Not all wines are created equal. This maxim provides a good jumping off point for a discussion about plant-based wines. Wait, aren’t all wines plant-based? You’d like to think so right…
In theory, grapes are the only ingredient required to make the alcoholic beverage we know as wine. In (and on) those juicy berries are all the compounds needed for fermentation; for the conversion of sugar into alcohol. In practice however, modern winemakers may include a host of other adjuncts during the winemaking process.
It’s odd to think about wine as containing things like casein (milk protein), albumin (egg white protein) or isinglass (a fish-based collagen); however, these and other such animal products and by-products are routinely added to wine in order to facilitate, in particular, the fining process. Although additions like albumen and isinglass are introduced and then removed from the fining tank, residues can remain within the bottled product, making treated wines problematic for people who follow plant-based diets.
Fining is an important stage in the creation of top quality wines. Tartrate crystals, dead yeast cells, and other large molecules can make wine cloudy and susceptible to spoilage. While particulate matter will, for the most part, settle out over time, most winemakers use more than gravity alone to fine their wines before filtering and bottling.
At Beaufort, we do not use any animal products or by-products in our winemaking process meaning our wines are plant-based. Luckily, there are quite a few alternative fining agents available to modern winemakers, like bentonite. Bentonite is a harmless, odourless mineral clay that’s added to (mainly) white wine to help stabilize naturally present proteins. We use it, when necessary, in our whites and rosés.
And so, if you seek to avoid animal derivatives in your wine, it’s always a good idea to ask: is this wine truly plant-based?