So many of the food and beverage choices at our disposal today are quietly pervaded by animal products – and wine, beer and spirits are no different.
Apart from the obvious inclusion of cream or eggs in some libations, animal products primarily make their appearance in the filtering or fining (clarifying) stage of alcohol production – not dissimilar from some sugar refining. In fact, as with some sugar, bone char is often used to filter spirits. Other filtering agents used in the making of some wines and beer include isinglass (derived from fish), gelatin (animal bones), egg whites, and clay. Wine in some countries may still be fined (clarified) using blood which was once a commonplace practice, although this is now illegal in the U.S and France. Trace elements of these fining or filtering agents are left in the beverage. For most of those against the use of animal products the fact that they are being used at all is reason enough to want to avoid certain products.
What can you do if you want to avoid alcohol that has been filtered using animal bits?
The best thing to do is write a polite email or call the customer service department of the makers of the wine, beer, spirits, etc that you’re interested in and enquire.
My personal favourite is red wine – unfortunately for me I have a huge sensitivity to sulphites and tannins, a.k.a big headache makers. Hearing that it was made with less of these nasties, I started looking to organic wine. My first organic wine purchase consisted of three varieties from an Italian vineyard, the Botter Family. After approaching the vineyard with my questions they sent me confirmation that their organic line was in fact vegan. The three wines are each named after one of the Botter siblings – they are:
- Botter Alex Sangiovese – light ruby red colour; aromas and flavours of fresh red berry fruit, plum and herbs; dry, light to medium bodied with vibrant acidity and hints of spice.
- Botter Anna Pinot Grigio Chardonnay – pale straw colour; slightly floral nose with notes of citrus, melon and almond paste; dry, light to medium bodied, soft and flavourful.
- Botter Luca Nero D’Avola – light purple red colour; aromas and flavours of cherry and blackberry with hints of chocolate; dry, medium bodied, soft and fruit driven style.
The Alex Sangiovese is now discontinued near me unfortunately, but perhaps it’s still available elsewhere. I keep the white, Anna Pinot Grigio Chardonnay, on hand for guests and for cooking – but my absolute hands down favourite is the Luca Nero D’Avola, a rich dark red. All three sell for about $12, so jackpot.
They also come in aseptic tetrapaks so they’re very easily recyclable. What I really love about the tetrapaks is that, as you use up the wine, you can squeeze the extra air out before capping it which keeps the wine fresher longer – not that it’s going to last that long because it tastes so damn good.
There are some great online resources that will identify some vegan wine, beer and spirits for you – like Taste Better!’s Vegan Booze List.