Wait, All Wine Isn't Vegan?

 by Amanda Newsom

 Photo: Amanda Newsom

Photo: Amanda Newsom

It seemed fitting to have a vegan wine tasting as the first fundraiser hosted by Classic City Paw Print, mainly because, well, wine and food. It was important for us to feature vegan items as the theme because it fits in with the magazine’s mission to promote compassion for all animals, which includes farm animals and fish. Most people don’t realize that not all wine is vegan, or even vegetarian. It sounds a bit outlandish—there isn’t meat in wine, so why wouldn’t it be?

Many wines, as well as some beers and liquors, use byproducts from animals to clarify their wine in what is called the “fining process.” Though most wines will do this naturally while sitting over time (called “settling”), the fining process drastically reduces the wine production time so that we can drink the wine sooner. Sounds good. But here’s the thing: some of the items used during this fining process include blood and bone marrow, fish bladder membranes and fish oil, crustacean shells, milk protein, egg whites and gelatin (made using boiled animal parts). I don’t know about you, but I am not that interested in a side of fish bladders with my glass of wine! 

The good news is that there are some natural options that companies can and do use during this process that are vegan, such as bentonite (a clay-based agent) and activated charcoal. Other wineries choose to let their wines settle, which can increase the labor cost and is more time consuming, but it results in vegan wines that often are also more flavorful.

The not-so-great news is that United States laws do not require wine labels to list ingredients or nutrition facts, so there’s not an easy way to quickly pick out which wines are vegan when you head to the store to make your purchase. Some wine companies are putting this information on their bottles as an ethical decision, and some include icons or verbiage indicating that the wine is vegan or vegetarian. Without these labels though, you will have to do some research to find out what other wines can be added to the list. 

If you can’t find any of this info on the label, there is a great iOS app that you can use as a nice resource called Vegan Xpress. There is a more well-known website and app at Barnivore.com; however, in researching wines for the vegan wine tasting fundraiser, Leigh McDaniel of Empire Distribution found so many discrepancies (i.e., many of the wines listed as vegan, in fact, were not) on Barnivore that we don’t recommend using it as a reliable source. We are also lucky to live in Athens where there are several package stores that have knowledgeable staff to help you find more vegan wines, such as Uncommon Gourmet, J’s Bottle Shop and Five Points Bottle Shop. 

For the vegan wine tasting on July 25, 2017 at Heirloom Café, we chose wines that were vegan based on their production from the fining process forward since that is the predominant process that defines a wine as being vegan or not. Two of the wines chosen for the tasting were produced on a biodynamic winery—“biodynamic” meaning a farming process that incorporates animal husbandry into an enclosed ecosystem and relies on the philosophy of creating balance with nature. The process is a bit controversial in the strict vegan world, as some biodynamic farms also incorporate arcane pagan rituals involving animal parts. However, the winery included in the tasting fundraiser, M. Chapoutier, does not participate in any of these rituals and only relies on the manure from cows as a soil fertilizer and on sheep grazing to maintain the rows between wine vines. 

If you would like to try the wines featured in our wine tasting, you can find all of them at Uncommon Gourmet. We’ve also listed the wines and pairings from the event by Heirloom’s Executive Chef, Joel Penn, below:

  • Murphy Goode’s Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc The Fumé (2015): Paired with smashed cucumber, soba noodles, sesame vinaigrette, lime
  • M. Chapoutier Bila-Baut, Côtes du Roussillon Les Vignes De Bila-Haut Blanc (2015)
  • Domaine Bousquet Winery, Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé (2015): Paired with local organic edamame, old bay sauce, fancy salt
  • Murphy Goode, Red Blend (2012): Paired with smoked mushrooms, corn miso sauce, chives
  • Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier, Western Victoria Shiraz Viognier (2015)

Alejandro Ortiz of J's Bottle Shop shares some vegan wine options you can purchase from them below:

  • The Standard: Lioco. Husband-and-wife team and makers of incredibly balanced, lower-alcohol and laser-focused wines from California, they make a fabulous chardonnay, carignan, rosé and pinot noir, all vegan.
  • The Bubbles: Casteller Cava. In truth, most cava, Spanish sparkling wine, is vegan-friendly.
  • The Crisp Rosé: Vin Gris de Cigare by Bonny Doon Vineyards. From California’s enfant-terrible and renegade winemaker. Currently his entire production is vegan and biodynamic. 
  • The Crazy Values: Both Bodgeas Castaño Monastrell and Espelt Old Vines Grenache are excellent, spicy and delicious reds that are perfect for every day and are still produced by the families whose names grace their labels.

Mark Burnett of Five Points Bottle Shop shares some vegan wine options you can purchase from them below:

  • Cantina Zaccagnini Pinot Grigio (white)

  • Chateau de Saint Cosme "Little James Basket Press" White Blend (white)

  • Chloe Chardonnay (white)

  • Revelry Chardonnay (white)

  • Girard Sauvignon Blanc (white)

  • H.I.P. (House of Independent Producers) Chardonnay (white)

  • Loimer Rose (rose)

  • Cline Cellars Rose (rose)

  • Burgess Syrah (red)

  • Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (red)

  • Fiddlehead Cellars "728" Pinot Noir (red)

  • Mollydooker Shiraz "The Boxer" (red)

  • Revelry Merlot (red)

  • Ca de Medici Lambrusco (sparkling)

  • G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut Champagne (sparkling)

  • Krug Grande Cuvee Champagne (sparkling)

Special thanks goes to Heirloom Café, Uncommon Gourmet and Empire Distribution for partnering with us to raise money for the dogs and cats awaiting homes at Athens-Clarke County Animal Control via AthensPets.