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Both traditional and vegan wines fall into the same basic types: red, white, and rose. Certain brands of champagne, sparkling, and dessert wine are also vegan. Vegan wines are made without animal-derived ingredients in the products themselves or in the processing and filtering. Before many wines are bottled, a clarification process involving animal products is used to remove organic particles. As vegans eschew consuming any animal products, many filtered wines would not be suitable for a vegan diet regardless of type.
The vegan diet avoids any animal and animal-derived products, including dairy, eggs, and even honey. Many vegans will also refuse products that are free of animal ingredients but were made using something derived from an animal. For example, some refined sugars are filtered through bone char and are therefore not suitable for vegans even though the final product does not contain any animal ingredients.
Typically, it is the process and not the ingredients that determine whether a type or brand of wine is vegan. Red wines are made from red or black grapes, white wines from white grapes, and rose from skin contact, saignee, or blending. Champagne and sparkling wines are made with pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier grapes and an in-bottle secondary fermentation that is like carbonation. Dessert wines are sweeter than other types and typically served after a meal with dessert.
Wine makers may use animal-derived products when filtering their wines prior to bottling. Isinglass, egg whites or albumin, and gelatin are commonly used in this clarification process. Milk proteins like casein and potassium caseinate may also be used. By bonding with organic particles like yeasts in the wine, these animal products facilitate their removal by filtration. Although these agents are removed from the final product, the wine would not be appropriate for vegans to consume.
The filtration process is used to make wine appear clear and more attractive to consumers. This technique has gained prominence since the late 1970s and early 1980s. As the filtration process can also affect the flavor and aroma, some winemakers do not filter. Unfiltered wines are more likely to be vegan because the product did not undergo the clarification process using animal-derived products.
Vegan consumers should note that the organic label does not necessarily mean that the wine is also vegan. An organic wine is made from organically grown grapes, a standard that varies from country to country. The winery may have avoided chemical fertilizers and pesticides yet used animal products during the filtration process. As a result, organic wines are not necessarily vegan wines.
Vegan wines can be difficult to find and may require some research on the part of the purchaser. Most wineries will be forthcoming about their clarification and filtration processes if contacted directly, and more restaurants and bars are labeling their vegan wines on menus. There are also vegan wine guides available in print and online. Some bottles will be labeled as vegan, but wineries can change their recipes from year to year. As a result, vegan wine connoisseurs must always be informed when choosing a bottle.
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