You may be forgiven for thinking that wine is automatically vegetarian – after all it’s just fermented grape juice. However, it is not as simple as that, as there are a number of animal-based products that are permitted for use in winemaking, including gelatin (from boiled animal bones), isinglass (fish bladders) and other milk and egg-based products. These products are used for fining, a process which traps heavy organic particles that are suspended in the wine, which then sink to the bottom of the tank. After fining, the wine is pumped out of the tank, leaving the suspension behind. This process clears the wine and stabilises it to a degree.
We at Chollet don’t always fine the wine, as in certain years the wine will settle naturally, and in those years where it does not, we use a clay-based fining agent for the white, and a pea-protein for the red. Therefore, no animal nor dairy-based products are used in the making of our wine, meaning it is vegetarian and vegan friendly. Being certified organic is not enough – it is down to the approach of each winemaker (organic and non-organic). Not always easy to know therefore – although an increasing number of supermarkets and other suppliers are including this info for their range of wines.
As there is no official certification for vegetarian or vegan wine, however, there are still open points of debate. For example; if an animal based product is used, but is not (in theory) in the final, bottled wine, is that OK (for vegetarians)? Most people would say no in my experience, as the product was used to make the wine, and also there may well be trace elements left over, but some would be OK with that risk.
Also, what about the use of egg and milk-based products in fining? In theory, OK for vegetarians but not for vegans. But, still debatable for some.
Finally; what about the use of animal-based fertiliser out in the vineyard (meaning the waste products of animals). It is for sure a natural and environmentally friendly way to use manure from chicken, cows or horses, particularly sourced locally – but some ‘hard’ vegans would object. That one, I am afraid, we are guilty of in some years, as we use guano as a fertiliser. In other years, we use a ‘green fertiliser’ such as leguminous vegetable planted between the vines to replace nutrients taken by the vine.
Given all that, we can comfortably say our wine is vegetarian and vegan friendly. We are listed on Barnivore, which is ‘the’ list of vegan wines, and the wine is served in vegetarian restaurants.
We are always happy to receive feedback on subjects such as this, or anything else we raise in our newsletters, so don’t hesitate to drop us a mail or leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!