Being derived from grapes, many people assume that wine must be vegan-friendly. Unfortunately, like many products the problem comes not from the main ingredients but from the minor ones, particular those involved in the actual manufacturing process. In the case of wine, it’s the substances known as “fining agents” through which the liquid is filtered in order to remove protein, yeast and cloudiness, as well as improve flavour and colouring. A number of these fining agents are not vegan or vegetarian, so you may also want to avoid some of them too. They can include:
- blood and bone marrow
- fish oil
- isinglass (from fish bladders)
- fibre from custacean shells
- milk protein
- egg albumen
The good news is there are vegan and vegetarian alternatives to these products that cause no inconvenience for the wine maker to use, so vegan/vegetarian wines are fairly common. The safe alternatives include:
- kaolin clay
- plant casein
- silica gel
- bentonite clay
The problem is that often these won’t be specifically listed – they’ll just come under the general umbrella term “fining agents”, so to ensure you’re getting an ethically safe product you need to know which brands use what in their manufacturing process.
The easiest method is to consult a list of vegetarian and vegan wine brands, but you still need to be careful that you get the right variety (for instance only red or only white wine may be veg friendly even if they’re from the same producer). Fortunately, New Zealand is home to a huge range of world-class wine makers, so you’re sure to be able to find a bottle you can enjoy without too much hassle.
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