What Makes a Wine Non-Vegetarian?

Article published Apr 14, 2023

That a wine would be unsuitable for those on a vegetarian or vegan diet may seem baffling to new wine enthusiasts. There is, however, a lot more than just grapes involved in the art of winemaking. 

Fining agents are often added following the initial fermentation to clear a wine from sediments and enhance its appearance. And with many commonly used clarifying agents deriving from animal products, this can render a wine non-vegetarian. 

In this article we take a more in-depth look at the additives which make a wine non- vegetarian. At the end we will also give you our top choices of vegetarian-friendly wines. 

When is a wine not suitable for vegetarians? 

So when is a wine considered unsuitable for vegetarians? 

A wine is not suitable for vegetarians when fining agents made from animal tissue are added during the clarifying stage. Common among such additives are gelatine and isinglass, where the former is made from processed animal tissues and the latter from fish.

However, those produced from milk or eggs are safe for vegetarians, and include such substances as egg albumen and casein. 

Can a wine be both vegetarian and vegan? 

Yes, because a wine that is vegan has ticked the vegetarian boxes already. While vegetarians consume no meat, fish or shellfish, those on a vegan diet go further by avoiding all products having any ingredient of animal origin whatsoever. Therefore, wines fined with casein or egg whites are also unsuitable for vegans. 

Therefore too, for a wine to be both vegetarian and vegan-friendly, it cannot be made with any additives of animal origin. 

Such wines will instead use natural fining agents like clay, activated charcoal, yeast or other similar products. 

Wines produced without the use of any fining additives are also suitable for both vegans and vegetarians.

If you’re curious to learn more about vegan wine in particular, we encourage you to read our article on the topic

Our Top Vegetarian Wines 

Then, for vegetarian-friendly wine inspiration, here are some superb options: 

2020 Pinot Noir, Greywacke, Marlborough

Fragrant and indulgent, a Pinot Noir as decadent as this is perfect for all the red wine lovers. With its sweet, fruity flavours of raspberries, poached plums and black cherries, topped with just a hint of strawberry conserve and notes of cinnamon and spiced clove, this red is a sensation. As a Marlborough-styled Pinot, it’s full-bodied with a dense structure, generous weight on the palate and a long, lasting finish. 

Rutherglen Muscat, Pfeiffer, Victoria

A bouquet of rich florals and raisin fruit, and a lusciously sweet flavour profile with a delightful long finish is what you can expect from this Australian Muscat.  

Although it’s classed as a dessert wine, this beautiful Muscat will be just as stunning served chilled with some spicy tomato soup or fragrant blue cheese. 

White Zinfandel, Foxcover, California

Bursting with vibrant red berry flavours and summer fruits, this wine is reminiscent of summer dinner parties in a sunny garden. 

Its refreshingly low alcohol level allows a hint of sweetness to linger in the wine resulting in a fruit-forward, off-dry finish. Try it with slightly spiced Asian food.

2021 Alasia Gavi, Araldica Vini Piemontesi, Piemonte

From the Piemonte region in Italy. Aromas of citrus and green apple with a broad palate that is well-structured with ever more apple flavours, stone fruit and hints of lemon. Supreme refreshment in summertime. 

2022 Apple Valley Riesling, Greenhough, Nelson

Fresh aromas of ripe citrus with a subtle background of mandarin and orange blossom. Lively acidity and flavours of beautifully ripe, naturally sweet fruit with a dry, harmonious finish. 

A vegetarian and vegan-friendly white with a curtailed fermentation process to retain residual sugar and balance a low pH. A classic, just-off-dry style with a vibrant structure and luxurious texture. 

Lovely to drink as an aperitif or served with aromatic Asian cuisine.

Discover More Vegetarian and Vegan Wines at Mr Wheeler 

Our comprehensive selection of vegetarian and vegan options means your next favourite wine may be just a few clicks away. Explore our full range of handpicked wines and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to find out more: we’re always keen to help you choose better wine. 


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