How can a wine not be vegan, it’s just grapes, right?
Yes, but there's a process called ‘fining’, which most commercial wines undergo, to remove the naturally occurring haze of tiny particles composed of grape skins and spent yeast in newly made wine. Many people think this haziness is a fault, so some winemakers take steps to remove these tiny particles. Others think doing this strips the wine of some of its natural texture and character, which is why most of the wines you find on The Sourcing Table won’t be fined.
There's a process called ‘fining’, which most commercial wines undergo, to remove the naturally occurring haze of tiny particles composed of grape skins and spent yeast in newly made wine.
Fining agents that can make a wine non-vegan include: Gelatin (protein from pig skins or animal bones); casein (milk protein); egg whites or isinglass (fish bladders). Yes, you read that right – fish bladders contain collagen fibres that clump together when put in contact with wine. They bind with all the small suspended particles and sink to the bottom of the vat, so the clear wine can then be drained off. While technically the fining agent is entirely removed from the wine by filtration afterwards, it’s possible minuscule traces could remain in the finished bottle. There are some vegan friendly fining agents – bentonite clay and vegetable proteins.
Organic doesn’t necessarily mean vegan, although often a sustainable approach in the vineyard goes hand in hand with low intervention in the winery. Some people even argue that using animals or animal products when farming the grapes negates a wine’s vegan status. This rules out vineyards that traditionally use organic or biodynamic composts, or horses for ploughing. Over 99% of our wines are vegan, we focus our classification solely on the winemaking process, but our site notes where winemakers work organically or biodynamically.