Can you cook with wine as a vegan?
This is a tricky question. And I’m here to answer those questions for you in this post.
Most of us think of wine and automatically think, “Of course it’s vegan! Wine is just fermented grapes, right?”
This is where cooking vegan and wine run into a problem. Most mass-produced wines are filtered to remove the natural sediments and opaque colors that form during the fermentation process.
Go into your kitchen and look at the bottle of apple cider vinegar in your cabinet. You’ll notice that it has a somewhat opaque consistency and sediment at the bottom. This is formed when you ferment apple cider make the vinegar.
So, is it the fermentation process that makes the wine non-vegan?
No, it’s the filtering process the vintners use to make their wines more consumer friendly. This filtering is known as “filing.”
The most common fining methods use filters like albumin (egg whites, isinglass (a fish bladder protein), and casein (a milk protein also found in hard cheese).
You can see where a lot of wines don’t qualify as vegan. But this is not to say all wines aren’t vegan. For example, some wineries don’t use a fining agent or use more vegan friendly agents.
Like most of the food industry, there’s been a shift towards more natural and organic wines. These sustainability steps include letting wines naturally filter themselves or using fining processes that include bentonite clays and activated charcoal instead of animal products to filter the wine.
Wine does have the ability to naturally filter itself and eventually stabilize. This process doesn’t require a fining process that might use animal by-products to filter the wine.
An easy (but not always dependable way) is to look for natural or organic on the label.
Some wineries are moving towards using the clays and charcoals I mentioned. These are not only natural, but they don’t include any animal products.
The best way to find out if wine is vegan is one of 3 ways.
1- See if there is an ingredient list on the label. Wines aren’t required to list ingredients like food products, but some wineries, like Bonnie Doon, list the ingredient right on the label.
What if there’s no ingredient list?
2- Ask the wine expert in the store or winery your shopping in. They will most likely know the answer. I always think it’s a great idea to lean on expert advice. Nick Bredimus is the guy I go to for advice about wine, by the way. You can find more wine experts on Instagram.
3- Research the brand of wine. If they don’t know the answer, you can do a google search or look for certified organic wines.
The best place to find vegan wines to cook with are at natural food stores or keep a safe brands list on your phone. You’ll find that you’ll refine this list the better you get to know the individual wines and their vintners.
The list is extra handy if your shopping for vegan cooking wines away from home or in a state that doesn’t allow wine sales in stores.
As with any wine, if you’re vegan cooking with wine, make sure you’re using a wine you’d want to drink on its own.
When you cook with wine, you intensifying the wine’s flavors. Suppose it’s a lower quality wine that you wouldn’t enjoy in a glass. In that case, you’re definitely not going to enjoy the intensified flavor in your vegan meal.
This is especially true for vegan cooking. Vegan cooking tends to use softer flavored protein alternatives (think tofu and seitan) packed with flavors from outside ingredients like wine and garlic.
Suppose you’re using an off flavored wine in vegan cooking. In that case, you’re going to notice the lower quality of the wine much more than in traditional protein based meals.
I hope this post helps you navigate vegan cooking with wine. Make sure you know the ingredients, trust the brand, and ask the establishment’s expert. Always do your own research on vegan cooking wine if you’re unsure.