Most people assume wine is vegan. It's made of grapes, right? Well in fact most major wine brands still add animal-based ingredients during the filtering and fining processes, including gelatine, and egg whites, and use fish bladders to filter out particles that make it into the wine, But as more shoppers seek sustainable, cruelty-free vegan options, vegan wine is becoming increasingly popular. Online retailer Virgin Wines just revealed that sales of its vegan wine have increased from 1.1 million to more than 1.7 million bottles between 2019 and 2021, growing 51 percent in only two years.

Virgin Wines currently offers more than 400 vegan wines through its online platform. Noticing its rising sales, the company added additional varieties to its selections in 2020. The retailer conducted a study that revealed that 36 percent of its customers actively shopped for vegan wines, motivated by animal welfare and environmental awareness.

“It’s not surprising to see such a rise in vegan wine sales,” Head of Buying at Virgin Wines Sophie Lord said in a statement. “Over the last decade, far more alternative wine fining methods have been found, allowing winemakers to move away from the traditional methods that are unsuitable for vegans.”

Vegan wine purchases are likely to increase in the coming years. Nearly 40 percent of the participants revealed they did not realize that some wines are not vegan. Virgin Wines noted that the general awareness of vegan and non-vegan fining agents is fairly low, especially as more consumers aim to shop with sustainability in mind.

“Demand for vegan, organic, and biodynamic wines has grown as more consumers adopt eco-conscious and healthier lifestyles,” Lord continued. “It’s great to see that the desire for top-quality vegan-friendly wines is growing so strongly and we have every reason to believe that this will only continue to rise, creating a great opportunity for Virgin Wines to capitalize on this growing sector”.

Why is Wine Not Vegan?

Finding a vegan wine is particularly difficult for shoppers because most wines do not list the ingredients and crop treatments on the bottle. Even though the bulk of wine is plant-based, major winemakers rely on animal-based fining agents including isinglass, egg whites, gelatin, casein, beeswax, and more.

While the fining process is essential to winemaking to reduce bitterness, clarify wine, and improve the flavor and smell, animal-based fining agents are not the only ingredients able to achieve this. Several vegan alternatives exist including silica clay and pea gelatine. Vegan wine brands opt for these sustainable and cruelty-free ingredients to complete the fining process.

Miyoko Schinner's Wine Country 2.0

In Northern California, vegan pioneer Miyoko Schinner is reinventing the entire food and wine experience. The founder of Miyoko’s Creamery launched the “Wine Country 2.0" campaign last August to prioritize sustainability, animal welfare, and health among the entire wine experience. The campaign intended to go beyond just making the wine plant-based – gathering local restauranteurs, hoteliers, organizations, wineries, and artisan food developers to make wine country more sustainable than ever.

“Wine Country 2.0 is an entirely new way to enjoy the world’s greatest wine region and leading tourist destination. We will expose visitors and locals alike to phenomenal experiences which demonstrate that caring for the planet and animals while delivering the world’s finest food and wine pairings are not mutually exclusive,” Schinner said at the time. “This convivial, climate-forward collaboration celebrates the diverse, local tastemakers and change-makers who are leading the way in creating a more sustainable and compassionate hospitality experience that will create a blueprint for the culinary industry across the country.

Whether it's wine, beer, or spirits, your favorite alcohol might not be fully vegan. Even though the main ingredient might be hops, malt, yeast, barley, potatoes, grains, or grapes, alcohol companies sneak in animal-based filtering and fining agents. To find vegan alcohol, there are several search engines including Barnivore and the BevVeg app. Also, most vegan wine brands feature a vegan certification on the labels, so shoppers can distinguish them from non-vegan bottles.

For more info, check out The Beet's Ultimate Guide to Vegan Alcohol

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