Red, white or cruelty free?
If you are vegan or vegetarian, chances are you will know that most wines are not animal friendly. Those not so familiar with a meat and fish free diet may wonder why non-carnivores worry about drinking fermented grape juice! The problem lies with the fining agents used to filter and clarify the wine.
What are fining agents?
The fining process is a common practice which happens at the end of winemaking. Fining agents are used to improve the appearance of wine and to stabilise its flavour by removing microscopic organic particles such as the yeast used during fermentation. Unfortunately for vegan and vegetarian wine lovers the most frequently used fining agents are animal derived products – thankfully not the once favoured bulls blood but gelatine, isinglass (derived from fish bladders), casein (a milk protein) and egg albumen. With all fining agents practically undetectable traces of the material remain in the finished wine, so some vegetarians do choose to overlook the fining materials used.
And the animal-free alternatives?
For those who are much stricter, there are fortunately alternatives to animal-based fining agents. The most popular are bentonite silica clay, kieselguhr (sedimentary rock), kaolin (clay mineral) and silica gel. The other good news is that the availability of wines fined with these non-animal alternatives is improving in the UK. Generally speaking it is now much easier to find ‘natural’, ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’ wines, although these terms may not necessarily guarantee that fining agents are not used and more research may be needed. If a wine is ‘unfined’ and ‘unfiltered’ this should, however indicate suitability for vegans and vegetarians.
Identifying veggie and vegan-friendly tipples
Labelling remains an issue. There is no law that obligates winemakers to state the use of animal fining agents on their labels. In the UK a little indirect help from for vegan and vegetarian wine drinkers exists in the Food Standard Agency guidance on EU Regulation. This states that wines that are made using milk or egg-derived fining agents must mention this on the label – but only if they are present in the wine in quantities great than 0.25mg per litre. In Italy too there isn’t any obligation for wine producers to state the suitability of their products for vegans and vegetarians on the label. Probably the best way to find out whether a wine is suitable or not if it is not clear from the label is to call or write to the producer and ask them!
Where to find quality vegan and vegetarian wines from Italy
If you have had difficulty finding a good selection of vegan or vegetarian wines don’t despair! Vorrei offer a range which is completely organic, all vegetarian and mostly vegan. Just look out for the symbols above the description of each wine on the website.
Check out the Wine and Prosecco category of Vorrei’s website where you’ll find a great choice of red, white and sparkling wines including Prosecco, Barbera, Dolcetto d’Alba, Vermentino, and many more! If you are looking for vegan champagne produced with no animal derived products take a look at Say It With Champers.