Recently I dropped by my local Henry's market to grab a bottle of wine. I don't know how it happens but I often get into lengthy conversations with the employees at grocery stores. Whether it be Whole Foods, Trader Joes or Henry's I find myself easily chatting away with the friendly staff. This time my conversation went a little something like this:
Me: Hi! I forgot my list and I am looking for vegan wine. Do you happen to know which of these wines are vegan?
Henry's Girl: What? What do you mean "vegan" wine?
Me: Well, most wine isn't vegan so I am looking for some that is.
Henry's Girl: What!? How are they not vegan?
Me: Well, most companies use fish bladder by-products in the filtration process.
Henry's Girl: I'm vegan.
Henry's Girl: I've been drinking wine every single day for the last 3 months!
Henry's Store Manager (to me): Are you going to tell her there's no Santa Claus too!?
The conversation was actually much longer than that but you get the jyst. So, No -- in case you were wondering, most wine is not vegan.
The most common animal ingredients used in wine making are isinglass (a very pure form of gelatine from sturgeon fish bladders), gelatine (extract from boiled cow's or pig's hooves and sinews), egg whites (or albumin) and caseins (a protein from milk). Typically these ingredients are used as processing aids in the "fining" or filtration part of the winemaking process to help remove solid impurities such as grape skins, stems, pips, to remove the yeast used in the fermentation process or to adjust the tannin levels in certain wines. This is done to end up with a clearer, brighter, better tasting and more presentable wine.
Don't worry, there is hope for us wine lovers. For a list of vegan-friendly wines click here.
This is the perfect example of veganism being a journey. It's not about being perfect. I drank non-vegan wine a few times before I learned about the filtration process. We all make these mistakes. Rather than beat ourselves up we need to move on and make the proper changes. Every day is a chance to make better choices.
I recently saw the sweet Henry's girl that I traumatized and she seemed just fine. She told me about wines she found that are both vegan and in her price-range. She was grateful that she learned this tid-bit and could make better choices. You never know, maybe the limit in vegan wines will stop her from drinking wine every single day. ;-)