Foods to Eat   > Is Wine Vegetarian?


Most probably, the answer is "NO". Here is another study by Carolina Pyevich, for the VRG.
VRG can be reached at 410-366-8343, or P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203.


Although wine usually contains only grapes, yeast, and a small amount of sulphites, which are added and created during fermentation, the processing of wine introduces small amounts of substances not acceptable to vegetarians and vegans.


Every wine is different and no uniform formula exists for producing them. A clarifying or fining agent makes wine clear by removing proteins from it. If left in the wine, these proteins would denature and form long molecular strands. That would result in wine that is either hazy or has loose sediment floating in it. The agents eventually settle out of the wine. Different proteins serve as clarifying agents depending upon both the type of wine and the desired flavor.


Some clarifiers are animal-based products, while others are earth-based. Common animal-based agents include egg whites, milk, casein, gelatin, and isinglass. Gelatin is derived from the skin and connective tissue of pigs and cows. Isinglass is prepared from the bladder of the sturgeon fish. Bentonite, a clay earth product, serves as another popular fining agent.


Organic protein agents are more likely to be used in the clarification of premium wines which cost more than $7 a bottle.


Egg whites from chicken eggs are used for red wine clarification. Wine makers in France (Burgundy) commonly utilize egg whites in their production. Egg whites generally clarify more expensive wines (above $15 a bottle) or French wines which are expected to age.


Large producers of wine in the United States usually implement potassium caseinate as a substitute for eggs. Whole milk and casein are two other possible fining agents in some red wines.


Gelatin can clarify either white or red wine, or beer. Gelatin pulls suspended material out of wine, and less expensive wines may use this method.


Isinglass is used to fine selected white wines. Germany is one of the main countries that uses this technique. Some American wineries also use isinglass to clarify white wine or chardonnay.


The most popular substance used to remove the proteins of domestically produced white wines is bentonite, the silica clay. It is used to fine most inexpensive wines.


Another fining agent of concern to vegetarians is blood. Although blood of large mammals may serve as a clarifier in some Old Mediterranean countries, it use is forbidden in United States and France.


Both the clarifying agents and the removed proteins coagulate on the bottom of the wine tank or barrel, from where they are removed. The ingredient list will not state the clarifier because it is removed from the final product.


Kosher wine is a specialty item and it is produced directly for the Kosher market. Kosher wines may be more likely to avoid the use of the animal-based clarifying agents, but not all do so. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations stated that a wine could theoretically be certified as Kosher if it contained egg whites or if the gelatin were completely removed from the final product. Paper is another agent sometimes used to clarify Kosher wine, as the impurities adhere to paper.


Jay Dinshah -- American Vegan Society -- 609-694-2887 -- P.O. Box "H", Malaga, NJ 08328


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