A vegan diet is a plant-based diet or one that contains only foods such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits. It can be healthy, but it can lack certain nutrients because foods from animals, including dairy products and eggs are excluded. However, vegans can get all the nutrients the body needs with a proper diet plan.
Good planning and understanding what makes up a healthy and balanced vegan diet is crucial. They just have to use a little creativity to ensure they get enough essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, iron and vitamin B12.
Vegans and Alcohol
Now that we have food out of the way, what about drinks? Obviously, milk is a no-no, but when transitioning to the vegan lifestyle a lot of people wonder do vegans drink alcohol. Well, it depends on the type. Some types of cocktails and beer contain non-vegan ingredients such as milk, cream and eggs. Luckily, there are many clean spirits like vodka and rum which are safe options.
But when it comes to wine, the lines are a little blurred. Now you might be asking isn’t all wine vegan? Well, not exactly. We all know wine is fruit-based and its main ingredient is grapes, which are of course vegan, but that doesn’t necessarily make it vegan or even vegetarian. But just like you can find vegan-friendly alternatives to milk, there are many vegan alternatives to wine as well. In fact, there’s an especially wide range of vegan red wine.
So, we thought we’d try to explain what vegan wine as well as what are the health benefits of consuming it, specifically vegan red wine.
What Is Vegan Wine? How Does Wine Become Non-Vegan?
As we all know wine is a product of grapes and yeast. During the fermentation process, the natural sugars of the grapes are converted into alcohol. The yeast triggers the reaction in the sugar which then results in wine. Essentially, wine is fermented grape juice. As such, it’s logical for some to assume that all wines would be vegan-friendly, but that isn’t always the case.
At some point during the winemaking process, a wine can become non-vegan. The reason wine becomes non-vegan is due to the fining process or how the wine is clarified. The wine can naturally go through the fining process, but it will not yet be an entirely crystal clear liquid after it has been produced. So, wine producers use a variety of aids called fining agents to speed up the process and bring more clarity to the wine.
Unfortunately, these processing aids are non-vegan. Examples include albumin which is derived from egg whites; gelatin – animal protein, made from boiled bones; casein – a protein derived from cow’s milk and more. When these are not used, we have a completely vegan-friendly wine.
As veganism continues gaining popularity, winemakers around the world move to more natural winemaking methods and started to market more vegan-friendly wines. Today many winemakers are not fining or filtering their wines, allowing them to self-fine and self-stabilise. Vegan wines are left to develop and refine naturally. Instead of using animal products, winemakers are experimenting with vegan-friendly alternatives. There are plenty of non-animal fining agents that can be used to fine vegan wines and remove prominent off flavours. Some examples are bentonite, which is purified clay, and activated charcoal.
Health Benefits of Vegan Red Wine
With more and more vegan-friendly alternatives available on the market, the consumption of vegan wines is on the rise. Today vegans can also have some quality wine time and enjoy the benefits of all varieties of vegan wines. Different types of vegan wine offer different health benefits, but red wines stand out the most.
Numerous research suggests that drinking an occasional glass of red wine, both vegan and non-vegan, is beneficial. However, vegan wines tend to offer more health benefits than conventional wines. Vegan wines are usually also organic which means that they have less harmful chemicals in the finished product and are less likely to cause any health problems.
The health benefits usually come from the grapes. For example, the grapes in organic and vegan wines are grown naturally without additional preservatives and artificial chemicals. In addition, red wine grapes are richer in antioxidants than white grapes varieties. Vegan red wines tend to have a higher level of the antioxidant called resveratrol than traditional wines. Therefore, drinking a glass of vegan red wine may increase the level of antioxidants in your blood. Also, it has been found that this antioxidant can act as an anti-ageing chemical in your body.
Vegan wines are also low sulphite wines. They contain lower levels of sulphites which are naturally created during the fermentation process. The sulphites are preservatives used in the winemaking process to prevent the wine from oxidating and keep it fresh. In fact, all wines have sulphites. Sulphite-free wines just don’t exist. What is more important and needs to be considered is how many added sulphites wines have.
Recommended Vegan-Friendly Red Wines
Finding a vegan wine is a little bit tricky as not all wine labels indicate whether a wine is suitable for vegans or what fining agents were used in the winemaking process. You may have to ask the wine producer whether their wine collection is suitable for vegans or not.
To help you in your search, here are few recommendations of vegan-friendly red wines that are the most popular on the market:
- Stellar Organics Cabernet Sauvignon, Western Cape, 2009 – vegan-suitable and organic;
- Kawarau Estate Pinot Noir 2008, Central Otago, New Zealand, 2008 – unfined and unfiltered;
- Central Ranges Organic Cabernet Sauvignon Cleanskin 2016 – vegan and certified organic ;
- Tamburlaine Organic Grapevine Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 – certified organic and vegan-suitable;
- Hero of Zero Pinot Noir 2021 – vegan-suitable, no added preservatives.