Most people, even those that are not wine enthusiasts, are aware that there is much more to the world of wine, aside from the common first question we generally ask someone: “Red or White?” In fact, it is safe to say, that I will always be learning about a new type of grape, from a different region, with a funky name like Madeira, that I could not even begin to explain how it tastes on my palate.
Aside from the extensive list of brand names, not to mention the differing types of wine, I was shocked to discover, that in the midst of this grape absurdity, exists Vegan wine.
This fact of life was brought to my attention a month, or so, ago, while dining at a charming restaurant in NYC– Cafe Cluny (whose food is wonderful, I may add, and the chefs and staff very accommodating).
Upon looking at the wine list, my date pointed out that there was, in fact, a few bottles listed as Vegan. I am aware that there are Organic wines, albeit a bit more difficult to come by… but Vegan wine? It makes logical sense that if grapes can be grown organically, than so should wine… But how does one explain a fermented fruit product, as Vegan or Vegetarian? Shouldn’t all wines be Vegan? The last time I checked, grapes were not related to the animal kingdom…
Thank God for Google!
Wines, Organic, Vegetarian and Vegan– Who Knew?
Wine is a fermented grape product. Yes. Unbeknownst to me however, in order to remove the yeast used in the wine fermentation process, or to remove solid impurities from the finished product, (such as stems and grape skins, etc.), animal-derived ingredients are used to assist in the filtering process.
The result is the beautifully smooth and colorful wine, that we are accustomed to, as it lacks the remenents of the grapes it once was (i.e. I have yet to come across a bottle of wine with the stem or skin of a grape…).
I was recently telling a friend about my discovery of this vegan wine. To that she asked, “Organic?”
Organic wines are not necesarily vegetarian or vegan. Organic wine simply means that the wine is produced without chemicals, pesticides or fungicides, and the levels of chemical used to preserve the wines, are restricted. However, even though the product may not contain chemicals and the like, there is nothing to be said regarding the filtration process and the use of animal-derived ingredients. Animals are “natural” and organic, of course.
Vegetarian Wine: For a wine to be suitable for vegetarians, it is meant that the wine has been produced in a manner that does not require animals to be killed. It is okay for vegetarian wine to use eggs and dairy products in the processing and filtration of the wine.
Vegan wine, on the other hand, may not be filtered at all, or it may utilize natural minerals in the processing. It is also quite possible that the wine may be filtered manually. This of course, probably adds to the price on the bottle.
So… What do I mean by “animal-derived” ingredients?
Wines that are neither vegetarian or vegan will use animal-derived ingredients in order to produce the finished product. A few common ingredients are:
- isinglass (a pure gelatin derived from some of the same type of fish that famous for their “caviar”)
- gelatine (an extract obtained by boiling down a cow or pigs hooves or tendons)
- egg whites, i.e. albumin– a slow-digesting protein
- casein, i.e. a slow digesting milk protein
It is also not uncommon for Organic wineries to use animal blood and bonemeal in replace of chemical pesticides.
So now what?
This information is not listed to make you hand over your wine glass, but rather to keep you informed. And it certainly is enough to make you think, right?
~~Did you know animal-derived products are used in the production of wine and alcohol (yes, this includes alcoholic beverages outside of wine…)?
Citation: For more information about vegan wine production, and to see where I gathered my sources, check this website out. Learn about Frey Vineyards– their wine and their story. It is quite impressive.