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Serving wine at your holiday party? Be careful! More than 70 additives—including a handful of animal products—can be used to make and process wine. Winemakers aren’t required to list those additives on wine labels, so it can be extra-tricky to know which wines are truly vegetarian or vegan. Not to worry. Here’s how to find a veg-friendly vino (and avoid ones that aren’t).
1. Know Your Fining Agents
sed to clarify wine, fining agents attract detritus left over from fermentation and eventually precipitate out. The issue? Trace amounts can remain in the finished product, and traditional fining agents are often not vegan or even vegetarian. Think gelatin, isinglass (fish bladders), chitin (crustacean shells), egg whites, and milk proteins. Luckily, more and more winemakers are using animal-free fining agents such as bentonite clay and carbon—or no fining agents at all. Choosing organic or biodynamic wines does not guarantee they’ll be veg-friendly. Your best bet is to ask winemakers which, if any, fining agents they use. Or go to barnivore.com to get veg-or-not verdicts for nearly 18,000 wines, beers, and liquors (yup, there could be animal-sourced fining agents in your pint or cocktail too).
2. Go Natural
No time to investigate iffy ingredients? Kate Jacoby, co-owner of Philadelphia’s Vedge restaurant, suggests sticking with “natural” wines, which are naturally veg: they’re made with minimal intervention and no fining agents to clarify them. “After all,” she says, “why do you need a clear wine?” Look for bottles with the words “unfined” and “unfiltered” on the label. Or shop online at stores such as New York’s Chambers Street Wines and Los Angeles’s Domaine LA, which specialize in natural wines and offer mail order. What do natural wines taste like? Expect more life and a greater range of flavors.
3. Copy Your Favorite Veg Restaurants
Browse veg-friendly wine lists for tasty ideas. The list at Vedge boasts nearly 80 vegan wines; Dirt Candy features quirky natural wines such as Le Temps des Cerises’s La Peur du Rouge, made in the south of France: “It’s like a rich Chardonnay that tastes funky and sour, almost like drinking a glass of kimchi,” says chef/owner Amanda Cohen. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.” Once you’ve found a few promising-sounding bottles, search their names on wine-searcher.com to see if they are sold nearby, or ask your local wine shop to order some for you.
Looking for some ideas? Here are 8 wineries making only veg wines:
Frey Vineyards A longtime advocate for organic wines made without added sulfites— believed to be richer in terroir.
Albet i Noya Spain’s first certified organic wine producer, whose wide range of varietals includes classy Pendès sparkling wine.
The Eyrie Vineyards The pioneering winery that first proved fabulous Pinot Noir could be made in Oregon, despite its cool climate.
Querciabella Owner Sebastiano Castiglioni is a lifelong vegetarian. Wines of note: the structured and classic Chiantis.
Éric Texier Lively white wines and rich Syrahs made in the natural vein in France’s Rhone region.
Pheasant’s Tears Unusual organic wines from the country of Georgia. Not for strict vegans: grapes are fermented in clay vessels lined with beeswax.
Bonny Doon Vineyard No secrets here! This biodynamic winery’s beautiful labels list every ingredient.
La Clarine Farm As-natural-as-it-gets wine made in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills. Try the bright, unfiltered Jambalaia Blanc or Rouge.
Want to learn more? Check out our Ultimate Vegetarian Wine Guide