Vegan products, foods, and wines are made without the use of any animal products, and the demand for vegan options has never been higher than it is today. The vegan lifestyle has been rapidly increasing in popularity worldwide as younger generations have adopted veganism for a variety of different reasons.
While common sense would suggest that wine should be vegan, there are a number of traditional fining agents that have been used for years which render many of the world’s most recognizable wine brands as not vegan.
There are an increasing number of wineries every year transitioning to fully vegan practices, and it is easier today than it has ever been to find high-quality vegan red wine brands in a variety of different locations.
Vegan Wine Overview
Wine is produced using only grape juice and yeast, and many would assume that all wine is vegan for this reason.
However, the vast majority of wine made throughout history has been done so using animal-derived fining agents that are not considered vegan.
While it may seem like the process of making vegan products is confusing and involved, the definition of a vegan product is simply one that is made without the use of any animal products at any time in the process of production.
Food that may seem vegan at first glance is often not vegan at all. Many vegetarian dishes are not considered vegan due to the use of dairy products or eggs, and for food to be considered 100 percent vegan there must be no cross contamination with meat on the cooking equipment.
Other products like soap can also be considered “non vegan,” as many different soaps contain animal products like goat or sheep’s milk. Skincare products containing animal-derived collagen are not considered to be vegan either.
Vegan Lifestyle Popularity
The proliferation of the vegan lifestyle and consequential increase in availability of vegan products has been massive over the past few years. The next generations have fully embraced veganism, as well as many others who have transitioned to a fully vegan diet.
It is estimated that the population of vegans in the United States increased by 30 times over the course of only 15 years between 2004 and 2019, and that in 2019 there were an estimated 10 million vegans living in the country.
This massive increase in the popularity of veganism has led to a number of different consumer buying habits, leading to everything from the proliferation of non dairy milks at coffee shops to the widespread availability of high quality vegan red wine brands.
Non Vegan Fining Agents
Once grape juice has been fermented to make wine, there is a considerable amount of sediment left over from solid materials in the grapes. While some natural winemakers choose not to remove this sediment, the majority of wine enthusiasts prefer sediment removed.
While it is possible to separate the sediment from a batch of wine without any fining agents, it requires an exponential amount of time that would render the entire winemaking process inefficient. Instead, winemakers use fining agents to clear up the sediment from the wine.
The majority of fining agents that have been used in winemaking for hundreds of years are animal derived, making wines they are used on considered not vegan. There are a number of different animal-derived fining agents used, including Gelatin from boiled cow or pig parts.
Other non-vegan fining agents include Isinglass, which is made using the bladders of certain fish. Egg whites are also commonly used to remove sediment from wine, as well as Casein, which is a milk protein derived from animals.
Vegan Fining Agents
While the majority of wine fining agents that have been used throughout history are animal-derived, there are a handful of natural alternatives being used today that are 100 percent vegan. Some of these materials have been around for centuries, and others are new discoveries.
Bentonite clay is a completely natural product that contains no traces of animal products and works remarkably well at separating the sediment from wines. Crushed limestone is another 100 percent natural mineral-based alternative for filtering wines.
There are also a number of different fining agents that are fairly new to the market, as they have recently been developed over the past few years. Options like plant casein and silica gel are increasingly readily available to wine producers at an increasingly affordable price.
Barnivore is a well-known online resource that helps vegans determine whether a bottle of wine is considered vegan or not. It is the largest online database of vegan beer, wines, and spirits, and users are encouraged to reach out to wine producers with questions and report back.
Barnivore is one of the most simple and efficient ways to determine whether animal products have been used in the production of a given bottle of wine. Simply type the name of the wine into the search box, and any results submitted by users over the years will be displayed.
While Barnivore does not claim to be a complete list of all vegan alcoholic beverages in the world, it is the most comprehensive and well-researched resource for vegan wine enthusiasts available on the internet today free of charge.
Five of the World’s Best Vegan Red Wine Brands
There are thousands of different wine producers all over the world that have recently made the switch to 100 percent vegan wine-making techniques.
While there are far too many vegan red wine brands on the market to list, we have highlighted five brands that are of high quality.
The Vegan Vine
- Two different vegan red wine options by one producer
- Readily available at wine retailers and restaurants
- Offers high quality at an affordable price
- New world winemaking style may be too sweet for some
- California style of Cabernet Sauvignon is too bold for some palates
The Vegan Vine is a California winery that is owned by four-time NBA champion John Salley. They offer a single varietal bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that is 100 percent vegan, along with a Red Blend that has been increasing in popularity in recent years.
- Wide variety of different vegan red wine options
- Iconic producer with an established history of quality production
- Widely available at retailers, bars, and restaurants
- Higher price per bottle may scare away some wine enthusiasts
- Typical new world wine style not enjoyed by old world wine enthusiasts
Daou Vineyards is an extremely recognizable California wine producer that distributes its wines all over the world. They offer high-quality bottles of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel that are all 100 percent vegan.
- Readily available at high-end restaurants across the US and worldwide
- Many different styles of red wine to please all palates
- Deep and rich flavors in bold and very pigmented wines
- New world winemaking style too aggressive for some palates
- Warm weather grapes contain higher residual sugar than French wines
Justin Wines is another famous California wine producer that uses 100 percent vegan methods and fining agents to craft high-quality wines. They offer many different versions of award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines with enough variety to please any palette.
Willamette Valley Vineyards
- Very high-quality bottles of Pinot Noir
- Readily available at wine shops and bars
- Price tag is reasonable considering the high quality
- Not “big” or “bold” enough for some new world palates
- Not always available internationally
Willamette Valley Vineyards produces a number of different top-shelf wines in its famous namesake of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Some of the best bottles of Pinot Noir in the United States come from this area, and Willamette Valley Vineyards does not disappoint.
- Affordable and accessible wines for all
- Large variety of different wine styles
- Tasting room locations across the US
- Do not grow their own grapes
- Simple and straightforward wines
Cooper’s Hawk is a Chicago-based United States winemaker that used grapes sourced from a number of different top wine regions across the US. All of their wines are vegan, and they have opened a number of tasting rooms in major cities across America.
Veganism has never been more popular worldwide than it is today, and the wine market has adjusted its techniques accordingly. There are a growing number of vegan red wine brands available every year, and finding quality vegan wine has never been easier.
Cooper’s Hawk is one of the best options for vegans, as they offer a wide variety of vegan wines along with tasting rooms scattered throughout the United States.