Is there anything better than a cool class of white wine in the sun, or a big glass of red in front of the fire? Wine is simply a staple at most big gatherings, and is drunk while celebrating, commiserating, and most importantly, when eating.
But all of a sudden, some wines are being labeled differently. If you look around your local bottle store, you’re sure to see that some wines have a Vegetarian label on them. Aren’t wines made with grapes anyway? So what exactly makes them vegetarian?
At the end of the winemaking process, most winemakers need to clarify and stabilise their wines before bottling them. This process is known as fining, and will make the wine look clear, as well as ensuring that the wine won’t take on any unwanted aromas and flavours in the bottle before it is opened.
It’s not the fining itself, but the products that are often used in the fining process that can be problematic to vegetarians. Bulls blood was the traditional fining agent, however it has since been banned by the EU and Untied States after the BSE crisis, and a number of other animal derived products are still allowed for the production of wine sold in both Europe and the United States.
Among the most prevalent of these products are fish bladders, milk protein, and egg whites. The problem that most vegetarians have, is that winemakers are currently under no obligation to state whether or not they’ve used animal products during the winemaking process.
Wines that are vegetarian friendly will usually use clay-derived bentonite, carbon, or diatomaceous earth in the fining process, and will state whether or not it is suitable for vegetarians on the label.
If you’re looking for a vegetarian wine, be sure to check the label to see what ingredients have been used, and whether it is actually vegetarian or vegan.
Wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans if it has been fined with the following: PVPP (polyvinyl- polypyrolidone) which is a synthetic substance, or clay-based bentonite.
If wine is fined with casein (milk) or albumen (eggs), it is suitable for vegetarians, but not vegans, and if it is fined with gelatine isinglass (fish swim bladder) or blood, it is not suitable for vegans.
It should be noted that with all fining agents, the traces of material that remains in the finished wine is almost undetectable. So many vegetarians and vegans will choose to overlook the fining materials used. For those who want to ensure that there have been no animal products used on religious or philosophical grounds though, vegetarian and vegan labels will make it much easier to choose a wine to go with dinner, or for that special occasion.
It’s important to know that just because a wine is labeled as “organic” or has been made from biodynamic grapes does not make it vegetarian or vegan. In order to be completely certain of whether a wine is vegetarian or vegan, the buyer must know what was used during the fining process.