Wait, what? All wines aren't vegan?

Post written by: Mike Fish, VegFest London Committee Member

Now, this might come as a surprise to you, I know it did to me. Did you know that not all wine is vegan? For something so simple (we’re talking 1 ingredient: grape juice), many people are shocked to learn that there might be animal by-products floating in their wine. Sadly it’s true.

Wait, what do you mean vegan friendly wines? For centuries, winemakers have been using animal based products during the production process. From Ox blood, to egg whites, these products are most commonly used to ‘fine’ a wine. That is, to remove protein solids suspended in a wine after fermentation.  This process is also used to clarify soups, turning them into a consommé.  The idea, is that the proteins in something like egg whites attract the organic sediment suspended in the wine and together they sink to the bottom of the tank or barrel. The winemaker can then rack (syphon) the wine off the sediment, leaving it behind in the tank, resulting in a clearer wine.  These methods aren’t unique to the wine world. Beers, spirits and some juices/soft drinks are often fined using similar techniques.  Many products used to fine beverages have harmless enough sounding names like isinglass (fish bladder) and casein (protein from cow’s milk) trace amounts (we’re talking parts per million) can find their way into a bottle of wine and cause problems for people with allergies, not to mention go against a vegan life philosophy.  

Now, all this being said, there seems to be a trend in the wine world to use more natural methods during production. There is, in fact, a ‘natural wine movement’, but that’s a topic for another week.  Bentonite clay & ceramic filters are more commonly being utilized as an alternative to animal products and do a great job ridding a wine of unwanted organic particles. At Glassroots, we have close to 15 wines available, all of them are high quality & vegan friendly. It’s a good time to be a vegan wine drinker.

So, how does one know if a wine is vegan-friendly? Unfortunately, wineries are not required to list any ingredients or fining agents used in their wines which makes it tricky. Much of the Canadian wine industry is without regulation and creates a bit of a ‘wine wild west’ situation. The only resource out there is barnivore.com which has an extensive list of vegan friendly wines, spirits & beers. So, now that you know what to look for and how to look for it, I urge you to seek out more ‘natural wines’. In my opinion they’re better wines anyway.

I encourage you to write to your favourite wineries and ask them if their wines are vegan friendly. If not, let them know that you would be interested in purchasing their product if they were and that clear labeling would compel more purchases. For local Canadian wines, look for producers like Karlo Estates, Creekside, Fielding and Henry of Pelham to name a few.

Mike Fish is a certified Canadian Wine Scholar and holds a Level 3 award through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and has recently entered the Court of Master Sommeliers. Mike was recently named VQA Promoter of the year by Brock University, he’s a freelance sommelier, the former vice-president of the Ontario Wine Society London Chapter and co-owner of Glassroots, a new downtown restaurant offering an extensive All-Canadian wine list. 


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And here's a delicious and refreshing drink recipe, compliments of Mike, for these hot and hazy summer days...Rasp-Basil Booch Lemonade.


Rasp-Basil Booch Lemonade

Muddle fresh basil & lemon zest

1 oz Vodka

1/2 oz Elderflower Liqueur

1oz Fresh Lemon Juice

1/2 oz simple syrup or preferred sweetener

3 oz Raspberry/Lemon Booch Organic Kombucha

Garnish with Lemon Twist & Fresh Basil Leaf

In a mixing glass, gently muddle the fresh basil and lemon zest. Add the vodka, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice and simple syrup and shake with ice. Strain the mixture into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with Raspberry Lemon Booch and garnish with a lemon twist and fresh basil. Enjoy!