Not all wines are vegan. This news comes as a shock to many as most people assume that wine is just made from grapes. In fact, during the winemaking process many wine producers and wineries will use animal-derived products as their “fining agents”. These are substances that help to separate, clarify and filter out all the undesirable stuff such as protein, yeast and other bits and pieces from the wine. Fining agents can include casein (a protein from milk), isinglass (fish bladder byproducts), gelatin (from animal bones and connective tissues), chitin/chitosan (from the shells of crabs or lobsters), and albumin (water-soluble protein found in egg whites).
What do vegan wine producers use instead you’re probably wondering? Many will avoid using clarifying agents but if they must, they will use plant-based options such potato or natural-based products such as bentonite clay.
So for those of you who don’t want the side of animal derivatives in your wine, here is a curated list of vegan wines that you can enjoy guilt-free every time you say “Cheers!”
1. Karlo Estates – Canada
This Canadian wine brand is the world’s first vegan-certified winery. Artisanal winery Karlo Estates are certified with Canadian non-profit organization VegeCert. The wine integrates the best of the old while adapting to new processes and innovations in winemaking. The business favours natural winemaking with little interference so that the wines produced rarely need to refined, and have balance, clarity and great complexity.
To clarify its vegan wine, Karlo Estates uses protein derivatives from pumpkin, potato and sometimes bentonite.
“We like our wines to be full, strong, and age well. We rely heavily on our palates during the winemaking process to avoid the build-up of anything we’d want to remove later. As an example, our 2015 Pinot Noir received no fining whatsoever. It’s lush, subtle and elegant all by itself.” – Co-founder and owner Sherry Karlo, Karlo Estates
2. Girasole Vineyards – USA
Pronounced as jeer-uh-so-lay, Girasole wines are made from certified organic grapes grown in Redwood Valley in the Mendocino County of Northern California. Aside from its organic certification, Girasole wines are also vegan-friendly and are GMO-free.
One of their most popular wines is their chardonnay as its light flavors and mild fruity aromas have wine drinkers wanting more.
3. Wilson Creek Winery and Vineyard – USA
A family-owned winery situated in the heart of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country, Wilson Creek Winery is known for its quality wines and passion to enhance the lives of everyone that the brand touches. They affirm several times that their wines do not contain any animal derivatives even if the winery itself is not vegan certified.
The Almond Sparkling Champagne is one of its best-selling wines, not to mention that this gold-medal winning sparkling wine is also referred to as the “OH MY GOSH”® sparkling wine. Naturally fermented with just a taste of pure almond, this white sparkling wine guarantees to dazzle your tastebuds.
4. The Vegan Vine Wines by Clos LaChance Winery – USA
Family owned and operated wine business Clos LaChance Winery has been known for its sustainable wine-growing practices and techniques since 1992 when it released their first wines. Later when a family member questioned the use of animal derivatives in their wines, they decided to launch a line of vegan wines called The Vegan Vine Wines. The winery has also been stamped Certified Sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrower’s Alliance in 2010.
“The Vegan Vine does not use any animal products in wine production. We allow the wines to naturally settle out the undesirable particles and the winery has the benefit of a climate that creates a softer, naturally occurring wine. The excess compounds are removed with sterile filtration, that promotes the freshness of the wine, without animal products,” Close LaChance Winery confirms with the Barnivore website.
5. Goodwill Wines – Australia
If you’re based in Australia and seeking cruelty-free wines, Goodwill Wines have some good red, white, and sparkling vegan options to explore. For every bottle of wine sold, $2 is donated to a charity of your choice. When you add a vegan wine to your shopping cart, you’re given a dropdown selection menu with charity options. Wine shoppers have a variety of non-profit organisations to select from; animal welfare organisation such as 4 Paws Animal Rescue Inc or environmental organisations such as Australian Conservation Foundation and Sea Shepherd.
What’s better than a vegan vino that gives back?
6. Meiomi Wines – USA
The grapes found in Meiomi wines are grown in vineyards in the cool climate of coastal California, in the Sonoma, Monterey and Santa Barbara regions. Meiomi wines are made without any animal-derivatives by top winemaker Melissa Stackhouse. Its range includes Rose, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and the distinct garnet color with a ruby edge and fruity aromas with toasty oak notes lends complexity and depth on the palate making each sip worthwhile and leading to a second glass of Meiomi wine you can’t say no to.
7. Frey Vineyards – USA
America’s first organic and biodynamic winery, Frey wines has been creating vegan, gluten free wines with no added sulfites since 1980. This winery needn’t boast about their vegan wines, developing them long before they became cool and trendy to drink. Frey Vineyard combines the best modern and traditional wine-making methods, with their deep interest in soil fertility, biodiversity and climate to help produce their award-winning vegan wines. The wine business assures that 90 percent of its land is held as unspoiled natural habitat with a diverse mix of native plants and animals. And being the stewards of the land they are, they emphasize producing organic and biodynamic wine of the highest quality while caring for planet and palate alike. They may be last on this list, but they are definitely not ‘least’.
Have a favorite vegan shiraz or merlot? Have a preferred vegan sparkling brand? Feel free to share your recommendations below.