Vegan and Organic Wine: Everything You Should Know

With the recent rise of environmental awareness, “vegan” and “organic” have become two of the most popular words in today’s culture.

More and more people look for products that have been made with sustainable ingredients and through eco-friendly manufacturing processes. So much so that in 2018, global organic food and drink sales exceeded $100 billion for the first time.

It’s clear to see that the market is up-to-date with this trend, as healthy aisles in supermarkets keep on growing, and organic stores pop up everywhere.

Now, when we speak about vegan and organic products, there are probably certain foods and drinks that automatically come to your mind – tofu, soy milk, seitan, and all the fruits and vegetables. One thing that might not come to mind as quickly is wine.

If you want to become a more educated wine consumer, keep reading. Here at Wine Country Travel, you will find out everything you need to know about organic and vegan wine.

Related: 10 Great Food Pairings With Wine.

What Is Organic Wine?

The first thing we should tell you is that organic wine and vegan wine are two different things. Many organic wines aren’t vegan and vice-versa.

So what makes wine organic?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established a series of rules and criteria that farmers must follow if they want their wine to be classified as organic.

Wine producers can’t label their wine as organic unless they’re certified. This is great news for the consumer. Otherwise, producers could be tempted to use the word “organic” without having gone through the certification process.

Also, the USDA defined criteria that each type of organic wine must follow:

Wine Made with Organic Grapes

  • All of the grapes used to make the wine must be certified organic;
  • Other agricultural ingredients don’t have to organic but must be produced without certain excluded methods specified by the USDA;
  • Non-agricultural ingredients must be authorized on the National List.
  • Additional sulfites can only be added in a certain ratio (sulfites are naturally occurring in the grape skins so no wine is 100% sulfite-free);
  • The wine label has to include the name of the certifying agent.

Organic Wine (With the Certified Organic Seal)

  • All of the grapes and agricultural ingredients must be certified organic. This doesn’t apply to those on the National List;
  • Non-agricultural ingredients can’t make for more than 5% of the wine, and they must be authorized on the National List;
  • Additional sulfites can’t be added;
  • The wine label has to include the name of the certifying agent.

What Is Vegan Wine?

If you want a wine that does not use any animal products, what you’re looking for is a vegan wine.

You might be wondering what is in your wine that makes it non-vegan. The answer is in two simple words: fining agents.

When it is first produced, the wine will contain sediment. Sediment isn’t harmful, but consumers prefer to have their wine clear and without floaters. For this reason, producers put the wine through a fining process where they add certain substances to the wine to remove the sediment.

So far, so good. The issue for someone who prefers vegan arises when we look at the fining agents that are commonly used: gelatin, fish oil, casein (milk protein), skim milk, and egg albumen. Understandably, this list can cause issues for someone who is vegan.

But don’t lose hope: being vegan doesn’t mean that you have to give up wine.

What Makes Wine Vegan?

Usually, it means that producers used vegan-friendly fining agents, such as activated charcoal, plant casein, and bentonite.

In some cases, it can also mean that the wine was left unfined and you may have some of that sediment left in the bottle. As we noted earlier, that sediment is not harmful in any way, and you can pour your wine through a fine-mesh strainer at home to remove some of the larger sediment.

How to Find Vegan Wine

If you follow a vegan diet, it’s probably become automatic for you to look for the official vegan symbol in any product you buy. And if you don’t find it, you carefully read every single ingredient in the label.

The thing about wine is that the label doesn’t usually include the ingredients list.

Luckily, many wine producers already advertise their wines as vegan, so you’ll be able to find that symbol somewhere down the alcohol aisle. Another option is to grab your smartphone and do a quick online search. Nowadays, many resources out there tell you which alcoholic beverages are and aren’t vegan.

Any Questions? 

Hopefully, we’ve been able to answer some questions you might have had about what makes a wine organic or vegan. These continue to be emerging trends in the wine industry and will continue to grow into the future. With the information we’ve provided, you’ll be able to wow your friends at your next dinner party with your knowledge of what it takes to be called an organic or vegan wine. Cheers!

If you love wine as much as we do, be sure to check out our wine tours in Sonoma and Napa Valley. We’d be happy to put together a tour of some of our favorite certified organic wineries for you if that is of interest to you! 

Related: The Etiquette of Wine Tasting.

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