Wine Column: What Makes a Wine Vegan

By Bennet Bodenstein

I have often been questioned on “what makes a wine vegan?” Since wine is made from fruit, mostly grapes, then are they not vegan by definition? The answer is a resounding yes, although that yes is often followed by the most fighting word in the English language, but. While a wine itself will be vegan there are factors in its production that may not be considered vegan, specifically the agents used to clarify a wine. For the readers edification, I will name just a few of the items used to clarify wines. Isinglass gelatin which is obtained from fish bladders, egg whites, skim milk (casein), bulls’ blood, and others whose names sound even worse. Vegan wines are usually cleared by mechanical filtration means or can be allowed to clear naturally which does occur but takes time. For all vegan wines, there is one certainty, there will be absolutely no detectable difference between a vegan and non-vegan wine.

2022 Trivento Reserve Malbec ($15) This is a 100% Vegan-certified red wine which should not be considered the lesser of any other malbec wines or for that matter the lesser to any red wine. Certified-vegan wines, like the 2022 Reserve Malbec, use plant-based fining agents or the age-old self-clarifying method which naturally clears a wine over a period of time. Vegan or not, this wine is worthy of your interest as it definitely got mine.

Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2021: ($14), It is a pleasure to see Australian wines back in the marketplace. The Australian wine grape growing districts had been with a crippling drought for the past two years. While the rainfall has improved, the use of ingenious water conservation saved the vines from being fried. To assure that the wine would be vegan, the winemakers employed the yeast that naturally forms on the skins of fruit to ferment the wine. The 2021 Y Series Viognier is a medium-bodied white boasting aromas of orange blossom with fresh ginger, honeysuckle and white flowers which continues to a fruit filled finish.

Varnau Vermentino Di Gallura ($24). This is a vegan friendly white wine that is similar in characteristics to a sauvignon blanc but is more aromatic. The aroma is very typical of a white wine, citrus, green apple and fresh picked flowers and again with the identifiable Italian mineral background. While similar to a French or California sauvignon blanc, it is not a carbon copy as it presents its own individual and very recognizable attributes. This wine is also an opportunity to sample a different grape variety and to expand your wine horizons. I found that this Rioja wine was no different in its general properties than any of other Rioja wines I have previously sampled. Yes there are differences between all wines, howeverthat is due to the vineyard where the grapes were grown and not that the wine was vegan. This wine has been made from the very Spanish and very popular tempranillo grapes. This deep dark red  wine displays the aromas of ripe prunes, grapes and figs. The flavor is outstanding, displaying ripe black cherries, mulberries, blueberries and oak. The wine finishes with a strong and long lasting full fruit aftertaste that lingers on the palate for a long time after the wine has been swallowed..

Frey 2021 Organic Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.50).  An organically farmed vegan California cabernet sauvignon in this price range is rather rare and, for it to be of quality, a virtual impossibility. The Frey 2021 Organic Cabernet Sauvignon proves that the impossible is possible. The wine displays a bright ruby color, with intense dark cherry, cedar, vanilla and cinnamon aromas. Plum, boysenberry, cranberry and cherry flavors blend with a suggestion of chocolate and a hint of a mineral element. The wine ends in a velvety finish which is incredibly fruity, soft and of long duration. This wine is absolute proof that price does not indicate quality and that fine wines can still be affordable.