Hell, you could also be tempted to switch to straight-up vodka once you learn about the hidden ingredients in your wine.
If you’ve been dairy and meat-free like a good girl, it could be time to examine what’s lurking your liquor cabinet next. There is a such thing as vegan wine, and it’s a lot less gross than what you could be pouring at your dinner parties, gals. So what’s the problem with your yummy, velvety merlot or buttery Chardonnay?
The Forecast is Clear
To grasp what really makes a wine vegan – and why non-vegan wines are kinda disgusting – you need to understand one of the processes involved in winemaking. (We’re not talking about Lucy and Ethel stomping on grapes, here). In order to prevent wine from being “cloudy,” vintners use a method called fining to remove solid impurities such as grape skins, stems and proteins from the wine. Fining involves adding substances called “fining agents” to the wine to chemically bond with any unwanted particles floating around – like the leaves in a swimming pool. These larger and heavier molecules then sink to the bottom of the barrel, leaving behind a better looking – and better tasting – wine.
The problem? Sturgeon bladders, boiled cow and pig hooves, egg whites and ox blood. Sounds like a magical potion from Hogwarts, but these animal products are some of the fining agents used by winemakers. “Bulls blood” (sangre de toro) was outlawed as an additive in European wines after the mad cow disease outbreak in 1997. Good idea!
No need to bitch about having to give up Mommy’s sippy cup, though, since winemakers have come up with animal-free fining agent alternatives to appease even the strictest vegan freaks. One such substitute is bentonite, a natural clay found in Wyoming that is popularly used in California wineries.
Fact is, delicious vegan wines aren’t that tough to find. So why bother with the other crap? Check out this guide that lists wines in alphabetical order, letting you know if they are vegan friendly or not. PETA suggests using this directory, which lists wines by country of origin and brand name. Too lazy to go to the store? The following companies sell vegan wines with the click of a button online: China Bend Winery, Fitzpatrick Winery, Frey Winery, Organic Vintners, Organic Wine Company or Thumbprint Cellars.
What Should I Look For?
If you’re hitting TJ’s or the local store, make sure you check the wine label for the word “vegan” (duh!) or “unfiltered.” It’s important to remember that some vintages of a specific wine may be suitable for vegans, while other vintages from the same producer may be a no-no because of the filtering agents used that year. If you’re not sure, your best bet is to call or email the wine manufacturer and ask.
Do you have a good vegan wine recommendation? Let us know in the comments.
Susan Emmer, Contributing Writer
Susan is a certified whole health educator and coach treading on both wellness and green terrain. Earning an environmental studies degree before green was the new black, Susan is the owner of the sustainability marketing and PR firm, Farmacy Agency. Follow her on Twitter@wellnewsnetwork.