Is Wine Vegetarian? A Guide for UK Wine Enthusiasts

Is Wine Vegetarian? A Guide for UK Wine Enthusiasts

Vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are becoming more popular, particularly among younger generations. Of those aged between 18 and 24, 11% follow a vegetarian diet. Although only 2% of those living in the UK follow a vegan lifestyle, another 3% would like to try cutting animal products out of their diet.
The growing popularity of vegetarianism, veganism and ethical consumption has caused the wine industry to introduce vegan-friendly alternatives to the country’s favourite wines.
Even though the tipple itself is free from animal products, the winemaking process does utilise animal-derived proteins during the clarifying process known as fining. So, for those wanting to live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, this process removes wine from the menu.
Some wines are vegetarian, using products like milk or egg whites to help clarify the wine during the fining process. But this still presents a problem for those following a vegan diet. At House of Townend, we believe everyone should be able to enjoy a cool, crisp glass of wine! So, we have put together this helpful guide to understanding vegetarian and vegan wines. 

What is fining?

Fining is the process whereby wine producers clarify and stabilise their wines. It is the final step after removing the insoluble pulp matter that is naturally produced during winemaking. This matter can range from yeast and proteins to tannins – but each affects taste and quality. Various techniques remove this bulk matter, and then fining takes place.

The fining substance is added to the wine in order to remove compounds that can influence the taste and clarity of the wine, such as sulphides, proteins or copper ions. The chosen fining substance interacts with the wine through electrostatic, adsorbent, ionic or enzymatic reactions and removes the unwanted compounds.
The fining process can be skipped altogether, leaving a wine unfined and, crucially, vegetarian and vegan-friendly. However, this process takes longer. Modern product demand has necessitated the use of faster manufacturing processes and encouraged the use of fining.
Fining agents vary. Common non-vegan options include:
• isinglass – derived from the swim bladders of fish
• gelatin – derived from collagen taken from animal body parts
• casein – the principal protein found within milk
• egg albumin – also known as egg whites
Isinglass is made from fish, so wine produced using this ingredient would be suitable for pescatarians. Similarly, wine made using casein or egg whites is suitable for vegetarians.
Different fining agents are generally used for different types of wine. For instance, the use of egg whites is usually associated with the production of red wine, while casein is typically used with white wines.
However, there is currently no legal obligation for winemakers to state their fining ingredients, as long as they do not present an allergen risk. It is therefore difficult to know which fining agent a winemaker has used, making vegetarian and vegan-certified wines the best option. 
Vegetarian and vegan winemakers may omit fining agents altogether, leaving their wines ‘unfined’, or choose to use a plant-based fining agent. Popular vegan options include:
• charcoal
• clay-derived bentonite
• PVP or Polyvinylpolypyrolidone – a water-soluble polymer compound.
It is important to note that none of the fining agents remain in the finished bottle – so if your choice is more health-based and you seek to avoid physically consuming animal products, all wine is safe. 

Understanding vegetarian and vegan wines

If you have decided that you would prefer to drink wine that has been made using plant-based agents, how can you select your next bottle of wine with confidence?

Even if the wine itself is vegan, can you be sure that the grapes come from an ethical production line and that the cork does not use beeswax or milk-based glue to ensure adequate closure?
The best way to ensure your wine is both ethical and suits your diet is to choose a bottle from a carefully curated collection of vegetarian and vegan wines.
You can also check the label for relevant certifications. Look out for vegetarian-approved and certified vegan logos on labels – you can be assured that these products meet strict guidelines in terms of production and processing.
Although wine labels do not currently require an ingredient list, from 8 th December 2023, winemakers will be required to list all ingredients in their wine on all labels. This new regulation will make it easier to identify which wines are suitable for your chosen diet and help you to make a more informed choice.

The rise of ethical wine production in the UK

There is an increasing awareness of the need for ethical and sustainable practices when it comes to winemaking, both within the industry and from a consumer perspective.

