Although wine (as well as sherry and port) is essentially made from grapes and would therefore be presumed to be vegetarian or vegan, sometimes animal products are used in the production process. These include fining agents (which remove unwanted particles during the making of the wine) and substances used to clarify the wine (make the wine ‘clear’):
- Casein (milk derivative)
- Egg white aka albumin (to filter red wine such as clarat and rioja)
- Bull’s blood (in mediterranean wines now illegal in EU countries)
- Isinglass (derived from sturgeon and other fish)
- Chitosan (derived from shells of shrimp and other crustaceans)
Luckily there is bentonite, which is a special clay which vegan wine producers use instead to clarify their wines, and some wines are not clarified or fined at all. Unfortunately these wines may not have such information on their labels, so a little more investigation and research may be required before popping down you local offy to pick up a bottle. But things are getting better the Co-operative lists the full ingredients of its own brand wines, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s label vegan suitability and most of the major supermarkets are starting to provide more information. Also check the [intlink id="17" type="category"]Eating Out section[/intlink] where you will find most of the vegetarian and vegan resturants listed serve suitable wines. Shops that sell organic and biodynamic (and there was us thinking organic couldn’t get any more virtuous!) wines are also likely to be good places to source the vegan variety.
Beer & Cider
Again animal derived clarifying agents may be used, but alternatives are Irish moss, seaweed or artificial agents.
The Vegan and Vegetarian Society both agree that most spirits are vegan but of course along with the obvious no-nos (such as Baileys and Advocat) there are other things to look out for:
- Campari contains cochineal that unfortunate bug used to colour things red.
- Malt whiskey and Spanish brandy may have been aged in casks previously containing non vegan sherry.
- Imported vodkas may be filtered with bone char (burnt bones).
There are several lists floating around out there on the internet which we have provided below, but with no way of knowing when they were last updated, your best option for finding out if your favourite brand is vegan would be to contact the producer directly. Otherwise just stick to the Vegan Society approved stuff or even make your own!
More information and lists:
- Vegan Wine Guide
- Wine recipes (from a slightly scary website)
- Peter Hughes Beer List
- The Vegetarian Beer List
- Ethical Consumer
- Brew Organic (home brewing guide and tutorial)
and where to buy online: