WINE PRODUCTION –
PITFALLS FOR VEGETARIANS
Another Glass of Wine Please!
accounts for over 9% of the total alcohol consumption in Ireland, with
over 7 litres consumed per head each year (1997 figures). In the
industry this is valued at lR220m. A similar trend has been found over
the last two decades in the UK with wine consumption more than doubled.
In 1970, one glass of wine was consumed for every 7.7 pints of beer,
while these days, one glass of wine is consumed for every 1.7 pints of
beer consumed. In France there has been a 50% drop in wine consumption
since 1971 but this still leaves a substantial 60 litres consumed per
person each year.
It's Good For You Too!
first recorded evidence of winemaking goes all the way back to 3000 BC
in Egypt but there is archaeological evidence of winemaking dating from
around 5000 BC. Hippocrates (about 2,500 years ago) recommended that
his patients drink wine to boost their health and Pliny the elder
(approx. 2,000 years ago) said that "wine in itself is a remedy, it
nourishes the blood of man, it delights the stomach and soothes care
Modern day science backs this positive
hypothesis with various studies giving praise to the effects of
moderate alcohol consumption. Researchers at Howard University,
Washington DC, report that if people drink a moderate quantity of wine
regularly, they are less likely to develop poor eyesight caused by
deterioration of the retina in old age. The alcohol content and to a
greater extent, the flavenoids in wine (biochemicals in wine formed by
species of fungi which grow naturally on the skin of grapes) reduce the
stickiness of platelets in the blood and reduce fibrinogen levels (two
elements in the clotting process of blood). Not all wines are equally -
at this - red wines produced from grapes which are grown in warm, moist
climates (for example - those from the Bordeaux, Burgundy and Cotes du
Rhone regions) are considered to be best. What's more, wine is reported
to be a rather successful aphrodisiac!
product is only organic if no synthetic chemical fertilisers,
pesticides or herbicides are used during the growing period and if no
chemical additives are used during processing. In the case of wine
making, it is reported than up to 40kg of synthetic chemicals can be
used per hectare over the space of a year in highly intensive growing
The understanding amongst some is that if a wine
has been produced under organic conditions, then it automatically
implies that it can be considered vegetarian or vegan also. This may
often be the case, but there is no automatic link between the two, and
because of the lack of clear labelling on the bottles, those that are
suitable for consumption by vegetarians or vegans can pass veggie
consumers by. Of the top five sellers in Britain for example (which
includes the Jacob's Creek range and Le Piat D'Or), only one seems to
have organic wine included in their range (the Emst and Julio Gallo
range). None of them have vegetarian wines in their ranges.
harvested, grapes are pressed to separate the juice from the skins,
pips and stalks. Fermentation is performed in stainless steel vats
where temperature control and yeast activity is carefully controlled.
The aim of this process is to permit the conversion of sugars into
alcohol. At a number of stages both before and after the fermentation
stage, the liquid is fined (or cleared/filtered) using a variety of
different fining agents. These are substances which remove unwanted
solid residues of wine fermentation such as yeast cells and grape
particles and are used to improve wine quality and stability and to
make the wine look clear and unclouded. If these are left in the
liquid, their degradation or break down would cause the wine to spoil.
The wine is then matured in vats.
The following is a list of some of the fining agents which are in use:
- Bone marrow
- Fish oil
- Egg white (battery eggs)
- Egg white (free-range)
- Milk casein
- Silica gel
- Vegetable plaques
- Sparkolloid (made from seaweed)
is a form of clay and is a cheaper clarification agent than isinglass
or eggs. As a result, this clay tends to be used more regularly for the
fining of cheaper wines. Bentonite is usually used as a preliminary
fining agent. Its negative charge binds to the positively charged waste
particles and these particles then settle to the bottom of the vats.
Other Hidden Animal Products:
well as the fining issue, wine making can have other hidden animal
by-products - sometimes bottle corks are soaked in glycerine to aid in
their insertion into bottles. Glycerine addition can occur occasionally
as it is reported to remove harshness" of new wine. There are also
various colourants and anti-foaming agents which can be used and there
is the ever present shadow of animal testing.
port, champagne and brandy all come under the general title of
fortified wines. Champagne and sherry can be looked upon as products
which have very similar processing techniques to standard wines. The
Croft sherry range is one which is reported to be suitable for
veggi/vegan consumption. All Portuguese ports are fined with gelatine -
this is in accordance with Portuguese law. Others are not - for
example, Crofts vintage port is suitable for vegetarian and vegan
consumption. Brandy has no animal products used in its production.
is most likely that there are a substantial number of vegetarian and
vegan wines on the market at this present time. For example, it is
reported that New World wines (from America, Australia, New Zealand
etc.) are more likely to be free of any animal ingredients. Some of the
more well known producers which have vegetarian and organic wines
available include some of the Penfolds Clare Valley range, Fetzer and
Mondavi. wines approved by the UK Vegetarian Society include:
- Domaine de Soleil French wines (two red, two white) stocked by Tesco.
- Hardy’s - Barossa Valley Shiraz 1993 or Chardonnay 1994.
- Muscadet Sevre et Maine 1998, Cafe Vin Rouge, Cafe Vin Blanc - stocked by Marks and Spencer.
biggest disadvantage amongst retailers and consumers is the lack of
knowledge of ingredients and additives used during the wine making
process. As people become more aware of this issue (not only in wine
making but in other food and drink manufacturing areas), and start to
ask specifically for information and suitable products, then eventually
producers and retailer will have to take this on board when
producing/buying stock, organising packing and labelling bottles and in
promotion of the products.