Not all wine is vegan – but it should be. It was that idea that inspired entrepreneur Frances Gonzalez to launch Vegan Wines, an online subscription service and shop that sources from vineyards across the globe. And LIVEKINDLY has teamed up with Vegan Wines so you can try the best of the best.
Gonzalez connected with LIVEKINDLY’s CEO and Founder, Jodi Monelle, and the two found that they had a shared passion for creating a better world for people, animals, and nature. And they both enjoy a good, guilt-free glass of wine, too.
“When I went vegan, I had no idea that so many vineyards use animal products in the winemaking process – I think it’s the same way for a lot of people,” says Monelle. “I knew that I could find out what wines are vegan through Barnivore, but I learned so much more when I met Frances.”
What Kind of Wine Does Vegan Wines Carry?
“We feature wines from California, Finger Lakes, Italy, and soon Chile, and many more wines from around the world,” says Gonzalez.
Vegan Wines has a shop where customers can buy individual bottles, or it offers a subscription service through the Wine Club. A membership consists of six bottles of hand-selected vegan wines to their door three times a year – in spring, fall, and winter. Varieties depend on the type of club joined.
The Signature Club – the most popular option – sends red, white, and sometimes rosé. Red wine fans can join the Red Lovers Club or you can opt for the Club Sampler Trio. Monelle and Gonzalez also worked together to create an exclusive LIVEKINDLY wine trio.
“I pitched the idea about offering a trio for LIVEKINDLY readers to Frances and we were immediately on the same page,” says Monelle. “I was so impressed by how much she and Sunny know about what makes wine good.”
“LIKEKINDLY and Vegan Wines share the same mission and that is the voice in front and behind the product,” says Gonzalez.
Gonzalez worked with Monelle on creating an exclusive trio of premium Vegan Wines from international vineyards.
The Wine Club also comes with other perks, including discounts on individual bottles of wine and exclusive content like videos, interviews with winemakers, and plant-based recipes to pair with your wine. Each club also has the option of adding vegan cheeses that are hand-selected by the in-house sommelier and Wine Director, Sunny Gandara.
Gandara runs the Vegan Wines’ members-only events on the east and west coast.
“Sunny not only specializes in wines, but is also a vegan chef,” says Gonzalez. “This gives us the advantage of being able to offer expert food and wine pairing events, tips, videos, etc… We are committed to continuously finding ways to collaborate with new businesses with the same mission in order to offer our members special perks.”
What Makes Wine Vegan?
Isn’t wine already vegan? It’s just grapes, right?
Gonzalez, a longtime vegan and wine lover, was on a tasting tour at a French vineyard in 2016 when she heard the tour guide mention egg whites. She couldn’t believe that wine could ever involve anything beyond fermenting high-quality grapes and loamy, fertile soil.
Through her research, Gonzalez learned that egg whites are commonly used as a fining agent in the wine-making process. Gelatine, skim milk, casein (milk protein), and isinglass, fish bladders are also commonly used in fining. Much to Gonzalez’s surprise, many vineyards and sommeliers were also in the dark about animal ingredients in wine.
The purpose of fining is to filter out proteins that can cause wine to look hazy. It’s also used to strike the right balance of ingredients such as polymeric phenols and tannins, which contribute to astringency and affect the mouthfeel of quality wine, according to The Australian Wine Research Institute. Fining agents like egg whites react with the components either chemically or physically which can then be separated from the wine.
Tracing ingredients used as fining agents is tricky, but Washington State University’s manual, “A Guide to the Fining of Wine,” says that most of the available fining proteins are byproducts “from other food industries.” As a result, the proteins are generally cheap and usually a mixture.
Gonzalez realized that if she had been unaware about animal ingredients used in the wine-making process after years of being vegan, then many others must have been as well. She typed veganwines.com into her browser and when she found that it was available, she took it as a sign to start her brand.
“The winemakers that Vegan Wines works with either do not fine at all or use other methods like bentonite, pea and potato protein that are increasingly popular to use as fining agents. And some success have been reported with pea protein in particular. Silica and kaolin (another type of clay),” says Gonzalez.
Although the use of animal ingredients to filter wine is an issue for those who eschew animal ingredients for ethical reasons, clearly labeled vegan wine comes with other benefits, too. Vineyards don’t typically disclose the fining agents used on the label – but a “vegan” label is not what Vegan Wines looks for when wine researching. Many wines are naturally vegan in traditional winemaking before commercialized products became the norm. Vegan Wines visits every vineyard featured on the site, chatting with the winemakers and winery owners to ensure the wine is vegan from the soil to the glass.
“I still can’t believe that vineyards don’t have to disclose what they use to filter their wine,” says Monelle. “I think everyone can benefit from transparent labeling.”