More wineries are turning to organic farming methods, ensuring that no harmful chemicals are used and that pollution is reduced. The use of renewable energy sources during production is also important when it comes to ethical, sustainable wine.
A truly ethical wine also looks at the ethical treatment of workers, ensuring employees are not exploited and receive fair treatment at all times. At House of Townend, we source our vegetarian and vegan wine collections from trusted wineries that pride themselves on their ethical processes and fair treatment of workers.

Tips for enjoying vegetarian and vegan wines

Once you have chosen your vegetarian or vegan wine, it is time to pair it with the perfect meal.
House of Townend is proud to cultivate a stunning collection of vegetarian-friendly and vegan-friendly wines. We offer a terrific selection of vegetarian wine and vegan wine, making your selection simple. Whether you are a vegan, vegetarian or hosting a party and want to accommodate your guests, discover our top picks of incredible wines to cater for all tastes and dietary requirements.

House of Townend’s top picks

Beaujolais Villages 2019, Domaine Pardon

This beautiful example from Beaujolais has fresh blueberry fruits with soft and succulent tannins, perfect for a lazy lunch. Suitable for vegans. Beaujolais wine pairs wonderfully with lighter meals, such as grainbased or green salads. A pasta in a creamy sauce is also a great selection.

Paparuda Feteasca Regala White

This delicious white wine carries flavours of apricots and mulling spice, providing a clean, zesty drinking experience. Crafted from a native Romanian white grape, this wine exudes World Class style. Suitable for vegans. A Feteasca Regala wine pairs brilliantly with lentil-based dishes or lighter salads with spinach, avocado and tofu.

Pleno Garnacha Rosé

This wine, from producer Bodegas Agronavarra in Spain, is a lovely option when you want a fruity rosé to enjoy throughout the warmer months. Suitable for vegans. Spicy food pairs well with a fruity rosé, so try some Indian or Thai cuisine with a full spice palette, like a full-bodied vegan curry or noodle dish.

Barocco Prosecco

Need a bit of fizz to liven things up? This vegan-friendly prosecco is a young, crisp Italian tipple that begs to be drunk. Prosecco usually signals a celebration, so try serving this with a partyready antipasti platter. For a vegan take on an antipasti platter, serve a selection of thickly sliced bread with various dips and oils. Some olives and nuts will look great on the side. If you are vegetarian, try adding a range of cheeses, such as brie, gorgonzola and parmesan. 

Longboard Pinot Noir ‘Mystos’ 2019

Looking for something a bit special? Try this Longboard Pinot Noir, a rich wine that combines great fruit with a slightly smoked character giving a spectacular, elegant wine. Suitable for vegans. Try a vegetarian risotto or mushroom pasta for a lighter partner to this gorgeously indulgent tipple. Vegetables such as asparagus and butternut squash also pair beautifully with the Pinot Noir’s deep, smoky flavour.

Frequently asked questions

1. Can I assume organic wines are vegan?

Not necessarily. While organic wines are produced with organic grapes, the fining agents used in the winemaking process may still be of animal origin. Always check the label or contact the producer to confirm.

2. Are there any specific wine regions known for producing vegetarian or vegan wines?

No specific wine region is known for exclusively producing vegetarian or vegan wines. These wines can be found worldwide, as wineries everywhere are adopting vegan-friendly winemaking practices.

3. Is there a taste difference between vegetarian, vegan, and non-vegetarian or non-vegan wines?

Generally, there is no taste difference between these types of wines. The production methods that make a wine vegetarian or vegan typically do not impact its flavour.

4. Do vegetarian and vegan wines cost more than traditional wines?

Vegetarian and vegan wines are available in a wide price range, just like traditional wines. The cost depends on factors such as the winery, grape variety, and vintage.

5. Can I find sparkling vegan wines?

Yes! Many producers offer vegan-friendly versions of sparkling wine, including vegan Champagne and prosecco.

6. Are there any rare or endangered grape varieties used in vegetarian or vegan wines?

Some wineries and conservation organizations focus on preserving rare or endangered grape varieties, and they may produce vegetarian or vegan wines from these unique grapes to support biodiversity efforts.

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