Why is wine not vegan?

The terraces are opening again this week, the sun is shining, the picnic blankets are being pulled out again. The evenings longer light. Fantastic weather to enjoy a good glass of wine. Although, I can always enjoy that. Whether inside by the fireplace in the heart of winter or sipping wine on my picnic blanket in the summer. Before I started eating and drinking completely plant-based, I had never thought about whether wine was plant-based or not. I mean, it only consists of grapes, right? Why is wine not vegan then I wondered?

Well, hold on, here it comes: wine also contains ingredients such as milk, gelatin and fish slime. Yuck! Fish slime, pig bones! Milk? And whereas it is mandatory for products with one or more ingredients to have an ingredient list, which is therefore the case for almost all products on the supermarket shelf, so it is not mandatory for wine. Thus, according to the Federatie Nederlandse Levensmiddelen Industrie, there is no legal list of ingredients, and since wine contains alcohol through fermentation, wine producers do not have to declare it. Except allergens. Very strange if you ask me, because why wouldn’t people want to know exactly what’s in wine?

But then why are animal ingredients used that make wine not vegan?

For clarifying wine. If you’ve ever taken a tour of a winery you may have heard it before: wine is not naturally bright. Say murky. Cloudy wine is caused by the fermentation process and the protein molecules of the grapes. Therefore, a wine producer clarifies the drink.

Clearing wine

What is that anyway? Clarification is the process that causes the loose particles to sink to the bottom of the vessel or tank and then be filtered out. And here comes the not vegan part of most wines: they often do this with animal ingredients such as gelatin, fish glue (dried fish swim bladders) or milk. By the way, those loose particles don’t stay behind in your wine; fortunately, they are always extracted.

In August 2020, I was at a winery near Girona, Catalonia

What does make wine vegan?

No worries, you don’t have to stop with wine, because there are also wine producers who do not choose animal ingredients, but rather to clarify with bentonite, a clay-like mineral or with plant-derived proteins from potato or peas. It can be that simple. Often this is already the case with organic wine, although it is useful to always check.

Buying vegan wine

A few years ago, it was quite difficult to find vegan wine and you could often only go to specialty stores or online. Fortunately, you can now even get (yes delicious!) vegan wine at Lidl, AH and Jumbo. But one of my favorite vegan organic wine is still Neleman’s. When I still lived in Rotterdam, there was regularly a bottle of Neleman Tempranillo Organic ready to pour. So Neleman was really my wine savior, as these were readily available (and still are) at De Gimsel in Rotterdam center and online.

Spanish vegan vermouth

What I didn’t know then, is that my favorite wine producer, is in Spain (near Valencia) and also makes vegan Organic Vermut! Now I have been a super fan of “Vermouth” since I was part-time at Barcelona live but I don’t drink it often because it’s usually not vegan (oh and also a little bit because there’s a lot of sugar in it anyway, but that shouldn’t spoil the fun of drinking it occasionally).

And besides vermut, Neleman has something else super fun, especially during these crazy times or just if you want to do something at home with a small club of people: a wine tasting with Mini Tasting Box. Then you can enjoy tasting with friends (the box can accommodate 2 to 4 people) with online guidance from Neleman’s Frank and Tiese. There are wine tastings in May, June, July and August, so there’s bound to be something.

In any case, I know what I will immediately do again when I am back in Barcelona: right yes, visit an organic vineyard again like I did last summer. Was a little unfortunate that I had to drive then, hadn’t quite gotten it right after all. Or to one of the many vegan restaurants in Barcelona to enjoy the sun, wine and good food on the terrace.


– This blog is in collaboration with Neleman

Want to read more about Spain or recipes delicious with wine?

Why is wine not vegan?

Non vegan wine is clarified with animal ingredients such as gelatin, fish glue (dried fish swim bladders) or milk. Clarification is the clarification of wine that is naturally cloudy.