October 06, 2020

Wine: an alcoholic drink made from fermented grape juice
Oxford English Dictionary

Wine sounds simple enough – a few grapes and a bit of yeast fermenting away. You’d certainly be forgiven for thinking that, anyway. Even with the multitude of additives commercial winemakers are prone to use, there couldn’t be anything in the bottle that would exclude someone with dietary restrictions, could there? Like, for example, vegans? 

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common misconception about wine and one we often encounter here at Brown Bag Wines. Not all wines are vegan-friendly, but it’s often a mystery to some as to why this would be the case. So with that in mind, here’s a short guide on what makes a wine non-vegan and why there’s been a recent resurgence in vegan-friendly winemaking techniques.

Why all wine isn’t vegan

There are a couple of different ways animal products can be introduced into the winemaking process. The first comes in the ‘fining process’ of winemaking, where winemakers aim to remove the tiny particles of sediment that cause the wine to be hazy – fining makes the wine clear, bright and a little more stable. Traditional fining products were derived from egg, fish or milk, suddenly introducing animal products into the mix.


Animal products can also be introduced in the corking phase, as corks are sometimes made using milk-based glues, or when sealing the bottle with beeswax. Thankfully these methods are becoming less and less common. Still, right now the only way to ensure you’re drinking a vegan wine is to check for certification on the label.

Why more wine is becoming vegan

With more and more consumers turning towards vegan and plant-based diets, it seems inevitable that some winemakers would use ‘vegan-friendly’ as a great marketing tool to sell more wine. 

Wine barrels

However, we should remember that many winemakers have been following low-intervention winemaking methods that avoid animal products entirely for a long time. 

Some use vegetable or mineral -derived products to clear their wines. In contrast, some leave their wine entirely natural with no filtration (the sediment in wine is harmless, so there is no issue in drinking it). For these winemakers, whether they practise organic, biodynamic or natural farming, vegan-friendly is just another part of their sustainable winemaking practices.

What is certain is that the trend for fewer interventions in the vineyard and cellar (when making the wine) is increasing. Consumers want fewer chemicals and additives in their wine, which almost certainly affects the addition of animal products. In fact, many people feel they don’t need to be vegan to find something odd about using eggs in the making of wine. So if winemakers can use a viable alternative, then everyone is happy.

Vegan wine

Drinking vegan wine isn’t the only condition for drinking sustainable wine. It will give you a good idea that the winemaker cares about their processes though – something that is likely to carry right through the vineyard.

Joining the revolution: drinking more vegan wine

With new wine trends emerging, there are more and more ways to join the sustainable revolution. Whether it’s all-vegan-friendly wine lists at restaurants or organic and natural wine bars, there are more than enough opportunities to drink wines that help us make our wine drinking sustainable.

And remember: drinking sustainability doesn’t just mean drinking only vegan wines. It’s about the full loop – how your wine is sourced, how the winemakers are supported and even where your empty bottle goes.

Wine party

The sustainable revolution is part of a long journey to a bright future. It’s a road Brown Bag Wines is proud to be on, and one we hope you’ll join us on too.

If you want to hear more about the producers we work with and the exclusive wines we source, get in touch with us here. To start drinking sustainable wines today, take a look at our collection. We’ve got a great choice of vegan-friendly wines amongst our organic, biodynamic and natural wines. Cheers!


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