Everyone knows that wine is made from fermenting crushed grapes, so it would seem like a reasonable expectation that wine would be vegan. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Even though wine is made from fermenting grapes, not all alcohol-free wines are vegan. Some wines use animal sourced ingredients that make them unsuitable for vegans. Fortunately, there are a number of meat-free & alcohol-free wines on offer for you to choose from.
Here we have a look at what makes some wines non-vegan and the vegan friendly alternatives available, followed by 15 of the best vegan alcohol-free wines for you to try.
What Makes an Alcohol–Free Wine Vegan?
Veganism is a philosophy that goes beyond just not eating animal-based products. It expands into avoiding using products that are animal derived, whatever their use. This can include clothing, furniture, and many other products.
To explore what makes alcohol-free wine vegan, we’ll use the Vegan Society’s definition of vegan for food and drink:
In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
In other words, as long as an alcohol-free wine doesn’t contain anything that’s derived from an animal-based product, it can be classed as vegan.
As wine is made from fermenting grapes, it does raise an interesting question…
Aren’t All Alcohol-Free Wines Vegan?
Grapes aren’t derived from animal based products so it would seem logical to think that they would all be vegan. However, modern wine goes through quite complicated production process that uses many different ingredients or processing agents (the difference between these two is very important to vegan alcohol-free wine and we’ll get to later).
This includes fining the wine which is when fining agents are added to the wine. These can often be derived from animal-based products. Consequently, the wine can no longer be labelled as vegan.
What is Fining Wine?
Fermenting wine is a completely natural process that involves introducing yeast to the grape juice. The yeast reacts with the sugars in the grape juice to produce alcohol. The problem is, as with most completely natural processes, it’s messy and inefficient.
Once wine has been left to ferment, there’s a number of tiny insoluble particles left suspended in the wine. These can include, but aren’t limited to:
- Dead yeast cells
- Grape Skin
For most people, seeing small particles floating around in their wine would be off-putting, but fining is more than just making the wine look pretty. All these particles floating around in the wine will also impact the aroma and flavour of the wine.
Winemakers use the fining process to remove all this unwanted waste from the wine. They do this by adding fining agents to the wine.
What do Fining Agents Do?
Fining agents are used to help filter out these particles in the wine, making wine look more attractive when poured in a glass. It also helps with consistency between batches in both the aroma and taste, helping the winemaker achieve their desired flavour reliably every time.
Fining agents do this by either physically or chemically reacting to the particles floating in the wine to produce new, larger particles. This may at first sound counterproductive as they now have even more obvious particles floating around in the wine. However, these larger particles can more easily be separated from the wine.
The wine is then put through a filtering process and these larger particles are removed leaving a wine with the clarity, aroma and flavour desired by the winemaker.
Animal-Based Products in Wine?
There are a number of different fining agents used by winemakers, each with their own characteristics on what affect they’ll have on the wine. For example, some will be used more specifically for tannin removal whilst others may soften a wines astringency.
A number of these fining agents are derived from animal-based products. These include:
- With some of these being added to the wine at various stages of production, you’d assume they’d be listed in the wine’s ingredients, but you know what they say about assumptions…
Fining Agents – Ingredient or Processing Agent?
If you’re looking for a vegan alcohol-free wine, it’s important to know that you can’t always rely on checking the ingredients label on the wine. As the fining agents are filtered out of the wine, some fining agents are classed as processing agents, not additives or ingredients, so may not be clearly listed in the ingredients of the wine.
However, if the fining agents used are derived from animal products that contain allergens (e.g. casein which is derived from milk products), the allergens must be included on the wine label due to labelling laws on allergens.
Why Not Vegan?
Some may argue that as the fining agents are filtered out of the wine, then it could still be called vegan. Apart from the fact that it’s impossible to completely remove all the fining agent from the wine or that some will be absorbed into the wine, it also ignores the philosophy of veganism.
Using the definition of being Vegan (from above) it states that veganism from a dietary point is “dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals”. As wines using animal-based fining agents would be partly derived from meat-based products. Therefore, these wines cannot be called vegan.
Is Fining Needed in Alcohol-Free Wine?
If it’s fining that stops wine from being vegan, it’s worth asking the question whether the process is completely necessary?
imperfections that are removed through the process of fining are not harmful and don’t need to be removed for safety reasons. Instead, as the world is increasingly driven by aesthetics, the appearance of the wine can be especially important.
