Wine is made from grapes, and aren't grapes vegan?!?
Yes, this is true! HOWEVER, it's important to dig deeper to learn about the wine making process, and you might be surprised by what you find....
Natural or cultured yeast is added to grape juice, and the fermented juice is what we all enjoy as wine. Throughout this process, though, A LOT can happen! Chemicals are added, preservatives infused, mega-purple color poured in, and even sugar is added!! So those headaches you get, even after just one glass?? Yeah, it's not you, it's your wine.
When wine is filtered, or clarified - a process called "fining", tiny molecules such as proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics are removed, because we like our wines to be bright and clear!
Most wines, if left long enough, will self-stabilize and self-fine. However, the mass-produced nature of the industry has dictated a different "norm". Traditionally, producers have used a variety of aids called "fining agents" which help precipitate out these haze-inducing molecules. Essentially, the fining agent acts like a magnet – attracting the surrounding molecules. They coagulate around the fining agent, creating fewer but larger particles, which can then be more easily removed.
This is where things get WEIRD!
The most commonly used industry fining agents are casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein) and isinglass (fish bladder protein). These fining agents are known as processing aids and are not technically additives to the wine, since they are precipitated out along with the haze molecules.
Fining with casein and albumin is usually acceptable by most vegetarians but all four are off limits for vegans because tiny traces of the fining agent may be absorbed into the wine during the fining process. SO, you could very well be exposing yourself to animal products that are likely lurking in your wine. YUCK!!
But there is good news - thank goodness! Today many winemakers use clay-based fining agents such as bentonite, which are particularly efficient at fining out unwanted proteins. Activated charcoal is another vegan and vegetarian-friendly agent that is also used.
The move to more natural winemaking methods, especially those that go a step further to earn the Scout & Cellar clean-crafted badge, allow nature to take its course, resulting in more vegan and vegetarian-friendly wines. An increasing number of wine producers around the globe are electing not to fine or filter their wines, leaving them to self-clarify and self-stabilize. Such wines usually mention on the label ‘not fined and/or not filtered’.
Apart from mentioning whether it has been fined or filtered, wine labels typically do not indicate whether the wine is suitable for vegans or vegetarians, or what fining agents were used. They don't even include an ingredients label. Why?? Because it's actually the ATF (alcohol, tobacco, firearms) that's looking over wine production. Something funky happened post prohibition and regulation has stayed in that division ever since.
I was shocked to learn that there are actually up to 250 different "APPROVED" chemicals that can be used in winemaking!!! WHAT?!?!?! I don't know about you, but I take such care to remove toxins from my life, to make healthy choices, and to live an eco-friendly life, that I certainly was NOT happy when I learned about what was really in my wine.
After having been sober for five years to grow my self-confidence through sobriety, I had a really sensitive palette to really bad wine. During that time, I would imagine that if I was meant to find a way to responsibly consume alcohol again, I would, and that the perfect opportunity would find me - and it did!
As I considered enjoying a glass of wine here or there, I was pretty put off by how "alcoholic" it tasted - you know, that after-taste?? It just wasn't what I had hoped it would be, and then I tried wine sourced by Scout & Cellar - and it was a difference I could taste!
Thankfully, there is a team of dedicated people who are committed to sourcing the world's finest clean-crafted wines from small family run businesses. Wine producers and grape growers who are stewards of the planet, respecting this century old tradition, and delivering an exceptional wine to our plant-based table.
Wine should be clean - in every way. Clean on the palette, clean in production, and clean in farming. It should complement our farm-to-table meals, and be celebrated with joy and love. That's exactly how I serve it with my clients and at tastings.
Join the clean-crafted movement and discover the unknown good by visiting scoutandcellar.com/cheflaurendagostino. Got a question or need a recommendation? Just ask! I am happy to help, or work with you to help you host a free wine tasting - cheers!