Vegan Wine: Happy Wine

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I was recently surprised to learn that the majority of alcoholic beverages on the market are not vegan. I suppose I naively thought that wine was just lots of alcohol and fruity things, right? Turns out I was wrong.

“Most winemakers choose to clarify and stabilise their wines before they are bottled using a practice known as fining. There are sound reasons for doing this: fining a wine not only makes it look clear, it also lowers the risk that it will take on unwanted flavours and aromas in the bottle before it is opened” said wine expert David Williams in an interview for The Guardian*. 

The problem for many vegetarians and vegans is that products used in the fining process are, more often than not, animal in origin. These include bull’s blood (now largely banned in the EU but still used elsewhere), bone marrow, isinglass (fish bladders and membrane), chitin (crustacean shells), fish oil, gelatin from boiled animal parts, casein (milk protein) and albumen (egg whites)*. While each might be considered fine on its own (if you are a salt-of-the-earth omnivore), I don’t really want any of  them near my wine, irrespective of my classification as either vegan or vegetarian.

Mmmm, this champagne has high, floral notes of boiled animal…”

I think not.

Thankfully there are a number of natural, plant-based vegan fining-alternatives on the market. These include “carbon, bentonite clay, limestone, kaolin clay, plant casein, silica gel and vegetable plaques”*. As awareness and subsequent demand for vegan wine grows, conscientiousness wine makers are getting much better at ensuring there is a ‘vegan-friendly’ logo, or even just ‘suitable for vegans’ label, on the back of relevant bottles. Some have yet to jump on the band-wagon and be so explicit in their labelling, despite that their fining process, and subsequent stock, is actually vegan friendly.

If in doubt, it is worth checking out websites like Barnivore.com, which provide a centralised platform from which to find new vegan wine options, as well as checking if your current favourites make the cut, and to leave reviews. Having said that, even just a quick Google of the wine in your hand before you get to the register will usually set you straight as to whether a wine is vegan or not. For those who like using apps on their phones, a number of scan-the-barcode type vegan apps have recently emerged which educate the consumer as to the vegan-friendliness of various products. As these tend to rely on the scope of their (slowly) building databases, however, in my experience it is quicker to just read the bottle.

Being aware of the (not just fruit and alcohol) issue, and then sourcing vegan friendly wines, is all well and good. Personally, however, the real difficulty has been in finding wines which not only make the vegan cut but also suit my palate; an overly adventurous spirit has often landed me with a bottle which tastes like vinegar.

So to help you in your search, and so that you might avoid your own vinegar-wine tasting experience, here are a couple of my current favourites to get you started.

WHITE: Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc (NZ) 2016

TASTING NOTES: The palate is brimming with bright, crisp citrus fruit, which is then balanced with a long, lean mineral finish. The flavour profile is likened to passionfruit and guava, underpinned with aromas of fresh herbs and blackcurrant.

PIXIE POINTS: Accredited carbon-neutral production process, member of ‘Sustainable Wines New Zealand’, winner of multiple awards both for sustainability and taste/quality, single vineyard origin, suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

VEGAN LABELLING: None on bottle. Information found on company’s website.

Capture Yealands

 

RED: Pure Vision Merlot (SA) 2016

TASTING NOTES: Deep purple in colour, this soft and supple Merlot, grown with organically grown grapes, shows fresh fruity aromas of ripe, red berries and fruitcake, followed on the palate with black plum and pepper. This is a medium to full bodied wine that has been aged in older French oak barrels.

PIXIE POINTS: Certified organic, local (Australian) product, low preservative, sustainable practices enrich soil rather than degrade it, family owned company, suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

VEGAN LABELLING: ‘Suitable for vegans’ on back of bottle.

Capture Pure Vision

 

ROSE: La Boheme, Act Two Dry Pinot Noir Rose (Yarra Valley) 2017

TASTING NOTES: A majestic pale salmon colour in the glass is followed by lifted aromas of subtle strawberry and even notes of pomegranate and marzipan. The palate is crisp, yet generous with a superb long length. A wonderful wine to enjoy in the warmer weather or as an aperitif all year round.

PIXIE POINTS: Local (Australian) product, award-winning winemakers, suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

VEGAN LABELLING: None on bottle. Information found on company’s website.

Capture La Boheme

 

* REFERENCED SOURCES:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/18/vegetarian-wine-david-williams

https://www.peta.org/about-peta/faq/is-wine-vegan/

Vegan Life Magazine 2017, iss. 28, p. 89.

 

 

 

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