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Let’s start with what is a vegetarian? And what is a vegan? A vegetarian is a person who does not eat meat, chicken or fish and a vegan is a person who does not eat any food derived from animals. A vegetarian would eat eggs and would drink cow’s milk – a vegan would not.
What’s in wine that would make it unsuitable for vegetarians or vegans? Isn’t wine just fermented grapes? Depending on the exact winemaking process the winemaker chooses to follow and their customer’s requirements*, wine may have many additives and/or traces of products other than grapes.
During the winemaking process, wine is filtered through substances called fining agents. This fining process is used to remove protein, yeast, cloudiness, “off” flavours and colourings and other organic particles (PETA 2017). The fining agents bond with insoluble substances in the wine and carry them to the bottom, giving a wine clarity; and if desired, removing astringency or tannin from the wine.
Common animal-derived fining agents used in Australia include Gelatine, Isinglass (a fish product), egg white, Casein (a cow’s milk product) and skim milk. Common non-animal-derived fining agents used in Australia include Bentonite, Carbon and Polyvinylpolypyrrolidone (PVPP) (The Australian Wine Research Institute 2017).
Mandatory warning labels and advisory statements in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, ensure that the presence in a food of a potential allergen is declared on the label. For wine, this means that the presence of Isinglass, Casein, egg white and skim milk must be declared on the bottle (The Australian Wine Research Institute 2017). Importantly, note that the use of Gelatine does not need to be declared. Some wines fined with egg white or Casein may well be vegetarian – if they don’t contain traces of Gelatine – but my advice to both vegetarians and vegans is to look for ”suitable for vegans”or ”vegan friendly wine” on the bottle.
Fortunately, many organic wineries are moving to vegan friendly wines. Though not as effective as common animal-derived fining agents (The Australian Wine Research Institute 2017), Bentonite is the fining agent of choice. Tamburlaine’s 2017 vintage wines are now suitable for vegans.
At The Organic Wine Cellar, you can shop by ‘Suitable for vegans’ by expanding the Shop menu at the top of our Home Page and clicking ‘SUITABLE FOR VEGANS’ on the right. Look for the V symbol as that indicates a wine that is suitable for vegans.
If you are inviting a vegetarian to dinner or just over for a glass of wine and you are serving up a cheese platter, don’t forget that not all cheese is vegetarian – look for non-animal rennet on the label!
*Winemakers typically work for or on behalf of a winery/vineyard owner, whose beliefs and vision for their brand will influence the inputs to the winemaking process and the exact winemaking process followed.
PETA 2017, ‘Is wine vegan?’ <https://www.peta.org/about-peta/faq/is-wine-vegan/ >, viewed 10 September 2017.
The Australian Wine Research Institute 2017, ‘Fining Agents’ <https://www.awri.com.au/industry_support/winemaking_resources/frequently_asked_questions/fining_agents/>, viewed 10 September 2017.