I recently saw an ad announcing the launch of a new vegan wine, which got me wondering; aren’t all wines vegan?
I consulted Barnivore and found out that from their list of 334 South African wines, about 26% are non-vegan wines. This is because winemakers can use animal ingredients during the filtration of their wine. According to VinePair, these added animal products are called “fining agents” and can help eliminate proteins, yeasts and molecules that can give wine a cloudy appearance. These fining agents also help reduce tannins, which in turn makes the wine taste smoother at a younger age.
These animal by-products include casein (milk protein), chitin (fibre from crustacean shells), albumen (egg whites), gelatin, fish oil and isinglass, which is a gelatin made from fish membranes. Most of these fining agents are vegetarian-friendly, but unfortunately not vegan-friendly.
Another problem arises from the fact that wine bottles aren’t legally required to list the ingredients on the label, and those of us who know wine bottles know that very few winemakers choose to list the ingredients on the bottle.
There’s good news, though! Many winemakers have started using clay-based fining agents like bentonite and limestone, or activated charcoal during the fining process. According to Fairview winery, it also isn’t necessary for wines to go through the fining process, and many winemakers claim that unfined wines have more character.
Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian or omnivore, it’s always good to know what ends up in your food and drinks, so be sure to head over to Barnivore or Vegan SA for comprehensive lists of vegan wines available in South Africa.
Have a look at some of our favourite vegan wines
Waterkloof Sauvignon Blanc
Waterkloof Sauvignon Blanc is one of my all-time favourite wines. With it’s heady peach and floral aromas and zesty citrus flavours, it’s definitely an easy drinking wine (you look away for 2 minutes and the bottle is empty!). Waterkloof only produces between 3 000 and 4 000 bottles of their Sauvignon Blanc per year, so make sure to stock up!
Delheim Pinotage Rosé
Delheim Pinotage Rosé was launched in 1976 as South Africa’s first Pinotage Rosé, and has a rich salmon colour with a vibrant pink hue. As soon as you open the bottle, strong pomegranate and cranberry scents hit your nose, with an undertone of candy floss and cherry blossoms; and flavours of red berries lingering after the last sip. This wine is the fruitiest of their selection, but is well balanced and easy to drink.
Neethlingshof Cabernet Sauvignon
Neethlingshof Cabernet Sauvignon has a pleasantly oaky smell, with subtler notes of cherry and blackberry. Once you take a sip, blackberries, cherries and vanilla oak spice dance on your tongue in this full-bodied red wine.
Middelvlei Free-Run Pinotage
Middelvlei Free-Run Pinotage is named as such due to being made from exclusively free-run juice which drains off the crushed grapes naturally. On the nose you’ll find sweet raspberry and mulberry aromas in oak spices, while the flavour is packed with rich fruit flavours.
Glen Carlou Syrah
The Glen Carlou Syrah is a wonderful wine. It has flavours of oriental spices with red berries, cinnamon and cloves, which makes it the perfect wine to drink in front of the fireplace on a cold winter’s day.