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January 05, 2021
Many people are surprised to hear that a large percentage of wine is not vegan friendly or even vegetarian. During the manufacturing process, most wines have fining agents added to them to stabilise the wine and remove certain soluble particles; this is in order to control the colour, clarity, aroma and taste. It is these fining agents that are sometimes derived from animal products and therefore not vegan friendly.
Wine will clarify itself via a process called barrel maturation where the particles will precipitate to the bottom and can then be removed, however this process can take a huge amount of time to occur naturally. Increased production time means increased cost to a producer, so numerous wineries will use fining agents during production to speed up the process.
The wines soluble particles (Colloids) can include polymerised tannins, colouring phenols, dead yeast cells (Lees) and proteins. The fining agent will bind to these particles, creating larger molecules which will precipitate out of the wine more readily. Once this process is complete, the wine is transferred to a fresh barrel in a process called racking.
Fining is not to be confused with filtration, where wine is passed through microscopic filters that become progressively finer to remove the larger insoluble particles from the wine, such as grape skins, stems and pulp. Unfiltered wines contain sediment that can contribute to their complexity.
Common fining agents used in wine production include:
Thankfully the method of using animal blood has been banned in the US and Europe since 1987.
Find our selection of natural, vegan friendly wines here.
Oxford Companion to Wine, Edited by Jancis Robinson, 4th Edition;
Wine Folly: The Magnum Edition: The Master Guide, Michale Joseph;
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May 11, 2021