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What Makes a Wine Vegan and Why It's Important

 Photo by  Oscar Nord  on  Unsplash

Photo by Oscar Nord on Unsplash

When I heard someone say “and our wines are vegan” I immediately asked, “well what could possibly be in a bottle of wine that makes it NOT vegan-friendly?” Whoa. I was sorry I asked. And then truly glad I knew. Apparently animal-based fining agents can be used in the clarification process of winemaking. What does all this mean? So glad you asked…😉

There are many steps in the art of winemaking. It starts in the vineyard with growing the grapes (I dig more into organic grapes v. organic wines here) and then gets even more complicated in the cellar…but it doesn’t have to be (just buy clean-crafted and don’t worry about any of this!) The reason that all wines are not vegan has to do with how the wine is clarified through a process called “fining.” This is the process of removing harmless particles in the wine to make it clear and bright — because this is the expectation we’ve been educated to expect of wine.

Side note — Scout & Cellar Clean-Crafted standards DO permit fining, but minimal fining and only with permitted fining agents. By 2019 all of Sarah’s hand-picked wine selection will be vegan.

Most wines, if bottle-aged long enough, will self-stabilize and self-fine. However, producers use a variety of aids called “fining agents” to remove these haze-inducing molecules. Essentially, the fining agent acts like a magnet – attracting the molecules around it. These molecules coagulate around the fining agent, creating fewer but larger particles, which can then be more easily removed during filtration.

Commonly-used fining agents include:

  • casein (a milk protein)

  • albumin (egg whites)

  • gelatin (animal protein)

  • isinglass (fish bladder protein)

  • and bentonite (clay)

These fining agents are not additives to the wine: they are filtered out along with the haze molecules. Wines fined with casein and albumin are consistent with vegetarian diets while wines fined with any of the four may be off limits for strict vegans.

And to think I was blaming wines for my skin rashes and hives for so many years! You see I recently sourced eggs as a new allergy of mine (on top of all the gluten, wheat, dairy and soy…oh boy) and it makes sense knowing what I was consuming — unknowingly. Since transiting to clean-crafted wines ONLY (I had one glass out at a restaurant and it tasted like can of coke does once you’ve gone off sugar — when I was 12, gross) I haven’t looked back.

Vegan wines are not hard to find but they are not the most common wines on the market. As I noted above, all of S&C’s selection’s will be vegan by 2019. Please check each wine though (if vegan it will state it on our listing). Here’s a few of my personal faves below — all vegan and clean-crafted of course. NOTE: these are CURRENT, if you read this in a week they might be gone! Small, family-owned vineyards often means small batch wines…hey, it’s great for variety!

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Scout & Cellar is a wine company started by Sarah Shadonix, an attorney-turned-sommelier committed to sourcing additive-free, chemical-free, totally delicious wine from around the world. While studying for her Level 3 Sommelier exam the wine headaches kicked in and she started digging up the dirt on the wine industry - basically the junk added to mass-produced wines to speed up the process, save on costs, and make them look and taste alike from year to year is some scary stuff. Sarah travels the world and hand-picks wines from small family-owned vineyards, harvested from old growth vines, and tended by actual people, not manufactured in a lab. She does use a lab though, simply to TEST every single wine she receives to ensure it meets her trademarked "Clean-Crafted" wine standards. Additionally, Sarah has partnered with several vineyards to create some of her own labels, only available at S&C.