Wines are made with fresh grape juice that is allowed to be fermented by yeast. The yeasts use the sugars from the juice in the fermentation process. Looking into this step will make you wonder: doesn’t that make all wines vegan? And that’s fair, considering that no animal products are used in this initial process.
Are all wines vegan?
The initial process would make you think so, but wine-making involves the process of fining. After fermentation, the wine becomes hazy with proteins, off-flavors, tannins, and other byproducts of the fermentation. As a wine drinker, you probably know that people prefer their wine to be fine and clear. That’s why manufacturers use fining agents to capture the tiny molecules that make the wine hazy. They stick them together to form larger clumps that are then easier to remove manually. Unfortunately, the usual fining agents used in the market are animal products. These include casein, a milk protein, albumin from egg white, gelatin from animal proteins, or isinglass, a protein from fish bladders. If these agents are used in the fining process, the resulting products aren’t vegan anymore. So, some wines are vegan while others are not.
What makes a wine vegan?
To make their wine vegan, some manufacturers found alternative agents or processes. There are now vegan-friendly fining agents used in the market. Bentonite clay is now widely used in making white wines and rose wines. Other agents used are activated charcoal and PVPP, a kind of plastic that can filter excess tannins and color. Another way to avoid using animal products is to let the wine self-clarify over time. However, this process takes longer and may affect the quality of the wine and the revenue of the manufacturers.
Where to find vegan wine
There’s now a wide range of vegan wines to choose from. Some of the most popular brands of vegan wines available are Charles Shaw, Frey Vineyards, La Crema, Lumos Wine, Red Truck Wines, and The Vegan Vine. The supermarkets have become better at sourcing, labeling, and marketing vegan wines. For instance, Marks & Spencer already sells 384 vegan and vegetarian wines. With proper research, you can find vegan wine almost anywhere now.
How to pair vegan wine
Just like you would in a traditional wine, your vegan wine pairing will depend on your dish. Make sure to pair your vegan wine with the most prominent flavor. For instance, Italian sauce will usually have acidic tomato flavors while hearty soups will often be made with root vegetables — carrots, squash, pumpkin, or potatoes. Tomato dishes and earthy flavors usually pair nicely with full-bodied red wines while root vegetables and spritely fresh greens pair better with white, rose, or light red wines. To find the right vegan wine for you, it’s important to educate yourself not only of the available flavors in the market but also how these wines were produced. This becomes easier and more sustainable when you buy locally produced wines. So do your research, choose the best from the market, and enjoy your evenings with a healthy meal and a sustainably and ethically produced fine wine.
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