Is Vino Vegan? A Discussion + Video Review Of Wines By The Vegan Vine!

November 5th, 2013 - filed under: Furthermore » Reviews


A few months back I was telling Damian all about my adventures at LA Vegan Beer Fest, and Damian – himself a veg*n of 4 years – was like, “Wait, some beer isn’t vegan?”

And he’s not alone. Many people, including many vegans, don’t realize (or even think to realize) that their favorite spirits, beers, and wines, may be produced or refined using animal products. Liquor is generally a pretty low risk (liqueurs and cordials pose the biggest threats), and there’s only a moderate concern when it comes to beers and ciders. The biggest offenders – and unfortunately there’s really no way to know the exact numbers – are the wines.

It’s sad but true, wine isn’t made with just grapes and love alone. The fining process, in which the wine is clarified to remove large particles, often employs animal-derived ingredients. The most common non-vegan fining agents are:

  • Isinglass – a very pure form of gelatin from fish bladders, typically sturgeons.
  • Gelatin – from boiled cow’s or pig’s hooves and sinews.
  • Albumin – the opaque stringy part of egg whites.
  • Casein – the main protein in milk, familiar to vegans as that nefarious ingredient that makes many popular “non-dairy” cheeses actually non-vegan cheeses.


These animal products are used to “fine” or filter the wine, making it visually clear. A fining agent binds to the microscopic particles and crystals that occur naturally during the fermentation and aging process. Without fining, wines end up with sediment, “floaties,” or an unattractive haziness (think kombucha). Fining also helps to remove excess tannins, which can create a hard edge in red wines.

But of course, these animal-derived ingredients are totally unnecessary. Vegan wines can be made using natural ingredients like bentonite clay, which work just as well to enhance the temperature stability of wine, and prevent floaties from forming in the barrel, bottle, or glass. It’s a shame that bentonite has not become the industry standard, and it’s even more shameful that wine manufacturers are not required to list fining agents on their labels! But I digress. It is what it is, and lucky for us, there’s some really awesome vegan companies stepping up, and getting the word out.

The Vegan Vine
Vegan Vine wines are California grown, cruelty-free, and certified sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrower’s Alliance. They offer 4 selections – 2 white and 2 red, and they were kind enough to send me a sample of each. So I sat down with a few close friends, popped the corks, and got to tasting. We made a little video which I hope you enjoy! (If you don’t want to watch the whole video, there’s also abbreviated tasting notes below.)

Tasting Notes:
Sauvignon Blanc – Bright and fresh, hints of apple and strong on the citrus. We all agreed that this is a quintessential “afternoon wine”, perfect for pairing with a porch, a salad, and some good company (or if you’re Ingrid, a good book).
Chardonnay – All of us liked this bright white wine, but we all agreed that it’s not a typical Chardonnay, and someone looking for that customary “big buttery flavor” may find themselves disappointed. Still, we enjoyed this wine with its notes of butterscotch, caramel, and fig. So, it’s good, but not if you’re hankering for that traditional rich ‘n creamy Chardonnay flavor.
Red Blend – A floral nose with lots of vanilla which scared me, because I hate vanilla in my wine. Luckily there’s no vanilla on the palate, which is rich and full with berry and chocolate and black tea and tobacco. However, we were split on our feelings about this wine. Jeremy didn’t care for it. I thought it was good and light, quite drinkable. Ingrid, Terry, and Clovis all loved it. So, you know, wine is subjective!
Cabernet Sauvignon – Soooo good! Our very favorite, I think we all agreed. Full-bodied with ripe berry and plum, balanced against tobacco and spice. It’s a shame the video got cut off, because this was the best wine of the night!


Thanks so much to my beloved friends for letting me film them while filling their bellies with the demon drink! Thank you to Ingrid Luna (you can see her fine art here and her Etsy shop here), to Terry Luna (you can listen to The Mutineers and their amazing brand of floor-stomping beer-swilling rabble-rousing Americana alt country, here), to Clovis IV (see his inspired music and portrait photography here) (oh, he also shot the anti-meat dress!), and to Jeremy, our wine specialist and illustrious sommelier for the evening. Thank you so much my dears.

And of course, a special thank you to The Vegan Vine, and to ethical winemakers everywhere! We’re coming right up on the holiday season, so I do hope you’ll keep these cruelty-free options in mind when you’re planning your impending festivities.


  • Kylie

    Looks like a fun time! I went to a popup restaurant a few months back where every course was paired with a Vegan Vine wine. Unfortunately I was not impressed :( I really wanted to be, but the only one I kind of liked was the cab.

  • Emily

    Great post! I love the vegan vine Cabernet, too, and you’ve inspired me to host a vegan wine-tasting party at my house, too!! Yalumba is also a great vegan wine brand, though they do not advertise that they are vegan.

  • skeptk_vegan

    “I like to be bitten by wine.” Ha! Cool post, awesome crew. I’ve been wanting to try the cab for a while now!

  • Bianca-Vegan Crunk

    Yay! They sent me samples of each a while back, and I loved them all. The cab sauv was my fave too.

  • Cammila

    Totally fascinating! I know nothing at all about wine, and have had aficionados ask me about vegan wine issues more than once — only for me to have zero info. Also: I dig the rundown of how the tasters came down on each selection! Super duper cool post. :)

  • ingrid luna

    that was so fun! thanks for including us in your video! and thank you for the shout out, my lovely!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Oh no! Bummer, but it sounds like most people agree that the cab is the best.

    Lets drink some vegan wine together – SOON

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Ooh you should totally have a vegan wine tasting party at your house – that would be awesome! There are lots of vegan wines out there, but not a lot that specifically call themselves vegan. Haven’t heard of Yalumba, I’ll check it out. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Ha! it’s true though, I HATE big buttery soft wines, and I love the ones that are tart and sassy and prick your tongue . . . at least when it’s done right. All about balance I guess. So, you know, I like to be bitten *in a good way* by wine. ;-)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Cab seems to be the consensus! I think they served them at VVC too, did you have wine at the Galarama? Pretty sure that was Vegan Vine, at least the first VVC. Aww, memorieeeees

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks lady! It was definitely a fun post to make. ;-)

    Yeah, so lots of wines are vegan but aren’t labeled as such. Barnivore is a good website/app for basic info, though it can be hard because vegan-ness can vary between vintages and even between barrels in the same vintage. But at least it’s a place to start!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Love you lady!

  • John Rothgeb

    Just so you know, Chardonnay is only “traditionally” soft and buttery when it is from California and aged (too much) in oak. Truly traditional chardonnay from Europe is often bright and mineraly with citrus or other fruit overtones. I’m not sure why over-oaked California chardonnays got started as they are sometimes described as “flabby” though there are a few really good ones (Far Niente comes to mind) that are oaked but not overly so and wonderful (but need to be matched to food usually).

    As far as fining agents you make a good point about not all being vegan. I think you initially make it sound like the animal based ones are the main ones and that they are all equivalent when that is not really the case. Choosing the fining agent depends on what you as a winemaker feel you need to accomplish (and what you are used to using as well as cost). Here is an article about the various fining agents used to clarify wine –

    I do have a question here. If you have a synthetic casein or synthetic albumen would that be vegan? I’m not sure that synthetics are used yet in the wine industry, but since both animal products have been synthesized it is eventually possible.