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Vegan wine, is it all natural wine?

So loads of people keep asking me about vegan wine and often the question is 'is organic wine vegan?' or 'is vegan wine organic, does natural wine necessarily make it ok for vegans' etc etc.

So here is how it breaks down.

Vegan wine simply means that the wine hasn't undergone any processing that involves products derived from animals.  The main process is fining (a type of heavy duty clarification) using what is called Isinglass, a product derived from the dried swim bladders of fish.  In the past the fish was sturgeon (beluga Sturgeon, like the Caviar, that must have been for the Champagnes) but nowadays they tend to use the bladders from cod.  Not only does this all sound pretty disgusting but obviously this process is an absolute no no for vegans.  Other common fining agents include gelatin derived from animal bones, skins, hides etc, casein derived from milk, chitosan derived from shrimps, and egg albumen derived from, err....eggs.  In the past, they even used dried blood powder derived from deceased alcoholics but that practise died out in the late 80s!

Most conventionally made wines are fined but not all are fined with animal products and so may class as vegan anyway.  However, a vegan wine is absolutely not necessarily a natural or organic wine, in fact most conventional vegan wines which sell their vegan credentials will be far from natural in the rest of their production.

On the flip side of the coin, natural wines are not necessarily vegan wines but most probably are.

Natural wines are in most cases un-fined as fining tends to strip out a lot of the natural components of the wine which ultimately add to its flavour, texture and authenticity.  However, some wine makers who work organically and using wild yeasts and basically produce natural wine may prefer to fine their wines.  However, most natural wine makers are pretty responsible types and would be unlikely to use animal based products for fining preferring something like a clay based material called bentonite.

However, there are plenty of grey areas here particularly when talking about biodynamic wines.  Biodynamic producers use a special organic preparation in the vineyard called preparation 500 and 501 which is basically burying cow horns in the ground.  The horns come from cows slaughtered for their meat.  Ultimately the cow horn goes nowhere near the wine and is used to produce organic composts for the vineyard.  But, I am not sure ardent vegans would be too happy about this part of the production despite the fact that biodynamic wine is most natural and holistic method of producing wine.

I am not sure I have made this much clearer for anyone.

So for all vegans out there, the best thing to do is check with your wine merchant and make sure they know their producers and fining agents.  Sometimes vegan wines are marked as such on the bottle but with small artisan producers, that is unlikely too.

To sum up...

Not all organic wine is vegan.

Not all natural wine is vegan but is more likely to be vegan.

Absolutely not all vegan wine is natural or organic wine and the two things are not particularly linked.

Biodynamic wine is absolutely likely to be vegan in its wine making but then they bury the horns in the ground, tricky one...

Hope that helps.  Cin Cin