You’re not alone if you’re trying to shift towards a plant-based diet. An estimated 600,000 people in the UK follow a vegan diet, although that number fluctuates depending on how strictly you define veganism.

For some, veganism means cutting animal products out of their diets. For others, it means not consuming animal products, including when used at some point in the production process.

If you’re a wine lover, you might think you’re in the clear, no matter which definition you follow. However, the story is a bit more complex than that.

Isn’t All Wine Vegan?

If you’ve been trying to reduce your consumption of animal products, wine probably isn’t very high on your list of foods and drinks to avoid. It’s just grapes, right? Shouldn’t all wine be vegan wine?

You would think so, but if you consider a vegan diet to be about more than just what you’re putting in your body, that’s likely not the case. Wine may not contain animal products directly. Animal products still may have been used in the winemaking process. There are two primary reasons that this is the case.

The first is that some vineyards use fertilisers that contain animal products. As they appear in the creation process, the final product, in this case, isn’t considered vegan. The other reason your wine might not be considered vegan is due to something called a fining agent.

We’ll cover both in more depth, along with possible vegan alternatives.


Animal products are popular in fertilisers. They’re easily accessible and contain many nutrients, plants like grapes, need to grow. Blood, bone meal, and fish emulsion are common, as they’re leftover from processing animals  for human consumption or pet food. Manure shows up in fertilisers frequently as well.

Following a vegan diet means that you’re not driving the demand for animal products. You could argue that these waste products would exist whether or not you eat or drink something grown with them. This is particularly tempting when it comes to manure because animals aren’t harmed in its production, but that still doesn’t make the use of animal-based fertilisers vegan.

Instead, look for a vineyard that uses a fertiliser made from fermented grain, alfalfa, or soybeans. If that sounds like a list of plants farm animals would likely eat, you’d be right. The use of animals is an unnecessary middle step in fertiliser production.

Fining Agents

If you poured a glass of wine and discovered it was cloudy or had excessive sediment, you probably wouldn’t find the sight very appetising. Fortunately, that rarely happens. You have fining agents to thank for the fact that your wine is clear.

Fining agents are substances that, when added to the wine, bond with sediment and make it much easier for vintners to remove unwanted material. They can also reduce bitterness and affect the colour.

Common fining agents include but are not limited to bentonite, casein, chitin, gelatin, and egg albumen. Other than bentonite, a type of clay, those are all derived from animals.

The fining agents themselves aren’t present in the wine you drink. However, when winemakers use animal products during the vinification process, the wine doesn’t qualify as vegan.

If you’re looking for a bottle of vegan wine, you will want to find one fined using bentonite, silica, or charcoal. Manufacturers can also make gelatin using vegetables rather than animal products. With an increasing demand for vegetarian and vegan food options, you’re likely to see a decrease in the use of animal-based fining agents in the coming years.

Some wines aren’t fined, either. Unfined wines—also known as natural wines—may interest wine lovers searching for something new and exciting.

Luckily, you don’t have to call or email every vineyard you’re thinking of purchasing a wine from to find out whether it’s vegan or not. Instead, check the label. UK law prohibits manufacturers from misleading consumers, so if a wine label says it’s vegan, it is.

Several organisations offer trademark stamps for products that meet their standards. For example, the Vegan Society and the Vegetarian Society have trademarks that indicate something is vegan.

If a wine’s label doesn’t explicitly claim that it’s vegan, you can’t be sure that it is. There’s no guarantee that organic, unfiltered, unfined, or natural wines will be vegan.

No connection exists between whether a wine is vegan and the levels of sulphites it contains, either. Sulphites are a natural part of the vinification process. They’re also added to wines as a preservative, so you’re unlikely to find a sulphite-free wine. Those low in sulphites aren’t guaranteed to be vegan unless labelled.

If you’re ever in doubt, it’s always best to check. This can be an online store, the local bottle shop, or the vintner’s website. Knowledgeable retailers will always be happy to help.

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Wrapping Up

Whether you’re making the switch to veganism for health, ethical, or sustainability reasons, you don’t have to give up on wine. There are a ton of delicious vegan wines just waiting for you to discover them!

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