The 2018 food and drink trend report from global market research firm Mintel revealed that a general mistrust of food safety throughout manufacturing and supply chains is on the rise. Only one in five Canadian adults say they trust the information on product packaging labels. Jenny Ziegler, food and drink analyst and the author of the report, said that retailers, manufacturers, and distributors at all levels will likely see an increased demand for traceability, transparency, and “clean labels.”
Vegan From Start to Finish
Gonzalez and her team take extra care to ensure that Vegan Wine’s offerings are free from animal ingredients. It’s not only a respect for animals, but also the planet.
“First off, we must keep mother nature in focus because she is our home for all living from the soil to the ocean, land, and the sky,” says Gonzalez. “We would like to be clear that wines that are vegan must be so from the soil to the glass.”
“The soil is something I never considered before I met Frances,” says Monelle. “The way we use animals is so pervasive in everything. After I learned that she makes sure even the farming practices are vegan, I knew that I wanted to find a way that Vegan Wines and LIVEKINDLY could work together.”
Beyond fining agents, traditional biodynamic farming practices make use of cow horns, according to the Demeter Association, a non-profit that helps farmers adopt biodynamic practices and principles. Called “horn manure” or “the 500,” the process involves stuffing manure from a lactating cow into a female’s horn, then burying it in soil over winter. When unearthed, “the material that results is uber-biological, teeming with beneficial soil-based flora and fauna.”
But, biodynamic farming doesn’t have to involve cows — or any other animals. Italian winery Querciabella, pictured above, is one company leading the way in creating biodynamic vegan wine. It uses clay, peas, and seaweed as fining agents and plant compost for manure.
“There is the new modern biodynamic which, in fact, should be the classic because we should not have use animals to nurture the soil,” says Gonzalez. “The earth was taking care of that without our help before we were around.”
Vegan Wines also does not source its wines from farms that use animal manure, which has as much to do with “clean label” transparency as it does with respect for the planet and other living beings.
“People must realize that even if you are not a vegan that animal manure many times comes in truckloads straight from the chicken farm that belongs to the meat industry with many chemicals pumped into the chickens for mass production. Please do not picture animals roaming freely on the vineyard to help fertilize the soil,” Gonzalez explains.
“So many businesses use these ingredients because they’re cheap,” Monelle says. “But I’m confident that vegan wine will become the norm.”
Demand for vegan wine is on the rise, prompting some vineyards, such as South African organic winery Org de Rac. Cellar master Frank Meaker said the vineyard removed animal products from the fining process after noticing the rising demand in the international market.
Tips for Trying New Wine
“While it may be tempting to go for the tried and true Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the world of wine is vast and by trying different wines you quickly learn and become an ‘expert’” she explains.
Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Blends, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Moscato, Rosé, and White Zinfandel are the top-selling wines in the US, according to Nielsen data. But, there are over 10,000 varieties of wine grapes in the world, so there is diversity to be found even within the most popular types of wines.
Gonzalez stresses the importance of asking questions at wine shops and sommeliers or to take a wine-tasting class to learn about the complexities of each variety. “Don’t be intimidated,” she says.
“This is something I was guilty of,” Monelle laughs. “I always bought from my favorite vineyard – part of that was because the wine shop by me doesn’t carry many vegan brands. It’s a lot easier to use Vegan Wines than having to pull out your phone to check the internet.”
It not only helps you learn how to describe the flavor and mouthfeel you prefer but also how to pair wine with food. ”Wine can be paired with almost everything from popcorn to fine dining,” she explains.
What’s in the LIVEKINDLY Vegan Wines Trio?
The Bordeaux Supérieur Red by Château Les Maubats is a complex, fruity, tannin-heavy Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend made from grapes aged for one year in a stainless steel barrel. It pairs well with vegan mushroom bourguignon and other vegan beef dishes such as burgers with dairy-free cheese and onion.
“This one is my favorite,” says Monelle. “It tastes amazing with the Beyond Burger.”
The La Petite Robe Poivrée by France’s Château Beauséjour is a delicate and spicy Merlot/Cabernet Franc made from hand-picked grapes aged in French oak barrels for 18 months. It also pairs well with vegan beef.
And the Italian Poloma Rosé Secco by La Cantina Pizzolato has a light, juicy flavor made from organic grapes that have been naturally fermented in steel tanks for 60 days. It’s recommended pairings are vegan cheese and meatless chicken.
Ready to try some vegan wine? LIVEKINDLY readers can use the code LIVEKINDLY25 to get a $25 discount on the exclusive bundle.
To order the trio, see here.
Image credit: Querciabella | Instagram