Plant-based eating is growing in popularity and, with it, the demand for vegan wine is increasing. While most people assume that wine is—by default—free of animal products, the actual situation is a bit more complicated. Read on to learn more.
Isn’t wine vegan to begin with?
A lot of wine is, indeed, considered vegan (in case you’re wondering—yeast doesn’t count). While unfiltered and mechanically filtered wines are commonplace today, many winemakers use fining agents derived from animal products such as egg albumen, gelatin, isinglass (a gelatinous substance made from fish bladders), and even seashells.
RELATED: Plant-Based Food & Wine Pairing Suggestions
How do I know if a wine is vegan?
The easiest way to know whether a wine is vegan is to simply look for labeling on the bottle. American organizations such as BeVeg, Vegan Action and the European Vegetarian Union’s V-Label provide official certification services. And while vegan labeling on wine is becoming increasingly commonplace (just go to any Trader Joe’s and you’ll see what we mean), many producers either don’t know about vegan labeling protocols or don’t want to bother with the hassle or expense of certifying their products.
Others, however, are enthusiastic about the opportunity. “We decided to go through the certification process back in 2016 as we were fielding many inquiries from our customers asking if our wines were made vegan,” says Christine Clair, Winery Director at Oregon’s Willamette Valley Vineyards. “Since they were, we thought this would help shoppers be more informed. We really believe in truth-in-labeling!”
If you’re trying to stick to vegan wine and aren’t worried about labels, you can simply run a search on Barnivore, an online repository of wine, beer, and spirits to find your answer. Just note that the information on Barnivore is sometimes outdated, particularly as many wineries have made the shift to vegan-friendly filtering in recent years. When in doubt, your best bet is to always contact wineries directly.
What are some vegan wines worth trying?
While vegan certification is more common in North America and Europe, you’ll find great vegan wines in nearly every wine-growing region on the planet. Many wines are vegan by default, while others take a more intentional approach to vegan winemaking. Here are just a few of our global favorites:
Stemming from a marriage of Riesling and Trollinger grapes, this citrusy dry wine has taken home countless awards at wine competitions in Australia and abroad.
Le Mas des Patriotes, 2017 Delphinium
Made from a mix of Franco-American hybrid Baco Noir grapes and Atlantic Canada’s resilient Louise Swenson grapes, this garnet-hued brut rose offers delicate fruity and smoky flavors, while remaining delightfully dry.
Ventisquero, Grey Single Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Made of grapes from the Trinidad Vineyard in Chile’s Maipo Valley, Ventisquero’s oak barrel-aged 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon balances a mix of fruit-forward and earthy notes.
A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre grapes grown in the southern reaches of France’s Rhone Valley, this ruby-hued wine was aged in stainless steel tanks in order to maintain its natural fruitiness.
Querciabella, Chianti Classico
This much-lauded Sangiovese blends floral and berry aromas with rich fruits and tannins on the palate. It’s the golden child of high-profile Tuscan winery Querciabella, known for their vegan approach to biodynamic winemaking (they use ceramic cow horns for the famous “preparation 500”).
Spier, 2017 Frans K Smit White Blend
Winemaker Frans K. Smit refers to this Bordeaux-style white–made primarily with Sauvignon Blanc grapes with just a bit of Semillon thrown in as “wonderfully flinty,” with notes such as gooseberry, passionfruit, and a touch of elderberry.
This straw-hued wine is described by its producers as having an aroma of stone fruit and bitter citrus and being full-bodied and creamy on the palate.
Agriloro, Merlot Riserva dell’Or
This Merlot from the tiny Italian-speaking part of Switzerland is described by its winemaker as “austere, intense, and persistent.”
Priam Vineyards, Muscat de Ottonel
One of the many certified-vegan wines produced in Connecticut’s solar-powered Priam Vineyards, this late-harvest dessert wine balances its strong fruit flavors with grounding notes of oak and vanilla.
Willamette Valley Vineyards, 2019 Estate Pinot Noir, Oregon, USA
From one of Oregon’s most established wineries, this certified-vegan wine is described as “full-bodied with a silky mouthfeel and flavors of cherry, brambled fruit, cedar, anise and minerality.”
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