Wine is made from grapes and grapes are a fruit. Isn’t wine just fermented grape juice? So why aren’t all wines vegan? I didn’t know this until I became vegan and started paying attention to everything I was putting in my body.
Winemaking is a slow process. Pressed grape juice needs to settle before fermentation and after fermentation to let suspended solids sink to the bottom of the tank or barrel.
As the wine continues to mature, it further clarifies as residual solids begin to sink to the bottom where they add to the sediment. The wine clarifies itself in this slow, natural process. When wine is made in this way it’s known as "unfiltered and unfined," simply because it was allowed to go through all of these natural processes in its own natural time.
However, in today’s modern world, winemaking process is too slow and demand a faster process. Science has perfected ways of winemaking. The slow clarifying process that happens gradually during maturation in the cellar is sped up by the process known as fining.
All young wines are hazy and contain tiny molecules such as proteins, tartrates, tannins and, phenolics. These are all natural and in no way harmful. However, we wino’s like our wines to be clear and bright. Which is where the fining process comes in.
Finings agents are added to wine in order to bind and remove unwanted substances, all of which are then filtered out. This is the reason why fining agents are not labeled as ingredients on the final bottle of wine. During this process of winemaking, some winemakers use animal products such as:
Casein - A protein found in milk. Casein is used in winemaking to give white wines a brilliant clarity and remove the oxidative taint. Sometimes, skim milk is used to achieve this, like with very clear Sauvignon Blancs.
Egg Whites - Red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon are full of heavy, astringent tannins when still in the barrel. Egg whites are added to the barrels, stirring and allowing them to sink to the bottom, the harshest tannins are removed.
Gelatin - A protein derived from pig skins, pig and cow bones, or cowhide. Gelatin can be used on both red and white wines. Red wines can gain suppleness, while whites can attain brighter color, though often at the expense of tannins.
Isinglass - A form of collagen derived from the swim bladders of fish. Isinglass gives white wines brilliant clarity by removing solids and excess color.
Chitosan - A polysaccharide composed of shells of shrimp and other crustaceans. In winemaking it is used to remove excess color and phenols from white wines and helps to prevent spoilage.
Now that times are changing, some winemakers are using vegan-friendly fining agents that are clay-based such as bentonite and activated charcoal which is particularly efficient at fining out unwanted proteins.
Next time you’re looking for vegan wines look for wines labeled as "unfined." Kosher wines are also vegan by definition, as kosher rules prohibit the use of animal products in wine production.
Natural Wine vs. Vegan Wine
Natural wine is the latest trend that is sweeping the wine world one sip at a time. However, it’s not exactly a new sensation. It’s actually the wine of the good old days before the invention of chemical herbicides and additives used in present-day traditional winemaking.
What is Natural Wine?
Simply put: nothing added or taken away. This means no chemicals in the vineyard or cellar, no filtering or fancy machinery, and no added sulfites. Which makes natural wine vegan, however not all vegan wines are natural.
Natural wine goes through spontaneous fermentation similar to kombucha, kimchi and, sourdough bread, and has a similar probiotic effect. A bottle of natural wine contains an abundance of wild yeasts and gut-healthy bacteria as well as polyphenols which is a group of antioxidants that benefit the microbiome in our gut, leading to overall health and longevity.
A bottle of modern-day traditional wine can contain dozens of FDA-approved additives like sulfur dioxide, added sugar, colorants and anti-foaming agents which help change the taste of the wine by softening and distracting from a wine’s natural conditions. Since natural wine is made without chemical sprays and modifications, some natural wine drinkers claim they get fewer headaches and hangovers.
Where to find the good stuff
I honestly did not know anything about natural wines until I discovered Raw Vino
. Now all I want to drink is natural wine. Raw Vino is a monthly subscription based wine delivery company whose mission is to support the natural wine community. Raw Vino finds small production wineries, new emerging winemakers, and even wineries who have crafted this art for decades.
offers three different memberships ranging from 4 bottles a month to 12 bottles a month. The wine club saves you 10% off bottle pricing and allows you to pause or cancel any time prior to ship date.
Afraid of commitment? No worries! You can shop for individual natural wines directly on the website.
Not only is natural wine good for you but you’d be drinking for a good cause! Raw Vino donates 5% of proceeds to the California Certified Organic Farmers
foundation. The CCOF is a nonprofit organization that advances organic agriculture for a healthy world through organic certification and education.
Lastly, I love how Raw Vino has a category for female winemakers on their website. You can shop for type, country, varietal, and producer. My latest shipment I chose mostly all female winemaker wines because I was celebrating women’s history month.
Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever tried natural wines!