WTF is Vegan Wine? And Other Buzzwords. (Newsletter #4)

Vegan wine, clean wine, natural wine. Wtf does it all mean?

Vegan wine is a thing. Some wines call themselves “vegan”, and this is legitimate. The brands that call their wine vegan are using plant-based fining agents to filter their wines and remove particles, as opposed to animal products used by other conventional wine companies for the same purpose. The natural wine movement does not use any added agents, vegan or otherwise, so all those wines are vegan too. 

Sometimes the term “vegan' is accompanied by the word “clean”. “Clean wine” is not a real term. It is a vague generalization of “better” for you wine. But what’s better? Clean wines typically still have additives and other things you might not want in your wine. These wines are not to be confused with “natural wine”. They are not the same. One is used as a marketing ploy while the other refers to the holistic and minimal intervening practices of wine-making. 

Recently, a very trendy wine company approached me and asked if they could send me some wine and if I liked it, would I share it with my community? This company is very popular (you might have seen them and you probably know about at least one of their owners). They are a ‘clean', ‘vegan' wine. These all might be more or less true, but I have seen them (on more than one occasion) be referred to as a “natural wine”. 

They don’t explicitly call themselves a natural wine—but they don’t correct people who DO call them natural wine— and that kind of bugs me. My favorite influencer recently posted about them thanking them for all the “natty wine”—so clearly many people are under the impression these vinos are natural. 

I politely thanked them and basically let them know that I only work with and drink minimal intervention wines. They then asked me to clarify what I meant by that and I gave them my definition: 3 ingredients, organic grapes and no additives. Caring for both the environment and the folks behind the wine. 

I’ve done my research, and while their wine is made from organic grapes, it is still made with more intervention than I would prefer—including fining and filling agents to help make the wine more shelf stable and mass-produced (this wine is available nationwide, all year round) and more added sulfur than I’ve knowingly consumed in over a year (they add 100ppm and I’m used to drinking no more than 30ppm per bottle!). Turns out I’m more of a purist than I thought. 

I should take this moment to say: this is not necessarily a bad thing! If you don’t mind these things in your wine, than by all means, enjoy a bottle of their rosé. I am all about accessibility to 'better for you’ consumption and I am not here to condemn or judge, but I am a little pressed about the way they market their wine. They capitalize off a movement that prioritizes environmental sustainability, workers rights, traditional craftsmanship and just the simplicity of traditional wine making — while not realllyyyy being transparent in their practices or production. Again, I'm NOT accusing anyone of anything, I’m just saying what I’m saying: I have not found transparent information about their practices, which is important to the natural wine community. 

This really got me thinking about how some brands market their products. Green-washing is more and more common, and now it's reached the wine industry. I guess the thing that rubs me the wrong way is the fact that they're riding the coat tails of this very hard working movement in order to sell their product and reach more consumers. Is it false advertising? A little bit. Is it bad for you? Maybe not—but the natural wine industry prides itself on it’s ethics and their false narrative feels like the opposite. 

The term natural wine might be considered a buzzword to some… there is no “legal” definition of it and it falls into a gray area. As I’ve mentioned, the term varies from person to person. Some folks have a broader definition, others have more specific requirements. The general consensus, though, refers to the natural wine movement as: wine made with minimal to zero intervention—nothing in, nothing out— and organic grapes. 

Soo yeah. I don’t have beef with vegan wines I guess (lucky for them, because they hate meat). But I do have qualms with “clean” anything. Like who the fuck is even deciding what ‘clean’ means. Cuz I like my wine dirty. I like to see the lees at the bottom of my glass. Unfiltered goodness.

Speaking of unfiltered, try these insanely good vinos from two wine makers that I loveeeeee. Cheers!

Free Your Mind//Pink Lemonade