Vegan wine, or vegetarian wine, may sound like an oxymoron, given that wine is made with grapes. However, vegan and vegetarian wine drinkers are keenly aware of what goes into their wine as this affects the integrity of their lifestyles and/or beliefs.

Did you know?

Vegan-friendly South African wine Stellar Organics is the top-selling brand of organic wine in the United Kingdom.

Vegan wine is made using no animal-derived ingredients, as opposed to vegetarian wine, which permits the use of animal-derived additives, like egg white, as they do not involve harming or killing an animal to harvest the ingredient.

It makes sense that if a wine is vegan, it’s also suitable for vegetarians. The majority of local wines, however, come unstuck during the fining or filtering part of the wine-making process.

This is when animal-derived agents such as egg white; casein, a milk protein; gelatin, from animal bones and sinews; or isinglass, from the bladder of sturgeon fish, are added, during a 'settling' process, and then later removed.

Though many South African wine makers use a chemical equivalent of these protein-fining agents, the use of albumen is still popular due to its cost-effectiveness. For the vegan wine consumer, this makes identifying a vegan wine tricky, as it is not mandatory to indicate the wine’s ingredients on the label.

In South Africa, bentonite (also called 'china clay'), a mineral-based protein-fining agent is the most common vegan-approved substitute used to fine white wines. It is rarely applied to red wines, as they do not benefit from fining.

It bears remembering that wine is a natural product. Production methods may vary from vintage to vintage, especially in blended wine, which makes eliminating all traces of animal additives a challenge.

Because of these variables, most local producers of wines with no animal additives do not label their wines as such. Nonetheless, vegans foraging for suitable South African wines need not despair.

Stellar Organics is South Africa’s most prolific producer of labelled vegan-friendly wines and produces a range of red, white, and rosé vegan wines. MAN Vintners choose to label their vegan wines with a '100% Critter-Free' label, and virtually all of Condé-Starke and Bon Cap’s wines meet vegan specifications.

Whereas previously, only a small handful of local wine producers were conscious of the needs of vegan and vegetarian wine drinkers, attitudes are definitely changing.

Currently around 70 local winemakers' include some vegan and/or vegetarian wines. The Vegan Society of South Africa makes an effort to maintain an up-to-date list of vegan wine producers that will prove helpful to vegan wine drinkers.

Travel tips & Planning info

How to get here

The Cape winelands, which are mainly north and northeast of Cape Town, can be reached via the N1, N2, and N7. Northern Cape wine producer, Stellar Organics, can be reached via the N7 from Cape Town.

Best time to visit

Stellar Organics is not generally open to the public.

Get around

Visitors have a choice of hiring a car, wine shuttles, trains, and even helicopters to travel around to the various wine estates.

What will it cost

Vegan and vegetarian wines may cost more, though typically, the price difference is minimal.

Best buys

Stellar Organics' wines are among the best-priced vegan wines available in South Africa, and they’re organic, fair trade-certified and contain no sulphites to boot.