seen fining with casein or egg albumen. On Tanners website you can filter wines by Vegetarian or Vegan-friendly by using the Vegetarian and Vegan filter options on the left-hand side of all category and product results pages.