Check out the title of this article and you may think that we’re asking a bit of a silly question.
“Of course Italian wine is vegan,” we hear you shout. “It’s made using grapes. And grapes are a PLANT”.
But the story isn’t as simple as that. We wouldn’t ask the question in the first place if there weren’t a few wrinkles in the story. And there wouldn’t be specialised manufacturers of vegan wines if all wines were suitable for vegans.
We’ve practically answer the question there.
The simple answer is that not all Italian wines are vegan. In fact, the majority of them aren’t safe for vegan consumption.
In this article, we’re going to explain exactly why that is. Then, we’re going to look at some of the reasons why vegan wines are making such waves in the current industry.
Why Aren’t Most Wines Vegan
There are a couple of factors at play here.
First, there’s the simple issue of pesticides. Any wine manufacturer that uses pesticides to protect their crops is inherently making a non-vegan product. After all, they’re killing animals, no matter how small, to protect their grapes.
That’s anathema to a vegan wine lover.
You also have the issue of many wine makers running other agricultural endeavours. Imagine that you’re a farmer who grows grape vines and has a farm filled with livestock. Even if you keep the wine itself vegan, you may have people argue that keeping livestock makes your entire operation non-vegan.
In that sense, one aspect of your business has an effect on another. Vegans may not buy a vegan wine from you because you’re involved in killing animals in another part of your farming business.
Finally, we have the use of fining agents to consider.
As PETA points out:
“Popular animal-derived fining agents used in the production of wine include blood and bone marrow, casein (milk protein), chitin (fibre from crustacean shells), egg albumen (derived from egg whites), fish oil, gelatine (protein from boiling animal parts), and isinglass (gelatine from fish bladder membranes).”
So, you have to look beyond the growing techniques and into the production of the wine itself. And with so many fining agents out there, it’s very easy to end up drinking a wine that comes from a company that uses animal products.
All of this means you have to be more careful as a vegan when you’re drinking wine. If the wine isn’t specifically labelled as being suitable for you, it may be that animal products have been used, or animals have been harmed, at some point during production.
So you see, it’s not as black and white as it may appear.
Though Italian wine is a plant-based product, that doesn’t always mean that the wines are suitable for vegans.
Now, we’re going to change tack a little and look at some of the reasons why it may be worth your while to seek out vegan wines.
The Benefits of Vegan Wines
There are producers out there who create vegan wines. And you can get your hands on them, often at a slightly higher price than the non-vegan equivalents.
The key question that vegans may have is whether or not it’s actually worth seeking out vegan Italian wines at all.
Here are a few reasons why you may want to do it.
Reason #1 – Encouraging Change
The existence of vegan wine in the first place is a clear indicator that there are non-animal-based fining agents out there.
Many vegans choose to adopt the lifestyle because they don’t want to see any harm come to animals. When you buy vegan wines, you’re actively supporting the use of alternative fining agents that don’t contain animal products.
Perhaps with enough support, major players in the industry will listen to vegans’ concerns and start using different fining agents. That means you choice of vegan wines could make an active difference in terms of the fates of many animals.
Reason #2 – Lower Sulphite Levels
As many of you already know, sulphites are a common preservative used in wines. Unfortunately, there are some people who have adverse reactions to sulphites. This means that a lot of Italian wines are off the table.
Interestingly, vegan wines tend to contain far fewer sulphites than non-vegan wines. They’re not completely absent as sulphites are produced naturally as a result of fermentation. However, it appears that the use of animal products in the fermentation process leads to more sulphites being present.
So, if you have adverse reactions to sulphites, opting for vegan wines may be an option, even if you’re not a vegan.
Reason #3 – Fewer Harmful Chemicals
The majority of vegan wine producers also use organic and biodynamic production methods. This is simply an extension of their philosophy. With organic production, you’re avoiding the use of unnatural products in the growth of grapes. And the biodynamic aspect has a specific focus on preserving the natural environment and ecosystem.
That means that many of the benefits of organic and biodynamic wines also apply to vegan wines. In particular, vegan wines tend to have fewer man-made chemicals used in their production.
Pesticides are obviously not an issue, as using them would go against what veganism stands for. However, vegan winemakers use more natural products in the other stages of production as well.
The Final Word
As you can see, the answer to the question that we posed at the top of the article isn’t as simple as it appears.
The fact is that many Italian wines simply aren’t suitable for vegans. The use of pesticides during growth or animal products during fining put paid to that idea.
So, at the very least, any vegans who read this article can now see that the concept of all wines being vegan is a misconception.
Beyond that, there are actually a number of benefits to drinking vegan wine. Lower sulphite levels and fewer unnatural chemicals go hand-in-hand with less harm coming to animals.
Perhaps it’s time to switch to vegan wines even if you’re not a vegan yourself.
I’m a passionate about good wine and good cooking.
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