The unstoppable rise of veganism
Veganism has taken the world by storm, with demand for meat-free food increasing by 987% in 2017 (vegansociety.com) and plant-based shops and restaurants sprouting up all over the country. Participants in Veganuary, where animal products are eschewed for a month, are doubling each year but the movement is also increasingly becoming part of consumers daily lives. Government guidelines, climate change, medical reasons and animal welfare are all playing a part in the burgeoning buzz around all things vegan.
Why would a wine not be vegan or vegetarian?
It seems strange to think that a wine could not be suitable for vegans or vegetarians, after all, it is just crushed and fermented grapes.
The reason that all wines are not vegan or vegetarian has to do with how the wine is clarified and a process called ‘fining’.
Traditionally, pressed grapes were left to stand before fermentation, as was young wine after, to allow for the naturally occurring sediments (proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics) to settle at the bottom of the barrel and be removed. These molecules weren’t harmful at all but gave the wine a less than desirable hazy appearance, the process of removing them produced an attractive, clear and sharp looking wine.
This method takes a long time, and time is money. So, some wine producers, wanting to market wines at accessible prices, introduced ‘fining agents’ to help speed the process and get the wine into customers’ glasses quicker. These additions would cause the haze-inducing molecules to clump into a larger surface area, making them easier to remove. The result was a bright and clarified wine, a lot quicker than traditional methods would allow. This is where the vegan aspect comes in, as some of these agents are animal derived.
Which animal agents are used and why?
Casein, a protein found in milk, is added to white wines during the fining process to give clarity and remove any unwanted aromas from oxidisation.
A protein derived from animal bones, gelatin can be used on both red and white wines. Red wines can be made softer, while whites can achieve a brighter colour, though often at the expense of tannins which attribute to the dryness of the wine.
From the swim bladders of sturgeon and other fish comes isinglass. This protein was very popular in the winemaking days of the past. It gives white wines astonishing clarity by removing solid particles and unwanted colour.
Making vegan/vegetarian wine
Today, recognising the need for alternative methods, many winemakers use clay-based fining agents. Bentonite and activated charcoal are two vegan -friendly agents that are proficient at fining out unwanted proteins and aromas from wine. In addition, the move to more natural winemaking methods, allowing nature to take its course as in the traditional methods, means more vegan and vegetarian-friendly wines.
To give you a head start if you are looking to switch to vegan wines, we have collated some of our favourites below. If you would like to know about our full range of vegan wines, contact your dedicated account manager or contact us at e[email protected]
C8696115 2015 Rioja Crianza, Ramón Bilbao
Captivating aromas of fresh dark fruit, suchas blackberries and blackcurrants and hints of blackberry. It has a lovely ripeness and generous fruit character, whilst retaining good structure.
E20261NV NV Classic Reserve, Hattingley Valley
Pale gold in colour, with an abundance of fine bubbles the wine has notes of baked apple, creamy nougat and brioche on the nose, supported by a hint of toast and fresh red fruit. Notes of soft lemon sherbet on the palate, the wine has a beautiful weight and lovely finish
63916116 2016 Riesling Réserve, Trimbach
Classically restrained aromas on the nose of lime, fennel and a touch of honey fresh from the comb. Quite a lot of power and force on the palate,
channelled into a wine of lean texture but amazing length and minerality. Expect it to broaden in texture with age, and blossom with complex mineral, white peach, lemon aromas and flavours.
A8810116 2016 Dry Riesling, Chateau Ste. Michelle
This cool climate Riesling is made in a crisp, dry, refreshing style with mouth-watering acidity and an elegant finish. The inviting citrus aromas and flavours of ripe apricot are a winner when served alongside a platter of freshly shucked oysters
A7416115 2015 The Dead Arm Shiraz, d'Arenberg
liquorice and blackberry laced with a hint of char hit the nose first. Complexity in the shape of iodine and soil-like notes follow. After decanting, the core of sweet black fruits, plums and mulberries permeates through the savoury layers of earth, shiitake mushrooms and cedarwood spice.