Is Wine Vegan?

It makes sense to think that any glass of wine you drink would naturally be vegan. After all, wine begins with grapes, which are vegan, and the yeasts used to ferment the grapes into alcohol are also vegan. It makes sense, but the reality is that chances are that the glass of wine you're drinking is not vegan — or even vegetarian.

This is due to a process called "fining." When a wine is young, it will typically contain small, natural amounts of proteins and acids that make the wine look hazy. These molecule-sized compounds are harmless, but wine producers remove them so when you pour that favorite pinot noir or pinot grigio into your glass, the result is bright and clear, rather than blurry and cloudy (via Kitchn).

If a wine is left long enough, it can usually self-fine, but most wine producers are not going to be that patient, and so they incorporate a fining agent to move the process along. These fining agents — or process aids — will typically include animal protein. That protein serves as a kind of magnet that combines the tiny molecules into fewer, larger molecules that are easier to extract from the wine.

How can you tell if a wine is vegan?

If you're vegan, vegetarian, or an omnivore who prefers a vegan-friendly wine-drinking experience, you will likely discover a number of options, especially as vegan wines continue to become more popular and more wine producers embrace vegan fining methods or self-fining (via Martha Stewart Wine).

To make these vegan wines, wine producers are able to substitute bentonite as a fining agent rather than using animal proteins. Bentonite is a kind of clay that can be found throughout the world, but is named for Fort Benton, Wyoming, where the largest supply of it can be found (via Healthline). In addition to bentonite, some wine producers are using charcoal, which can also help to manage off-odors in the wine (via Vegan Wines).

To determine if a wine is definitely vegan, it's as easy as looking at the label. If the label says the wine is "unfiltered," then it's vegan (via Metro UK). If it isn't clear to you, though, ask the wine merchant, who should be knowledgeable about their inventory. You may also want to check out the vegan certification company, and use their beverage search feature.

As veganism in America seems to be on the rise — with Vegan News pointing out a recent study showing a 300% increase between 2004 and 2019 — chances are that vegan wines will also increase in popularity, becoming more available and more easily identifiable.