Now, more than ever in our history, people are becoming more conscious of the foods they eat. Grocery and specialty stores are departmentalized into categories of foods, further categorized by organic and non-organic, all to help us with our buying decision. Clear cut packaging with a list of ingredients helps us determine further is our buying decision.
But what of wine? Not so clear cut. There are no standard laws that govern the whole of wine labeling. Regional laws which wine makers have to abide by unbeknownst to the consumer. Laws that govern what grapes can be grown, where they can be grown, how much of it can be grown, how much sugar to use or not use. These laws are put in place to govern quality and to uphold the reputation of the region or even a plot. The consumer may not care about these standards. Or do they? The consumer may be thinking about quality and secretly thinking, as they ponder the back label of a wine bottle, reading style descriptors, where is the ingredients list? For the most part you won’t find one for wine. The demand for transparency isn’t there yet. Give it time. And does the consumer even know there are choices between vegan and non-vegan wines? The vegan conscious consumer need know that there are producers of wine just for them. These producers can be hard to find but there are lists and it’s growing each day.
Before I get to the list, let’s talk about what makes a wine non-vegan. All wine starts off natural, derived from grapes picked from a vineyard. There are a series of vinification or winemaking steps performed to get the grapes to look beautifully clear and bright in your wine glass. This is where the path veers to non-vegan; during clarification. To be fair clarification is done mainly for the wine drinker. During the process of wine making the wine becomes hazy and cloudy from naturally derived molecules like proteins, tartrates, and tannins. Most wine drinkers don’t like the looks of hazy, cloudy wines. So the winemaker clears it or fines it for us with non-vegan fining agents that precipitate out of the wine along with the molecules causing the haze and cloudiness. The most commonly used fining agents are; isinglass (fish bladder protein), casein (milk protein), gelatin (animal protein), and albumin (egg whites). Clearly non-vegan agents. They are common practice and not harmful. But for the vegan conscious, they are a no-no.
Great news! There are more than a handful of wine producers that practice winemaking with the vegan conscious consumer in mind. Practices such as; letting the wines evolution take its natural course with little to no intervention, letting the wine self-stabilize and settle on its own, and using natural clay based fining agents like bentonite, and activated charcoal. Willamette Valley wine tours