There is some dispute amongst winemakers on whether fining is good for the wine as the process can impact the flavour and texture of the wine. If left long enough in good conditions, most wines will reach the same clarity. Wines that haven’t been through the fining process are known as unfined wines and can be identified in a number of ways. However, using fining agent speeds up the process and saves producers time and money.
While people continue to enjoy their wines clear and without any haziness, it’s unlikely that fining will be removed from the process anytime soon. However, it may be that attitudes change in the future, in the same way is unfiltered lager has become popular in recent times.
How do they make Vegan Alcohol-Free Wine?
There are two different approaches to making vegan alcohol-free wine. The first is simply not putting the wine through the fining process. By not doing this, animal based fining agents don’t need to be added to the wine, keeping the alcohol-free wine vegan. These wines will often be labelled as unfined or unfiltered.
The other more common option open to winemakers is to use non animal-based fining agents to filter the wine. By doing this, they are able to keep the wine free of animal-based products and label the wine as vegan.
Some examples of the types of vegan friendly fining agents used are:
- Bentonite clay
- Kaolin clay
- Plant casein
- Silica gel
- Vegetable plaques
These enable winemakers to produce vegan wine just as fast as non-vegan wine, which is good news for vegan wine lovers, as it means there’s an increasing number of vegan wines on offer. Even better, this trend is carrying over into the alcohol-free wine market, with a growing number of alcohol-free vegan wines now on offer.
Future of Vegan Alcohol-Free Wines
Research shows that since the beginning of the covid lockdown, 1 in 4 Brits have “actively cut back on some form of animal products” showing an increasing awareness towards vegan lifestyles in the UK.
However, this isn’t just a trend that’s kicked off during the lockdown, Whilst there are now close to 1.5 million vegan Brits, that number has been rapidly rising since 2014 when there were only 150,000.
At the same time, 2020 alone saw a 20% increase in NoLo drinks. With such strong upward trends, it’s clear that being vegan and alcohol-free is becoming the norm for many consumers in the UK. If winemakers want to keep selling their products, they need to adjust their wine making practices to accommodate peoples changing buying habits.
Knowing When Your Alcohol-Free Wine is Vegan?
As some fining agents are classed as processing agents, they don’t always appear on the ingredients label, making it harder to identify which wines are vegan. Many fining agents also use names that don’t necessarily make it clear that they’re derived from animal-based products. After all, who would choose a wine with fish bladder in it?
If you can’t trust the ingredients label, how can you tell which alcohol-free wines are vegan?
One option is to look for unfined or unfiltered wines. These wines won’t have had fining agents used during the process so should still be vegan.
Many online alcohol-free retailers now have a sections dedicated to vegan friendly drinks. This includes the two largest online dedicated alcohol-free shops Wise Bartender* and DryDrinker*, both of which have huge ranges.
You can also check out the wine manufacturers website as they will often contain information on whether their wines are vegan. Another great resource is the Vegan Society’s website where you can search for companies awarded their Vegan Trademark.
Going Alcohol-Free & Vegan – It’s Easy!
With so many great vegan alcohol-free wines on offer, it’s never been easier to quit alcohol and animal-based products. No matter what your taste, there’s a wine out there for you. Every colour to sparkling and non-sparkling, there really is something for everyone.
It gets even better as you look to the future for vegan alcohol-free wine. As the markets for both vegan or alcohol-free products continue to grow, it’s inevitable that the vegan and alcohol-free market will grow. This is something winemakers know, and they cannot ignore it. This will lead to more winemakers producing vegan and alcohol-free wines in the future, which can only be a good thing for you, the consumer.
Best 15 Vegan Alcohol-Free Wines to Try
To demonstrate just how easy it is to buy vegan and alcohol-free, I’ve picked out ten of the best vegan friendly alcohol-free wines you can try.
You can get all of these from Wise Bartender*. Just click on the links* below and use the code GOODSTUFF to get 5% off:
Try Vegan Alcohol-Free Wines Today
With so many exceptional vegan alcohol-free wines on offer, why not try some today. With red, white and rose, sparkling or non-sparkling, you’re sure to find a new favourite wine to enjoy again and again.
I’d recommend checking out Wise Bartender* as they highlight which of their huge range of alcohol-free drinks are vegan on the product images. Plus, they’ve even got a section dedicated to vegan alcohol-free drinks*.
Even better, if you use the code GOODSTUFF you’ll get 5% off your first order.
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