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    The Impact Vegan Wine is Having on the Market in 2020

    The assumption that wine, made by harvesting and fermenting grapes, must be vegan, is an easy mistake to make. With veganism globally on the rise, awareness has shifted from food. This has also highlighted the ingredients and processes involved in winemaking. 

    It's not all bad news for vegan and vegetarian wine lovers. Vegan and vegan-friendly wines are becoming more popular and readily available. You may have noticed 'organic' labels on wines. Winemakers and producers now often also state on the label that a bottle of wine is vegan, vegan friendly, or vegetarian.

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    Why Not All Wines Are Vegan - or Even Vegetarian!

    Defining a vegan or vegetarian wine is surprisingly simple. It's a wine made without the use of any animal-derived products during the brewing process. 

    It all starts in the tanks or barrels, during a process known as 'fining’. During fining, wine is corrected or stabilized, to remove cloudiness and sediment particles, get rid of yeast, and to enhance color and soften tannins. These elements are later filtered out to deliver a clear wine with smoother tannins. 

    Animal-derived products are often put to work at this stage, to act as processing aids to speed up the fining time. These procession aids are used to help bind the unwanted elements which are later filtered out. Think of it as a magnet attracting all of the undesirable components around it. Then, when it’s thickened around the fining agent, the now larger mass of particles can be removed easily. 

    Products like egg white (albumin) are often used in red wine production, and gelatin and milk protein (casein) are used in white wine production. Egg white and milk protein may be suitable for vegetarians, but gelatin, which contains animal cartilage, is not an ingredient any vegetarian would want to consume. 

    So Wine Contains Animal Products?

    Animal products aren’t added to wine as an ingredient per se, and you won't see it listed on the label. Once fining is complete, these 'fining' and processing aids are removed. It's very likely, however, that the wine may now contain tiny particles of these animal-derived products and can not be classified as vegan, or in some cases, vegetarian.

    In addition to adding egg white, milk protein, and gelatin, which are most commonly used as binding agents, some other elements could also be added. These are the shells of crustaceans (chitosan) or fish membranes and bladders (isinglass), a form of collagen, or fish oils which are used to give wine clarity. 

    To completely clarify the use of animal products in the production of wine, you should pay attention to the full process. Start at the soil, consider the absolute beginning of the wine journey, and don't only scrutinize the contents of the bottle. The farming and bottling process should also be reviewed to define a bottle of wine as genuinely vegan.

    Fertilizers are often made using animal-derived ingredients like bone meal or fish waste. Animal manure mixed with straw is sometimes used as compost in an attempt to use farming by-products. Authentic vegan wine should use organic methods and only plant-based and natural fertilizers. 

    When it comes to bottling, beeswax and milk-based glue may be used to seal bottles or applied during the corking process. Using these products would make a wine vegetarian, but not vegan. 

    How Is Vegan Wine Made?

    Vegan and vegetarian wine processes and techniques involve using plant-based or mineral alternatives instead of animal-derived 'additions'. Additions are used carefully as the products are not added to the wine; they’re just used in the winemaking process. An important note to add is that organic wines aren’t necessarily vegan. The ultimate find would be an organic vegan wine!

    A real vegan winemaking process would make use of all-natural or mineral-based ingredients. Expect to find elements like bentonite clay, plant or vegetable-based products like plant casein, or activated charcoal used in the process. 

    Using time and letting nature take its course is also a good solution. Wine does indeed have the ability to self clarify. In this process, the wine is left over a much more extended period to naturally mature, and no fining takes place. Over time the residual elements drop and sink to the bottom naturally as sediments. 

    The process is considerably slower and not ideal in a commercial wine production environment. In this instance, wines will be labeled as unfiltered, or un-fined. It's entirely natural and not at all harmful, just a much slower process. Vintage wines are some examples that were allowed to self-stabilize or self-fine without the addition of fining agents. 

    Top Vegan Wine Labels 

    Searching for the best vegan wine? Look no further. More and more wineries and winemakers are becoming aware of the increased demand for vegan alternatives. Whether you are looking for red vegan wine, vegan white wine, or some renowned vegan red wine brands, you’ll be able to find an option. There are even options for cheap vegan wine and vegan boxed wine. 

    Here are the top picks from vegan labels across the globe.

    Petit Chablis, Chablis, Burgundy 2017 - France

    Medium-bodied and unoaked, this is 100% Chardonnay. The Petit Chablis label dates back to 1944 and is used for dry whites made from Chardonnay. 

    Gavi di Gavi, 2018 - Italy

    This option is medium-bodied with a creamy almond finish. 100% Cortese. Made from vines averaging 35 years old, under the Gavi di Gavi label.  

    Orange Natural Wine, 2017 - Romania

    Medium-bodied consisting of 85% Chardonnay and 15% Sauvignon Blanc. This white wine is bone dry and exceptionally well priced as an entry point to this varietal. 

    Alain Graillot, Encinas, Bierzo, 2016 - Spain 

    An elegant dry red wine from the Bierzo region. It’s made from Mencía grapes varietals, offering a rustic and earthy palate. 

    Bosman Family Vineyards, Generation VIII Cabernet-Merlot, 2019 - South Africa

    A vibrant and full-bodied red blend. 77% Cabernet and 23% Malbec from the Wellington region located in the Western Cape wine lands of South Africa. 

    Domaine Bousquet Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2018, Argentina

    A rich Cabernet from Mendoza in the Tupungato sub-region. Made with organic grapes, it offers black fruit notes like blackberry, black currant, cherry, and raisins. 

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    Top 5 Vegan Wine Clubs

    Naked Wines - Since 2008

    This club supports small-batch and independent wineries from across the globe. It works much like crowdfunding and is funded by subscribers. It's backed by over 300,000 subscribers in the US and UK alone, and there's a waiting list to join. 

    The California Wine Club - Since 1990

    As one of the oldest wine clubs in the US, it stands for 'simpler tastes better' and supports artisanal and small-batch wineries as opposed to large or mass producers. 

    Wall Street Journal's Wine Club 

    This one is a more traditional club, backed by the Wall Street Journal. It’s available online with a Discovery membership featuring award-winning classic or Premium membership option for handpicked premium wines, scoring 94+ points. 

    Vinebox

    Vinebox offers a unique wine club approach where you can 'taste' before you commit. Options include a patented 100ml designer glass vial. Why commit to the bottle if you can taste legendary and rare wines, hand-selected by sommeliers and other connoisseurs?

    Winc - Since 2014

    Offering a 'world of wine' and ideal for newbies to the wine club scene, this is more of a community than a club. Winc produces its own wine blends, rather than selling on behalf of wineries. 

    Vegan Wine, Fad, or the Future? 

    Given the global awareness of veganism and plant-based produce, it's safe to say that you can expect to see more choices in vegan and vegetarian wine. For now, be sure to look out for labels or stickers for vegan rather than unfiltered wine, as both the US and EU do not state that wineries should list fining agents on wine labels.

    Ask your local and organic wine farms or winemakers about their processes when buying a bottle or tasting a glass. Restaurants are featuring vegan wine lists with retailers, and wine merchants should follow suit. Dedicated vegan wine sections in liquor stores and supermarkets and vegan wine brands may be something to look forward to in the future. 

    Expect to find a vegan option in all your favorite varieties! Think vegan champagne and vegan sparkling wine, vegan Moscato, vegan rose, and even vegan boxed wine.