You may have noticed wines now being advertised as vegan or vegetarian and wondered what that meant … In making wines there are sometimes large particulate matter left over. This can be from any number of sources including stems, seeds, bits of skin, lees etc. This can lead to a wine that appears cloudy (in a white) and can leave bits in the bottom of the bottle that can end up in the glass if you don’t decant. Some winemakers embrace this as a normal part of the process and choose to do nothing. In which case you sometimes see it mentioned as unfined, unfiltered.
There are a number of things that winemakers can do to remove this particulate matter if they so choose. They break down into two categories, (mechanical) filtering and using what’s called a fining agent. Filtering can be indiscriminate and remove more than a wine maker wants, resulting in altering the wine’s flavor and require cleaning. Fining uses a number of different types of agents, and is a place where a wine that is not vegan or vegetarian can come from. There maybe other ways a wine becomes not vegan/vegetarian but I am not aware of them. There’s a complete article on fining on wikipedia you can read if you like. But to give some examples of fining agents I will quote the relevant part of this article:
“Organic compounds used as fining agents are generally animal based, a possible cause of concern to vegans. The most common organic compounds used include egg whites, casein derived from milk, gelatin and isinglass obtained from the bladders of fish. Pulverized minerals and solid materials can also be used, with bentonite clay being one of the most common, thanks to its effectiveness in absorbing proteins and some bacteria. Activated carbon from charcoal is used to remove some phenols that contribute to browning as well as some particles that produce “off-odors” in the wine. In a process known as blue fining, potassium ferrocyanide is sometimes used to remove any copper and iron particles that have entered the wine from bentonite, metal winery and vineyard equipment, or vineyard sprays such as Bordeaux mixture. Because potassium ferrocyanide may form hydrogen cyanide its use is highly regulated and, in many wine producing countries, illegal. Silica and kaolin are also sometimes used.
Some countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, have wine labeling laws that require the use of fining agents that may be an allergenic substance to appear on the wine label.”
I reached out to Kacaba to get their take on the subject and got the following:
“There is no process to get a winery certified vegan or vegetarian right now. Here at Kacaba we do not use any animal based fining agents, we use bentonite that you mentioned in your article as a vegan and vegetarian friendly fining agent.”