When most people think of wine, they think grapes plus fermentation equal wine. But a stage in winemaking could actually be a dilemma for vegetarians and vegans.
Before bottling, winemakers generally choose to clarify and stabilize the wines in a process called fining. Skipping this step may result in wine that is hazy or has loose sediment floating around in it. Many of the main fining agents are animal-based products such as egg whites, milk, casein, gelatin and isinglass (fish bladders) or clay-derived bentonite.
During this process, what was used for fining is added to the wine. As it settles into the fermented wine, the particles adhere to the agent and drop to the bottom. Of course, the products used in fining do not remain in the wine and are sterilized into the bottle; some wines use no fining process at all.
The dilemma for most vegetarians and vegans? There is no obligation for wineries, restaurants or retailers to state if animal-based fining agents were used. But today the industry is becoming easier to navigate with many companies clearly stating on labels if the wine is suitable for vegetarians or vegans (vegan VG, vegetarian V) and a vast array of websites offering recommendations for these wines.
Considered the innovators, many wineries are producing “unfiltered” wines. This slower and more traditional method is gaining a lot of attention from those seeking more natural options. This method allows wines to settle naturally and even with a slight cloudiness or remaining sediment, has consumers understanding it’s not an indicator of quality but a winemaking choice.
Keep in mind companies’ winemaking methods will vary year to year, so to be sure the wines are suitable for your diet it’s best to call or e-mail the winery.
- 2009 Frey Organic Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $22 retail)
- 2009 Bonterra Vineyards Chardonnay, California (about $16 retail)
- 2006 Campo Viejo Crianza, Spain (about $15 retail)
- 2009 Hardys Nottage Hill Shiraz, Australia (about $12 retail)
- 2004 Peter Lehmann Clancy’s Red, Australia (about $22 retail)
- NV Laurent Perrier Champagne, France (about $68 retail)
- 2007 Recanati Merlot, Israel (about $23 retail)
- NV Mumm Napa Brut Rose, California (about $40 retail)