Vegan wine may seem like a strange concept, given that wine is made from grapes, so in theory, at least, it is a vegetarian product.
So where do animals come into it?
It's all about appearances. Most people tend to like wines (and anything they drink) to look clear rather than cloudy. And guess what the quickest way to achieve this is?
Fining agents. Two innocent little words that have historically implicated animals in the winemaking process because high protein by-products can easily be used to coagulate with floaty pieces in wine after fermentation.
Egg whites, dried blood, fish bladders, gelatin and milk based casein have all been used as fining agents to make wine look clear and bright. And while the dried blood has long since been outlawed by the EU, all of the other products remain in common use today. As are bentonite (clay), peas and potatoes.
Horses were also used historically to plow vineyards in traditional winemaking countries and, ironically, they are being used again today because the gentle trod of an animal is considered far less aggressive on soil than a man made machine. No surprises there.
So, while vegan friendly wine sounds great to some, in theory, it might be far more environmentally friendly to utilise horses, animal manure and egg whites because the alternative could just be far worse. Just a thought.
In summary, there is no straightforward answer to the overall question of how to figure out if your wine is vegan friendly, unless the winery in question is determined (as some listed below are) to stamp out the use of animal by-products. On the upside, the fact that the vegan-friendly wine question has gone from kooky to mainstream is a positive indication that we are all more aware of the need for transparency in both the use of ingredients in fast moving consumable products and in their labelling.
Vegan friendly wines
Akarua - some
Astrolabe - some
Blackenbrook - some
Brightside - some
Leconfield wines - all vegan-friendly wines are labelled
Yalumba - every Yalumba wine is vegan-friendly
Yealands - some
Marks & Spencer wines, UK, 70% labelled vegan-friendly.