Vegetarian Wines

Written by Blaire Chandler-Wilcox
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All wines are, by definition, vegetarian. Vegetarian wines use organic, plant or mineral based agents, as well as albumin (egg white) during the wine-making phase known as "fining." Because all wines are vegetarian by default, there is really no need to label them as such. However, if you ever come across a wine bottle that is labeled "vegetarian," it is actually a vegan wine. These wines use no animal by-products during the fining process. Instead, they use solely organic, plant or mineral based agents.

A Fine Mess

Fining is a process in wine making, which makes cloudy wine clear, and removes any unwanted substances that weren't eliminated during filtration. The fining agent is poured into the wine, and as it passes through top to bottom, it acts as a magnet pulling the unwanted particles into it. It passes through the wine and is removed, leaving (theoretically) no traces of itself behind.

A Fine State of Affairs

Vegan, or Vegetarian, fining processes received a lot of notice in the United Kingdom recently when they were dealing with the understandable hysteria caused by Mad Cow Disease. Previously, both organic and "traditional" wine producers used animal by-products in their fining process. Most often gelatin (from animal bones), egg whites and isinglass (from fish bladders) were used.

Vegan fining uses non-animal fining materials instead. These materials can include betonite clay, carbon, and diatomaceous earth (rock made from pulverized algae). Vegan wines are often, but not always, clearly labeled as such. Many fine wine shops are aware of the vegan status of their inventory, regardless of whether or not the bottles are labeled. Many of the finest vegan wines do not necessarily identify themselves as such. Ask your local wine merchant, or check out the offerings of online wine shops which specialize in vegetarian wines for their suggestions.

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