• Thrive Bar & Kitchen

The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Wine

With the increasing popularity in veganism across the UK, it might surprise some newer plant-based eaters that not all wine is vegan-friendly.

At Thrive Bar & Kitchen, we serve up a 100% vegan wine list, so we feel like it’s part of our mission to educate folks on what they should look out for to make sure their chosen vino is vegan.

But what even is vegan wine? Surely all wine is vegan?

Nope. It’s not. A lot of wineries still use filtration processes that contain animal or dairy products, but there are ways to find out before you order a glass.

Let’s dive into the differences between vegan and non-vegan wine, and what you need to look out for when buying wine in restaurants and supermarkets.

The difference between vegan and non-vegan wine

In layman's terms, either a winery is using animal products in its filtration products, or it isn't.

Thankfully due to the rise in popularity for vegan products, a lot of wineries are now taking more steps to not only show if their product is vegan-friendly, but looking to use plant-based filtration processes as well.

Most wine producers use animal-derived as a filter for organic particles. The filtration process strips away anything that might affect a wine’s flavour, texture, colour or appearance.

The usual culprits of non-vegan friendly filtration processes are:

  • Isinglass (from fish bladders)

  • Gelatin (from boiled cow or pig body parts)

  • Albumin (egg whites)

  • Casein (animal milk protein)

During the filtering process, the fining ingredients are almost entirely removed from the wine along with the particulates, but you can’t ignore the obvious. An animal product was used in the process, so it ain’t vegan.

The problem with these filtration processes is because the trace elements are so minute, wineries are not legally bound to show them as an ingredient on a wine bottle’s label. Which makes it super hard to figure out what wine is vegan, and what isn’t.

The good news? Winemakers are starting to use mineral and plant-based fining agents, like bentonite clay, silica gel, and plant casein, instead of animal-based filtration processes.

And wineries are now even producing vino that isn’t filtered at all. Which is even easier to spot.

According to The Metro and wine app Vivino, all you have to do is look out for the words ‘unfined’ or ‘unfiltered’ on the wine label and you’ll know that it doesn’t contain any animal products.

‘The hack comes as more and more Brits are adopting a vegan-friendly diet,’ says Aaron Maughan from Vivino.

‘Despite the rise in veganism, after Veganuary and mockumentary Carnage took the UK by storm, determining what wine can be safely drunk and which can’t is a tricky matter.

‘Most winemakers don’t include a vegan-friendly logo on the bottle – even if their wine is vegan-friendly.’

How to order vegan wine when you’re at a restaurant

At Thrive Bar & Kitchen, our entire wine list is vegan. But some restaurants will have wine that uses a non-vegan friendly filtration process, so you need to know what to look out for.

Firstly, ask your server. If they are unsure, kindly ask them to check with the duty manager on shift. At the least, they should be able to check the back of the bottle for you or show you the bottle so you can do some investigating yourself.

If they’re unsure what to look for, ask them to check for ‘filtered’ or ‘unfiltered’ on the label, or any obvious signs like the label saying the wine is unsuitable for vegetarians.

Next , check for yo’self.

A vegan’s secret ingredient when you’re drinking beer, wine, or liquor is Barnivore:

The website has over 44,000 entries of beer, wine or spirits that have been cross-checked with wineries and breweries. If your wine has been checked, it will either show up as green (Yay, vegan friendly!) or red (sad face, not vegan-friendly).

Here’s the catch.

Other than the animal products used in fining wine, sometimes a winery’s farming process can also be a cause for concern.

Apart from the filtration process, some wineries may use animal-derived fertilizers such as bones from dead livestock or fish emulsion from fish waste. Unfortunately, this is harder to trace, and can normally only be found out by contacting the winery directly yourself.

Organic or natural doesn’t automatically mean it’s vegan

Yep. Just because a vino is labelled organic or natural, don’t automatically assume it’s vegan.

While a wine labelled organic does mean zero chemicals were used in its production, there could still be animal-based filtration processes used at the winery. The same goes for ‘natural wine’, which means it has been made with minimal processing.

You should still check these wines with your server or on the Barnivore website to make sure they’re vegan-friendly.

How to shop for vegan wine when you’re at a supermarket

UK supermarket wine ranges are getting more vegan-friendly by the day.

Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose for the Observer

Top Read: Check out The Guardian’s list of the 20 best vegan wines in supermarkets

Lidl has just released a full vegan wine list. Some of the best (and cheapest) ones are:

  • Café Terrasse (£5.99). A cheap but super cheerful white wine made from Muscat grapes

  • Vacqueyras (£8.99) This red is made from grape varieties from Châteauneuf-du-Pape (but we might actually be able to afford this one)

  • Ségurets Côtes-du-Rhône Villages (£6.99). Full-bodied with notes of white pepper

If you aren’t a fan of Lidl, almost every supermarket now stocks vegan wine.

They include:

And if you don’t want to spend your time trawling through Barnivore in the supermarket aisle, the safest option for making sure your wine is vegan may be to remember a few vegan-friendly wineries from the shops above!

Tell us, what’s your favourite vegan-friendly wine?