Erin Doman on February 19, 2016 3 Comments If you practice a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, you are not alone. In fact, a recent survey performed by a popular vegetarian lifestyle magazine reported that over three percent of the American populace follows a vegetarian diet, and a notable chunk of those people are vegan, meaning they consume no animal products at all. Maintaining this diet can be a challenge, especially when it comes to how foods and beverages are manufactured. This is especially true of wine, and while you might think that all wine is vegan because it is derived from grapes, some wines undergo processes that include the use of animal products. If you are committed to following a vegan diet and want to know which wines are vegan friendly and which food and wine pairings turn a vegan meal into a delight for the palate, the following five tips should be extremely helpful in allowing you to do so. 1. Understand That Not All Wines Are Vegan While you might think that you do not have to be concerned about whether the wine you drink is vegan friendly, it may surprise you to know that not every type is wine is automatically suited for a vegan diet. While it is true that all wines are created with a wide variety of grapes and that some are pressed for their juice before the fermenting processes and others allow the grapes and stems to ferment, many also go through a process that is known as fining. During this process, fining agents are added to wine. The role of these fining agents is to draw away large proteins, tannins and other elements that are present in a wine which has not been aged for very long. Because many wineries sell young wines, they must go through the fining processes to remove cloudiness. It turns out that these fining agents often include animal products such as: Gelatin (made from hooves and bones) Egg whites Fish proteins Milk proteins Crustacean shell fiber When these agents are used in wines, the wine can no longer be considered vegan. The use of these agents may come as a shock to you as a vegan wine drinker, but fortunately, you have options when it comes to finding wines that are a good fit for your lifestyle. 2. Look for Vegan-Friendly Wine Options Before you choose a wine to pair with your dinner, for entertaining or when you are purchasing a new type of wine, it is important to take the time to understand how that wine is processed and to look for a vegan-friendly label. Wines that are labeled as vegan friendly undergo a fining process, just as other wines do, but the difference lies in how that processing takes place. Look for wines that are fined with clay or carbon, which remove cloudiness from new wine just as efficiently as those with animal products do. Some wineries are following a new trend of offering wines that are unfiltered, which makes them a viable vegan-friendly choice. These wines will also clear up over time when they are allowed to sit, but in most cases, the clouding only affects its appearance, not its taste. You may have to inquire at your local winery or wine store if a certain brand is vegan friendly, as not all wines are labeled as being one or the other. Now that you know how to choose a vegan wine, you can move ahead and discover which wine and vegan food pairings combine to create a meal that you will be proud to serve your family and friends. 3. Learn How Wine Elements Affect Their Pairing With Vegan Cuisine While you might think creating vegan food and wine pairings may be difficult because some of the world’s most popular flavors are famous for bringing out the flavor of meat, there are some pairings that are perfectly suited for vegan dishes as well. When it comes to pairing wine with vegan foods, the key elements to keep in mind are how tart or sweet a wine is and how its body will pair with whatever food you are preparing. As a general guide, here are a few points about red and white wine to keep in mind before you move on to the finer points of pairing one with a vegan meal: Red wine has a fuller, heavier body than white wine. Red wine has a more varied flavor profile than white wine. Understanding these key points about red and white wine will allow you to take the next step in choosing specific wines. 4. Match Wine Flavors With Food Flavors Specific body and color types and their flavors are also elements to consider when you are pairing vegan foods and wine. For example, when choosing white wine, a light-bodied flavor, such as Vermentino, Pinot Grigio and Viognier all go well with pasta dishes, salads and stir-fry vegetables because they will not overpower the modest flavor of these foods. If you are barbecuing veggie burgers or preparing baked potatoes on the grill, consider choosing a classic white Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling, which make a fine complement to the taste of grilled foods. If you prefer red wine, then go with Granache for veggie burgers and sweet potatoes, and try a Merlot for olive-based dishes and grilled asparagus. The most important aspect of pairing wine with a vegan meal is to choose flavors that will not overpower the food. For example, avoid pairing a robust, full-bodied red wine with a simple summer salad or pairing a sweet wine with a tart pesto and lemon dish. While you might make a few errors when you first start pairing wines and vegan dishes, you should never be afraid to experiment and come up with a few interesting combinations of you own. 5. Keep a Wine Journal to Log Your Success One way to remain consistent when it comes to successfully creating vegan food and wine pairings is to keep a journal. Maintain a list of wines that you know are vegan friendly and keep track of which pairings were especially successful. You can also make notes about wines you would like to try and jot down questions you have for the winery during the next time you visit. Keeping a wine journal will help you shop more efficiently and eliminate the need to worry about which wines are a good fit for your vegan lifestyle. With a little practice, some patience, and by following these five tips, you will be pairing wine and vegan dishes like a pro in no time at all.