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Wine Gets Vegan and Vegetarian Friendly

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While tasting (and enjoying) the 2010 Oxford Landing Cabernet Sauvignon, I perused the flowery prose on the label but was most intrigued by the last sentence: “Vegan and vegetarian friendly.” If you’re wondering how meat or dairy is involved in your wine, it has to do with a clarification process called fining. (Winedefinintions.com has good overview of the process) You use a protein, such as egg whites or isinglass (aka fish bladder), to attract unwanted particles that could make a wine cloudy or affect its color. The goal of fining is to make a wine more stable, especially if it is exposed to heat. (Useful if you’ve ever left wine in the trunk of your car, but I know you’ve never done that on a hot day, right?) A clay, bentonite, is a popular alternative. This is not to say you’re going to see a egg white or a fish bladder floating in your wine; these are removed, too, once their work is done. And you’ve got to think, considering the size of wine tanks, that there are negligible amounts of these fining agents that make it all the way to your glass. But I’m sure to many vegetarians and vegans it is a matter of principle and, if animal products are being used in the process of making wine, that needs to be disclosed.

A brief side-note on fining: there are many winemakers who find the process anathema. While fining (and filtering) remove unwanted particles from wine, many feel something important is also fined and filtered out: flavor. You’ll see a lot of bottles proudly displaying “Unfined and Unfiltered” on the label; you’ll either have to decant the bottle or keep it upright and pour carefully when you get close to the bottom.

Interestingly, Australia’s wine labeling law for the internal market mandates that if dairy is involved in the processing of wine, it must be noted. This diagram of a wine label shows a “Produced With Milk Products” notice. And while certainly there is a marketing aspect involved with noting your wine is vegan and vegetarian friendly, I think the more information you get on a label about what’s in the bottle, the better.

A couple other things to like about Oxford Landing:

  • They respond to your queries on Twitter:


  • If the battery on your smart phone dies, they have the tear-off tag to remember the wine.

Oxford Landing

Oh, I guess I should tell you how it tastes. Quite good and a bargain for under $10! Breaks the stereotype of “fruit bomb” Aussie reds. It’s medium-bodied and easy-going. Very versatile! A worthy red to pull from your quiver of available daily drinkers.

I’ll be looking out for more wineries who are highlighting their vegan- and vegetarian-friendliness and would love to hear from more wineries who are doing so. In the meantime, Barnivore is a good resource. Are you interested in seeing more rigorous wine labeling?


9 Replies to “Wine Gets Vegan and Vegetarian Friendly”

  1. Anyone who thinks wine can possibly be vegan or vegetarian friendly has clearly never been part of the winemaking process. Plenty of insects including stinkbugs, ladybugs, wasps, spiders and earwigs come into the winery along with the grapes. I’ve had days where I’ve watched loads of insects climb out of the fruit clusters as they are being dumped into the fermentation bins. I’ve pulled thousands of these bugs off grape sort lines, and even then they usually don’t survive as their wings have been glued together by the fruit juices. Then, during ferment, fruit flies often drown in the fermentation vats – this is just part of the deal. It’s impossible to keep an activity like wine making completely free of animal life.

    Further, large wine manufacturers who don’t utilize hand picking and instead harvest their product by machines often pick up rabbits, mice, gophers and birds and bird nests while picking the grapes. And remember, winemaking is farming first – farmers, including those who grow grapes, have been known shoot gophers and birds to protect their crops.

    Vegan and vegetarian wines are just a clever marketing strategy, not a product that can actually be produced. To claim otherwise is just ridiculous.

    1. Julia,

      These are all excellent points (or rather, facts) and forgive me for not considering that wine is not made in a vacuum, whether we are talking about small or large-scale agriculture. I think we can agree that wine can be processed without the use of dairy/animal agents for fining, so maybe a better label would be the cumbersome “We strive to make this wine vegan and vegetarian friendly by not using any dairy/animal products for fining.” The collateral damage, so to speak, from wasps to birds to rodents, etc. that ends up in the tank is not mitigated. (Thank God for filtration.) And I’m sure this is not just true for grapes but every processed agricultural product like, for example, applesauce: it probably has ground-up micro-particles of insects, too. Now I’m splitting hairs.

      My intent was to point out that a wine label tells you nothing about what is intentionally added during the winemaking process, and there are certain allowable ingredients in that process that vegans and vegetarians and everybody would be surprised to know about.

      Great comment, Julia, and if you have a blog or a website I’d like to know about it.


  2. Jameson,

    Thanks for the article and thanks for the well spoken reply to Julia’s comment. I agree that it’s all about what’s intentional, not unintentional. Just about everything grown can contain unintentional insects or whatnot. As a vegan, all I can do is my best to avoid non-plant based foods and that is exactly what I do.

    I am absolutely interested in more rigorous wine labeling! Right now it’s next to impossible to find vegan friendly wines (other than the three brands I buy all under $10) because I’ll go to a store and find a few brands I want to buy, look them up on Barnivore, and they are not listed. Or I’ll make a note of brands that are vegan and then not be able to find them at the store. It’s very frustrating. If they were labeled vegan friendly I’d be good to go!

    Thanks again for addressing this. Cheers!

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