When is a wine vegan?

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People who eat and drink vegan, veganisten in Dutch, do not consume any animal product or anything that uses an animal product. So wine has to meet those standards as well. No animal product should be involved in the entire winemaking process – from the vine to the wine glass.

Animal Products

Despite the fact that wine is a natural product of grapes and yeast, wine is not necessarily vegan. To clarify, to make wine clear, winemakers regularly use an animal protein albumin (a protein found in blood plasma) or casein (a protein from milk).

Amphorae, earthenware jars in which wine has been made since ancient times. Originally from Georgia.
Large earthenware amphorae for wine production. Originally from Georgia, but increasingly used in Western Europe. Especially to make orange wine make. That’s white wine made like red wine.

The demand for vegan wines is increasing. Therefore, to clarify the wine, winemakers are increasingly turning to products such as bentonite. This is a naturally occurring sodium-clay and is not of animal origin.

In addition to the use of proteins in wine clarification, beeswax, for example, is also used. As a coating in earthenware jars – as in the qvevri’s (large earthenware vessels used for making wine) in Georgia. There are also corks that use milk-based glue.

Cow manure

Thousands of cow horns filled with manure and plant debris.
Thousands of cow horns filled with manure

The terms organic or biodynamic seem to have a relationship with vegan, but that’s not necessarily the case. Indeed, biodynamic wines made according to the teachings of Rudolf Steiner are in principle not Vegan.

In fact, biodynamic viticulture uses cow manure preparations. ‘Cow dung that is on the pasture around September is collected and put into cow horns. Medicinal plants, cow dung, and ground rock crystal are wrapped in an animal shell [meestal koehoorns] and kept in the soil for part of the year, where they absorb the forces that live in the earth and the cosmic constellations.’ source: Demeter Foundation

The use of animal manure in the vineyard is something most vegans reject.

Vegan Claim and reliability

Unfortunately, there is no law or regulation yet that guarantees that a wine vegan is when it says so on the bottle. Thus, consumers cannot verify whether the claim of vegan on a bottle of wine is justified. For vegan is not a hallmark, although it appears so judging by the many official-looking logos.

five vegan logos from vegan friendly to 100% vegan certified
A small sample of the hundreds of vegan logos

Buying a bottle of wine with the designation Vegan expecting the wine to be 100% vegan is thus based on trust. That the winemaker has followed the unwritten rules of making a vegan wine.

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