In recent years, I have noticed the growing dietary lifestyles that come through my restaurant. Most have guidelines about alcohol consumption, flour, carbohydrates, animals, organic produce and animal biproducts.
I will never forget the looks of disbelief I receive from vegans and those with animal protein allergies, who spend minutes of conversation with me about their nonanimal entree choices, but are shocked when I tell them the wine they ordered is not vegan.
How did animals and their biproducts end up in your wine? The science behind why most wines are not vegan, or even vegetarian friendly, has to do with how wine is clarified.
All wines are cloudy, unfiltered and have tiny particles in them until they go through a process called "fining" in order to rid them of tannins, tartrates and phenolics. This fining process makes the wines clear and beautiful so they can be bottled and stored for
months to come.
The four most common fining agents are albumin (egg whites), casein (protein in cow's milk), gelatin (animal protein), and isinglass (fish bladder protein).
Some winemakers are beginning to use non-animal agents such as activated charcoal and bentonite, an absorbent clay made of volcanic ash.
Unfortunately, winemakers are not required to list animal biproducts on their label, so how can you know for sure that you're receiving a true vegan wine?
The answer is that you often don't know, unless "Vegan" is stamped on the label or a wine is marked "Unfiltered." In my experience, these bottles are a rarity, and they are hard to find in the average grocery store and are often not noted on a restaurant's wine list. Thus, the consumer has to resort to Google, PETA or a winemaker's website for indications of non-animal fining. The most helpful website I have found is Barnivore, which holds a database of over 45,000 alcoholic beverages to search.
Popular vegan wines that can be found at the Lake Jackson H-E-B are as follows:
• Michael David Winery
• Layer Cake
• La Crema