Prosecco has seen a huge surge in popularity in recent years. Originally from Italy, the sparkling white wine has become the go-to party drink for people around the globe. But many have no idea it often isn’t vegan. Here’s everything you need to know about why prosecco isn’t vegan, and which brands in the UK and USA are vegan-friendly.
Prosecco has its origins in the Veneto region of Italy, with its history tracing back centuries. It is named after the village of Prosecco near Trieste, where the grape variety used to make this wine, Glera, was historically grown. The production and consumption of prosecco have been documented as early as the 16th century. However, the modern style of prosecco, characterized by its light, bubbly nature, was developed in the 20th century with the introduction of the Charmat method.
This method involves secondary fermentation in large steel tanks, making prosecco production more efficient and affordable. Today, prosecco enjoys widespread popularity, not only in Italy but globally. Prosecco’s rise in global markets, especially in the United States and the United Kingdom, has been marked by significant growth in the last few decades, making it a staple in celebrations and casual gatherings alike.
What is Prosecco?
A key factor in prosecco’s global popularity is its accessibility and affordability compared to champagne. While champagne is often seen as a luxury product, prosecco is widely available at a range of price points, making it an attractive option for consumers looking for quality sparkling wine without the high cost.
The most common variety is brut, meaning it is very dry and has little sugar left in the beverage. In this kind of prosecco, the sugar content is kept to a minimum, typically less than 12 grams per liter. This low sugar level allows the natural flavors of the Glera grape, the primary grape used in prosecco, to shine through, offering a crisp and clean taste that pairs well with a variety of foods.
Extra brut takes this a step further, offering an even drier experience with less than six grams of sugar per liter. This variety appeals to those who prefer their sparkling wine with almost no perceptible sweetness, allowing for a more nuanced appreciation of the wine’s natural flavors and acidity. It is often characterized by its mineral qualities and complex flavor profile, making it a popular choice.
But is prosecco vegan? While the grape-based drink may seem like an obvious plant-based choice, it is its manufacturing process that creates the problem. Going vegan is a learning curve, and prosecco – like wine and beer – is one drink that many people who are new to plant-based eating may slip up on.
Is prosecco vegan?
While some proseccos are vegan-friendly, many are not. This is due to the fact that animal products can be used in the fining process during production, a crucial step in winemaking. Fining is used to clarify wine, removing organic particles that can cause haziness or affect the taste and stability of the wine.
After the grapes are fermented and turned into alcohol, a number of substances remain that make prosecco appear cloudy. The fining process is done to flush out these elements, making it more appealing to buyers. Fining agents act as magnets to attract the unwanted molecules.
Agents used for fining include gelatin (which is taken from parts of animals, like pigs), casein (made from milk), isinglass (fish bladder), and albumin (egg whites). These agents are eventually removed from the finished product, but their use during the production process is a concern for vegans.
Is any prosecco vegan? What brands are suitable?
It’s perfectly possible to make vegan prosecco, and there are an increasing number of brands that are choosing to do so. Vegan fining agents include carbon, bentonite clay, and plant casein. Here are some vegan-friendly proseccos available to buy in the UK and USA.
Please note: you should always check the label before buying. Companies may change their methods, and Plant Based News cannot guarantee those listed will always be vegan-friendly.
Mionetto is well known for its prosecco, and its orange label bottle is certified as vegan-friendly. It’s available to buy at Sainsbury’s.
Known for its low-sugar and eco-friendly proseccos, The Emissary is also fully-vegan. You can buy it online from its website or at selected retailers.
Ideal for those on a budget, this prosecco is affordable and available at a number of UK supermarkets, like Tesco.
Available to buy from Abel & Cole, this semi-sparkling prosecco is organic, as well as vegan.
Yes, you read that right – Kylie Minogue has her very own prosecco, and it’s also vegan-friendly. The rose prosecco is available to buy from a number of supermarkets, including Asda and Tesco.
Popular vegan proseccos to try in the USA:
This award-winning prosecco is said to have a fruity aroma, and it’s available to buy at selected retailers and online.
Bisol is a well-known prosecco company that stocks a variety of vegan proseccos, all of which are available to buy online.
This prosecco is not only vegan, but also offers a popular balance of sweetness and acidity.
This brand is known for producing vegan and organic wines featuring a fresh flavor profile, with notes of green apple, pear, and citrus.
Why should you choose vegan prosecco?
A growing number of people are opting for vegan prosecco due to growing awareness of the ethical implications of buying products that contain animal products.
Some prosecco uses gelatin as a fining agent. Gelatin is a colorless, flavorless food ingredient derived from collagen, a protein found in animal tissues. It is commonly produced by boiling the connective tissues, bones, and skins of animals, typically cows and pigs. This process breaks down the collagen, releasing gelatin which is then extracted, purified, and dried into a powder or granules.
Casein, which is made from milk, supports the dairy industry. There are around 264 million dairy cows worldwide, and the industry is widely regarded to be cruel. Cows must give birth to a baby before producing milk, and they will be artificially inseminated each year to make that happen. Their baby will be taken from them within hours after birth so humans can milk them. When their body wears out, they will be sent to the slaughterhouse.
Albumin, which is derived from egg whites, is a product of the egg industry. Many egg-laying hens around the world spend their entire lives in cages. Even those on so-called free-range farms will still spend most of their time in barns with thousands of other birds. Hens have been selectively bred to produce around 300 eggs a year (naturally this number would be around 12). This means that they often suffer from calcium deficiency, leading to broken bones.
If your prosecco is made using isinglass, this is a product of either the fishing industry or the aquaculture (fish farming) industry. Both cause immense suffering to fishes, who are thought to feel complex emotions and pain. It’s thought that trillions of fishes are killed by humans each year. Many of these are raised on farms, and forced to spend their lives swimming endlessly in circles, often with horrific injuries.
How do I know if prosecco is vegan?
The winemaking industry is adapting, with many producers turning to plant-based or synthetic alternatives for fining. Vegan prosecco producers use substances like bentonite clay, activated charcoal, or plant casein. Bentonite, a form of clay, is effective in clarifying wine by binding and removing proteins, yeasts, and other particles that can cloud the wine. Activated charcoal, known for its purifying properties, is also utilized for its ability to absorb impurities. Some producers may opt for no fining agents at all, allowing the wine to clarify naturally over time through sedimentation.
Despite the availability of these alternatives, the lack of consistent labeling sometimes makes it challenging for consumers to identify vegan proseccos. In the UK, a number of supermarkets choose to label their own brand proseccos with vegan labels, and many brands also do the same. This means that it’s often easy to decifer which proseccos are vegan and which aren’t. There should, therefore, be a wide range of obviously vegan proseccos to choose from in many stores, even if you aren’t sure about them all.
In many regions, wine labels are not required to disclose fining agents, leaving consumers in the dark. If you aren’t sure whether a particular brand is plant-based, you can always enter its name into Barnivore and check it out for yourself.
In the meantime, it’s advised to do a bit of research. Checking labels, inquiring with producers, or looking for certifications can help ensure that your glass of bubbly aligns with your dietary choices. As the vegan market continues to expand, we can expect to see more clear labeling and a wider range of vegan-friendly prosecco options, making it easier for everyone to raise a glass in celebration, guilt-free.
*We choose to refer to multiple fish as “fishes” rather than “fish” to emphasize that they are individuals, rather than a faceless mass.
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