What is a Vegetarian or Vegan Wine?

The vast majority of wines that we drink these days are produced and sold quite quickly. These are classed as “Young Wines”. Many are harvested in one year and on the shelves the next. To speed this process and make the wine clear, fining agents are used to clarify it of particulate that is suspended in the liquid.
Traditionally this can be any one of several products:
Casein – Milk protein.
Albumin – Egg whites.
Gelatin – Animal protein.
Isinglass – Fish bladder protein.
These products are not additives as they are precipitated out of the wine along with the sedimant.

Pescatarians do not eat meat, but will eat fish, so should avoid wines using gelatin. However vegetarians follow a stricter diet of not eating meat or fish products, so wines that are fined with Gelatin or Isinglass should be avoided if they are serious about their diet.
Those that follow a Vegan dietary regime will not consume any foodstuff that contains anything with an animal product, so wines that are fined using Gelatin; Isinglass; Abumin or Casein should be avoided.

Unfortunately not many wine labels specify exactly what is used in the wine making process, so many vegetarian and vegans will unconsciously be consuming products that go against their beliefs.
To be sure a wine meets with your requirements always purchase from a reliable scource that can advise you as to which wine will suit you.
Today many winemakers use clay-based fining agents such as bentonite, which are particularly efficient at fining out unwanted proteins.
Activated charcoal is another vegan and vegetarian-friendly agent that is also used.
An increasing number of wine producers around the globe are electing not to fine or filter their wines, leaving them to self-clarify and self-stabilize. Such wines usually mention on the label ‘not fined and/or not filtered’.

Should you wish to play it safe please be aware that a lot of Portuguese wines are both vegetarian and vegan suitable.