Vegan wine and alcohol-free wine: let's clarify
Vegan and non-alcoholic wine (dealcoholized)? Let's start with an introduction to how it's made.
Wine may appear to be a naturally vegan product, however, in reality only a small portion of it can meet the needs of a vegan diet. Some fining agents used to make wines clear are in fact derived from animal products. So the wine is vegan?
One of the most used fining agents is albumin, the protein found in egg whites. It is mainly used for red wines, but can also be used for white wines. Albumin binds to suspended particles in the wine and drops them to the bottom of the tank, allowing producers to filter the wine by sedimentation.
It is mainly used for medium-high quality red wines because it does not add any flavor to the wine not only as a fining agent but also, being essentially made up of globulin, to decrease the sensation of astringency caused by bitter tannins. So vegans buying premium wines should always remember to check the label and the producing company's website.
Other compounds of animal origin are also used to clarify wine, such as casein and isinglass.
How is vegan wine made? Are there vegan alternatives for clarifying wine?
Yes, there are some vegan-friendly components that are used to make vegan wine and bentonite clay is the most important.
Bentonite is a compound derived from clays capable of binding with the proteins and suspended particles of the wine. This allows winemakers to easily remove solid particles. There are other plant-based products used to clarify vegan wines, but bentonite clay is the most important compound among them.
Furthermore, another problem in the production of vegan wine is linked to the presence of insects and small animals in the grapes taken to the cellar, in particular, when the grapes are harvested by machine as many insects, birds and small mice fall inside the tanks. Even though the final wine contains no trace of these animals, the act of making the wine resulted in the killing of these animals. Producers who want to produce vegan wines must handle this critical aspect with extreme care during the harvest.
How can we be 100% sure that a wine is truly vegan? How do I recognize a vegan wine?
The only way to be sure that a given wine is vegan is to check the certification on the label. For example, the EU has a specific certification called EVE or Expertise Vegan Europe; it is present on the label with a green flag with the word "EVE" inside and is used by most of the vegan wine producers in Europe.
There is also an international certification called "V-Label". This is a registered symbol for vegetarian and vegan food and wine products worldwide. The certification contains a yellow flag on the label with a V-shaped design of a leaf and sprout. It is one of the most popular vegan certifications.
These are the two most reliable certifications as they ensure that producers only use plant-derived bentonite or protein and that no harm is done to animals during the harvesting and fermentation process. If you find one of these labels on a bottle of wine, then you know you're good to go!
We are working on a selection of vegan wine for our shop. We must first try a number of them and visit the cellars to learn about the producers. As soon as we are ready, we will publish a series of insights on the wines we have chosen, with the history of the producers and the territory that hosts them.
Let's move on to wines and non-alcoholic liqueurs. How are they produced?
The consumption of wines and non-alcoholic spirits is a rapidly growing trend, mainly due to the growing awareness of the risks associated with alcohol consumption and the resulting health problems.
Wines and soft spirits are made by removing the alcohol from the final product; several techniques can be used, but reverse osmosis is the most popular method. Furthermore, this method preserves most of the aromatic characteristics of the product by eliminating the alcohol content. There are other techniques such as vacuum evaporation , however there is a greater risk of flavors being removed and the quality of the final product altered.
There is no effective way to make a dry wine or soft drink without using reverse osmosis or one of the other techniques as the product would be sweet and more like fruit juice. In theory, it is much easier to produce a high quality de-alcoholized wine than a non-alcoholic liqueur since wine has many more flavors that characterize the final product.
De-alcoholized wine producers and their regulations.
The EU has started discussing the regulation of de-alcoholized wines, causing great alarm among producers of PGI and PDO wines in member states, especially Italy, France and Spain as they are the top three producers. To date, in Europe it is not allowed to make non-alcoholic wine with protected designation (therefore PDO, PGI, etc).
Allowing producers to produce their usual alcohol-free GI and DOP wines would allow producers to reach a new market segment, it would favor exports to Arab countries, but also to Europe considering the trends related to healthy eating and reduction of alcohol consumption . However, non-alcoholic wines are very different especially in their aging potential and the dealcoholation process is a source of great debate among producers.
The wine sector is already on the alert thanks to the proposal to introduce labels aimed at discouraging its consumption, envisaged by the "Action plan to improve the health of European citizens".
Overall, we could see more vegan-friendly products in the future as demand increases. However, when it comes to wine and non-alcoholic spirits, it will still be some time before they become a widely available option.
We are selecting vegan wine and non-alcoholic liqueurs from some excellent small producers. It's hard work, but we're doing it for you! As soon as we are ready you will see our selection in our shop.