What Is Vegan Wine: Our Complete Guide (2023) | Mr Wheeler


What is Vegan Wine?

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What is Vegan Wine?

If wine is made just of grapes, then why is there the need for some wines to be labelled specifically as vegan? Well, the straightforward answer is because animal byproducts are commonly used during the winemaking process to produce wine that is clearer and brighter in colour. 

Additives such as isinglass, egg whites and milk protein are used in the clarifying and filtering stage of production and as such render wines that have undergone this process unsuitable for vegans. 

Vegan wine on the other hand, is produced using non-animal-based clarifying agents such as activated charcoal, purified clay or pea gelatine, while some vegan wines undergo no fining process whatsoever. 

With the rising popularity of veganism, more and more wineries are now labelling their wines as vegan-friendly. However, there are still many that don’t, which often makes identifying vegan wines on the market difficult. 

So, if you want to know how to tell which wine is vegan and, more importantly, what it is that makes a wine suitable for vegans, you’ve come to the right place. With this article, we’ll help you learn more about vegan wines and choose the best vegan wines.  

When is a wine non-vegan?

So when is a wine non-vegan, and why are animal by-products commonly added to wine? 

It all starts with the fermentation process.

Fermentation is the key to making wine, and where heat, bubbles, and most importantly, alcohol, is produced. During fermentation, yeast grows in the fermentation tank, and triggers a chemical reaction with the natural sugars in the grape juice. 

It is a vigorous reaction that can render a wine cloudy, often with free-floating sediment. In red wines, these floating molecules will be tannins, phenolics or tartrates. 

Although sediments are naturally occurring and completely harmless, when visibly suspended in a glass, they’re appealing to very few people. For this reason, most wines undergo a fining process after fermentation. 

For clearing this excess sediment and then stabilising a wine, fining agents are added. This is what produces the clear, luminous appearance we expect. Some of the animal byproducts that can be used to filter wine include fish oil, gelatin, bone marrow, egg whites, chitin, or casein. 

Although these may sound off-putting, don’t worry: fining agents don’t remain in a wine. Once they’ve done their job filtering the young wine, they’re removed either by evaporation or filtration. The final product, however, will still be unsuitable for anyone having a vegan lifestyle. 

Can wine be vegetarian but not vegan?

As we’ve established, fining agents used by winemakers can vary from isinglass or gelatine to egg albumen and casein. Depending on the fining agents used during the winemaking, a wine might be suitable for vegetarians, but still not be vegan. Any wine that has been fined using casein (derived from milk protein), or egg albumen is vegetarian-friendly. Isinglass and gelatine, on the other hand, are made from fish and animal bones, making them wholly unsuited to vegetarians. 

What is the difference between vegan wine and traditionally made wine?

So, understanding that not all wine is vegan may very well lead you to ask: “Does vegan wine taste any different?”. 

In a word, no. There is no difference in flavour - a vegan wine will taste like any other wine you’re used to drinking. Animal products used in the vinification process do not in any way affect the wine’s flavour profile, only its clarity and colour. 

Some people even find vegan wine tastes better, since it’s usually fully organic and therefore has no additives, preservatives or artificial ingredients. This means the tasting notes are more prominent, vibrant and fresh. You do have to keep in mind that without the additives, there might be some sediment at the bottom of the bottle as a result of the fermentation process. 

How do you know if a wine is vegan?

Identifying whether a wine is vegan or not can be tricky, for although more and more wineries have started to label their wine as vegan, it’s still taken some time to catch on. 

Many wines that don’t specifically say ‘vegan’ on the label will be suitable for vegans, you just need to know what to look for. One term you should look out for is ‘unfined’ or ‘unfiltered’. An unfined wine has been fermented and bottled without the addition of a fining agent such as gelatin which, otherwise, would clear up any sediments that remained.

Our Top Vegan Wines

So… if you’re looking for some inspiration, here are our top choices for vegan-friendly wines: 

2019 Pouilly-Vinzelles 'En Paradis', Louis Latour

If the heavenly aromas of honeyed acacia, white peach and apricot wafting from a chilled glass of white burgundy float you away, or should a sumptuous palate of exotic fruit, grapefruit zest, brioche, vanilla and pineapple flavours find you en paradis, know that the 2019 Pouilly-Vinzelles from Domaine Louis Latour is here to lead you there.  

Because Latour’s En Paradis is unoaked and matured for 8 to 10 months in stainless steel vats, it demonstrates a remarkable purity of fruit, which offers an opulent texture with a complexity of flavours that finishes dry, with great precision, and a fresh zing of citrus.

2021 Pinot Noir Gran Reserva, Dancing Flame, Leyda

For the reds-drinker in you, a gorgeous Chilean pinot noir. Here, lifted aromas of blackberry, red fruit and sweet, French oak spice on the nose, with juicy flavours of raspberry, fresh cherry and a subtle smokiness on the palate. On the finish, the rounded, soft tannins add structure to this food-friendly, vegan pinot. 

Brut Tradition, Champagne Michel Guilleminot

This Brut Tradition is our best-selling Champagne and a great example of the Blanc de Noirs style of sparkling wine. Made from 100% pinot noir this style is famous for its elegant nose, fruit-driven and structured palate and fine mousse. 

Although the minimum required ageing process is fifteen months, this Brut Tradition ages for a minimum of three years before its release. This makes for a fresh and very complex champagne with elegant red fruit flavours from the glorious pinot noir grapes and a delicate mousse with a touch of biscuit and brioche on the finish

Prosecco Brut, Ca Vittoria

If you’re looking for a vegan Prosecco, here’s an outstanding option. Aromas of golden apple and gentle acacia flowers on the nose lead to a bone-dry, beautifully balanced palate bursting with apple and peachy, stone-fruit flavours.  A great complexity of flavours caressed by a fine, creamy mousse.  

Brut Rosé 'Blanc de Noirs', Michel Guilleminot, Champagne

Don’t think we’ve forgotten about all the rosé lovers out there! Michel Guilleminot’s brut rosé enjoys an enviable reputation for its great value for money and consistency. The Guilleminot family produces its own red wine known as Coteaux Champenois which is used specially for the production of their champagne rosé. 

With a lively and deep salmon pink colour, this sparkling rosé expresses a wonderful blend of red fruit aromas and a fine creamy mousse. A bottle of this bubbly would make for a lovely aperitif or an accompaniment for a light summer red fruit pudding.  

Discover More Vegan Wines at Mr Wheeler Wines

Ready to discover more exquisite vegan-friendly wines? Explore our full range of vegan wines from producers who we think best encapsulate a natural approach to winemaking and authentic, intriguing terroir expressions that result. If you have any questions about our products or need additional information, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team. We’ll be happy to help you choose better wine. 


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