Ask a Sommelier: Vegan Wines
Q: As a vegan, what should I look for (or avoid) when buying wine?
This is a great question, and not one many would think to ask of wine! You may be surprised to know that animal-derived ingredients are used in the processing of most wine. Typically, these ingredients are used as processing aids in the “fining” or filtration part of the winemaking process to help remove solid impurities or to adjust the tannin levels in certain wines. Though almost all these ingredients are filtered out of the wine before it’s bottled, vegans will want to avoid these wines.
Egg whites, caseins (a protein from milk), and fish- or animal-derived gelatins are common examples of animal-based fining agents. Vegan-friendly fining agents such as bentonite clay and activated carbon are derived from pulverized minerals.
In terms of labelling, New Zealand and Australia have laws mandating that producers disclose the use of fining agents that may be allergens, including animal-derived products. However, I would still double check with the producer regarding any other organic compounds used in the entire winemaking process, including in the vineyard. If you are sticking to strictly vegan-friendly wines, you will have more white options than red. If you prefer red, your choices will likely be limited to the large, mass-produced wines. Many of the quality reds that are produced organically or biodynamically use natural fining agents that are often animal-derived.
Our wine experts at Banville can give you a hand with your search of the Winnipeg vegan wine market, or check out the February 2018 issue for some suggestions!.