Wine is made from grapes; essentially wine is fermented grape juice.
Yeasts, either natural or cultured, convert the grape juice sugars into alcohol.
So far this all seems to be vegan-friendly.
The reason that all wines are not vegan or even vegetarian-friendly has to do with how the wine is clarified and a process called ‘fining’.
When a wine is first made it can look cloudy and not so appealing, occasionally with sediment floating in it.
We wine-drinkers like our wines to be clear and bright.
So the winemaker will fine the wine. Winemakers use fining agents which help precipitate out the cloudiness of the wine…basically they bond with the cloudiness to make a sediment that will fall to the bottom of the wine vat.
The most commonly used fining agents are:
a milk protein, specifically casein
gelatin, which is an animal protein
isinglass, protein from fish’s bladders (🤷 No idea how someone worked that out!)
The fining agents act like a magnet, attracting the cloudy molecules around it.
These molecules bond to the fining agent, creating fewer but larger particles, which generally fall as sediment to the bottom of the tank and can then be more easily removed from the wine.
Just to be clear none of any of these fining agents are actually left in the wine, they are scrupulously removed.
Check out the 'yellow patch' of sediment in the photo.
For those of you who are vegan and wine lovers however, there is good news!
There are a range of animal friendly fining agents that can be used to make vegan wine. Many of them are earth based, such as clay (Bentonite), limestone and silica gel.
Some wines don’t need fining, or the winemaker may choose not to fine specific wines.
At Upper Reach neither our Reserve Shiraz nor our Reserve Chardonnay are fined- so these are Vegan wines.
If you want to avoid non-vegan wines, look out for disclaimers on wine bottles that say ‘may contain traces of egg or fish products’.
This means that those fining agents were used in the wine production.
Yes, vegan wine can age just as well as your conventional wines.
So that’s a relief!
At Upper Reach, we have 2 styles of vegan wine: