Up until a few years ago no one had even heard about vegan wine, now we are faced with a real growth in this product and its certification, both in Italy and abroad.
Consumers are becoming increasingly careful about the characteristics of the foods they consume. They are looking for foods without ingredients that involve the killing or exploitation of animals.
As a result, labeling has increased as there are also wineries that choose to operate with alternative methods. Each producer ends up working to their own set of rules because there is no official certification (not even for vegan or vegetarian foods). The dictates for vegan wine is not regulated either by the EU or by national standards, but by private and voluntary certificate organizations, which companies can get support from.
Usually, they offer trademarks which belong to individuals, associations or private organizations and the right to use them is granted to wine producers on the basis of specific internal regulations. Some of these trademarks are well known, others less so, but in general, every country has at least one or more of these trademarks to communicate the “vegan” characteristics of the product.
Qualità Vegetariana® is the first national certification for vegetarian and vegan products, giving the companies a competitive edge and regulating the production lines for the vegetarian and vegan market. The standard is recognized and promoted by the Italian Vegetarian Association (AVI), that has chosen CSQA as the certifying body, to give it a profile that meets European standards and the assurances required by companies and consumers. Apart from CSQA, Italy has the ICEA of Bologna – a certification body that inspects the whole production process, from the vine cuttings to the bottle.
What is it that makes a wine “vegetarian” and when can it be considered “vegan”?
To quote Donald Watson, the inventor of the term “vegan”: apart from not eating animals, vegans do not eat any of their products either – milk and dairy products, eggs and honey – because to obtain these products animals are killed.
Vegan foodstuffs must be completely free of:
- the use of meat and its derivatives, in any stage of their production, this also includes the packaging and the glues used for labeling.
- the use of egg whites (which is often found in red wines), casein or caseinates (that are added to white wines), however, ovalbumin and lysozyme from eggs can be used in “vegetarian” and conventional production. For vegan production, clays like bentonite are used to clarify the wine.
Although in natural wines substances such as acidity correctors, sulfur dioxide or other additives to the fermenting wine are not permitted, they are “acceptable” in vegan wine.
Other substances, natural but animal based, are used in the wineries for the cultivation of the vines, such as animal manure which must be replaced with the use of green manure. This involves tilling the space between the vines to take advantage of the natural humus of the land.
Vegetarian foodstuffs must be completely free of:
– meat of any type, and more generally, any ingredients or derivatives that come from animals, such as fish or bone glue and animal gelatine.
The claim of “vegan” or “vegetarian” is, to date, still only voluntary information, which respects the general standards of labeling; that is to be fair, objective and not to mislead the consumer.