Disclaimer: RELAX! The information you’re about to read isn’t earth shattering or hardly groundbreaking! Prohibition has not been reinstated! Take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat steps if needed.
“Surely the drink of the gods is vegan friendly”, is what I said to myself recently while fiddling with the last bit of a corked bottle. “Whoa-whoa-whoa….pump your brakes, big guy. There are some ‘suspect’ wines out there”, a member of the many brain-voices I have, chimes in; the glorious killjoy it is.
So I do the research. Brain voice wins. Damn.
Here I’ve been vegan for nearly 8 years; and recklessly assumed any glass of vino I put to my lips was vegan safe. WRONG!!! Guilty as charged.
Dietary choices (especially special diets) place much emphasis on food, not beverages. But I never thought…or considered that a product, made primarily by a plant would incorporate animal or animal byproducts in it processing. Embarrassing enough I hardly paid enough attention to wine labels (other than the brand, type and alcohol percentage.)
So here I am, getting an education on the wine making process, sulking, because humans have a tendency to taint even the most finest of products with their impatience and consumer demand. Being vegan, education is the process which helps us refine our diets through constant research and information….continuous journey of learning.
FINE WINE? Not Quite
A process known as fining, is responsible for “unveganizing” (completely not a word but accepted here) most wine. Fining is simply the process of speeding grape fermentation. Animal products serve as “processing aids” to help remove unwanted material then filtered out. Fining is also used to correct wine making faults such as: flavor, color, smooth tannins and cloudiness. Again, all in the name of reducing traditional wine making time and increasing the speed from grape to glass, wine makers will use this process to meet demand and secure their profit margins. Higher priced wines often stick to traditional methods, refusing to use animal byproducts, allowing the wine to age and ferment naturally. Cheaper wines, well….
Just when you thought you’d rid yourselves of chicken, egg whites are used in the traditional wine fining process to remove the heavy tannins for red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon. Placed in wine barrels, the egg whites eventually drop to the bottom with the tannins and later filtered out. Casein found in animal milk is used in the same manner, as with gelatin, and isinglass (fish bladders). Although filtered out, who knows what percentage of trace elements of these processing aids remain?
Discovering which wine manufacturers uses animal-byproduct in its fining processes as oppose to who doesn’t lies in the labeling….or one would hope. You wouldn’t think product secrecy factors into winemaking. That seems like a game reserved for food manufacturers and the FDA. One would expect manufacturer’s transparency. Most wine…excuse me, “animal-wines” will gamble on consumer ignorance and not disclose their wine process.
WHY WOULD THEY? HOW DARE THEY?
First. There are no government labeling laws for winemakers. Second. Since wine makers filter the animal byproduct before bottling, government label regulation insist that the manufacturer do not have to reveal whether “animal” fining process is used. Lastly, would you be transparent if half or even three-quarters of your consumer business were vegan at the risk of losing more than half of your base consumers? Who ever said moral principles applied to business when the regulating body sets the ruling standard for the competitive market? Sadly, the vegan consumer has no clue and left to conduct research or contact the manufacturer for an ingredient listing or detailed information on its wine making process.
Good news folks. Use of animal byproducts in wine making doesn’t account for all wines. There are wines that use a fining process that are “certified” vegan friendly. Many vegan friendly wines use bentonite or poly-vinyl-poly-pyrrrolidone in its fining process. Bentonite is purified clay used for rose colored wines. PVPP is a man made plastic that removes unwanted phenols as well as color in wine. Activated charcoal can also be used to remove tannins.
I’ve provided a link below, to a 0-9 and A-Z list of names/brands of wines, detailing whether they receive the vegan friendly nod or a thumbs down for obvious reasons.
I guess this is where I take my leave, giving you yet another reason to drink responsibly.
Happy New Year.