More and more people care about what’s in their wine. Would it be sulfites, or traces of animal protein, the lack of knowledge or even basic information on how wine is made can be confusing. Unless you really care and checked how would you know that egg whites are used in winemaking? Did you know that Bordeaux used so many egg whites for wine fining, that this large egg yolk supply gave birth to this delicious recipe: the canelé cake in the 18th century!
It might seem unbelievable to imagine eggs in red wine but it’s only an example of what is used in fining. Basically, the process of getting rid of colloids left in wine after the fermentation. Those colloids can’t be removed by filtering or centrifuging so fining becomes relevant to clarify the wine.
To imagine colloids, think mayonnaise... now try to filter mayonnaise bits diluted in water! Tricky isn’t it? That’s why fining becomes useful and will precipitate those bits at the bottom of the tank.
As the wine after going through fermentation will still contain proteins, polymerised tannins, lees in suspensions those particules will be removed thanks to fining agents. The aim is to get a clear wine that will be more stable for bottling and cellaring.
Now that you know what fining is, let me give you a little list of existing fining agents... bentonite, gelatin, albumen (egg white) isinglass (fish bladder), charcoal, casein, milk... and the list goes on!
So there are high chances that your basic supermarket wine will contain traces of animal protein if the bottle does not state otherwise.
How to spot a vegan wine?
1- Well first a wine can be organic but not vegan.
If it’s organic the emphasis lies on the use of organic farming technics. Very little use of copper, sulfites and no synthetic fertilisers. But when it comes to fining the products will also follow the same ethos however the use of animal product is not restricted. Think of an organic milk for instance! Like meat can be organic but is definitely not vegan it will be the same for your wine. So, if you see an organic label on the bottle but you care about the wine being vegan... opt out!
2- Vegan label
That will certify that they aren’t use or traces of animal product in your wine. Luckily usually vegan wines will also be organic! Check what peta says about it!
3- Biodynamic wines
Biodynamics wine are made under an earth friendly philosophy (Steiner and Maria Thun) where viticulture follows a the lunar calendar. It’s a holistic approach and when it comes to winemaking, the winemaker would prepare specific preparations for the vineyard’s fertility and to minimise vine disease.
However, it does come under scrutiny from vegetarian / vegan communities because of the use of animal parts including horns, organs, heads, eggshells, etc. You can argue that those animals aren’t killed in the purpose of wine making but they are used after their life.... but here it’s a personal choice of how far you go with your veganism.
What about you? How sensitive are you to your wine being Vegan?