While wine is made mostly from grapes, that doesn’t necessarily make it vegan by default. Wine often uses additives - and many of these have animal origins. In clarification, for example, many winemakers use fish extracts, casein (derived from milk) and egg whites as agents. These are referred to on labels in some cases, but not always.
So the question of "is wine vegan?" isn’t always as simple a question as it might appear to be.
What is veganism?
Most people understand "vegan" as a dietary principle not to eat anything deriving from animals or animal-based products.
In fact, a vegan lifestyle is a much broader way of living and eating.
The UK Vegan Society puts it this way:
Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
In today’s world, trying to be vegan is a tough business. Not only does it mean you have to be watchful about, say, your behaviour towards animals, but also whether animal products like leather or fat-based polishes are incorporated in for example shoes, or in the process/manufacture of what you consume. Think of cosmetics, where animal products have been used extensively in manufacture and testing. The average supermarket would house thousands of brands, and even though product label ingredient descriptions are mandatory, it’s hard to work out what an ingredient is much less whether a prohibited substance was used in the process of manufacture.
There are a number of entities in Australia that provide certification for vegan products, but these are for-profit organisations. That doesn’t mean that their certification processes are in any way flawed-just that there seems to be no neutral regulatory authority involved, which can lead to questions about the value and integrity of the certification. You often see products claiming to be vegan but without any reference to certification at all.
Wait, isn’t all wine vegan?
More and more people are now becoming interested in vegan wines.
The question of additives to wine generally is becoming a topic of interest. If you visit the product pages of a winery supply website, you’ll see hundreds of different additives advertised, from aids to juice extraction at pressing, colour correction, clarification, tannin and acid balance, sterilization, mouthfeel, fault correction and aromatic profile. Many of these have animal origins, and are therefore not vegan.
Unless you see an official certification on the bottle, the only way to know is to ask the manufacturer directly.
Are Wild Fire Wines vegan?
At Wild Fire, we have a strict "minimum additives" policy. Here’s how that works in practice:
- We use no enzymes for colour or enhanced juice extraction. We use mineral clarifying material (on the very rare occasions on which it’s needed) in the form of Bentonite, which is a colloidal clay.
- We promote wild yeast ferments almost universally. On the rare occasions we don’t, we use yeasts produced by large and reputable laboratories that are free of any animal derivation.
- We don’t use yeast nutrients because of the health and balance of our fruit.
- We do use a nitrogen supplement in some Chardonnay ferments that have a tendency to become reductive, in the form of diammonium phosphate, but this is purely inorganic.
- And we use small quantities of sulphur dioxide in the form of potassium metabisulphite as an anti-oxidant and preservative, without which your wine would be stale, faded and undrinkable! This is of course disclosed on our label.
We can therefore say with complete confidence that Wild Fire Wines are vegan and free from the "enhancers" that are commonly used in the industry. What you drink is the wine and nothing but the wine.
With the increasing calls we receive for vegan wine, we have applied to Vegan Certification Pty Ltd for registration of our vegan status, which we expect to receive soon. We’ll keep you posted!