Vegetarian-Wine-thumb.jpg
Credit: Flickr/Aerokev

Has your glass of wine been made with animal products?

Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or a weekend dabbler, you might not be aware of the fact that most wines are refined with animal products. Vegetarian wines, however, are abundant in BC.

Studies have shown that regularly indulging in a glass of wine can reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and other illnesses.

The beneficial ingredients in wine are phenols—catechin, epicatechin, quercetin and resveratrol. But too many phenols in wine result in a bitter taste. So most winemakers use a fining process to cut down on phenols and remove sediment such as yeast and grape skins to produce a clear wine with a smooth taste.

The Wine Fining Process

The wine fining process frequently uses a substance called isinglass, a fining agent made from the swim bladders of fish.

Other fining agents include gelatin, which is derived from bone marrow, casein, which comes from milk, and egg whites.

While there is generally very little fining agent left in the finished wine, there may be enough to cause irritation for people with sensitivities to animal products. Some countries, like Australia and New Zealand, require egg white to be listed on the label because it is considered an allergen.

And if you’re trying to completely avoid animal products, then you’ll want to be sure your wine was made without them, whether or not you’re actually ingesting them.

Making Vegetarian Wine

Wine can be fined without animal products. Vegetarian wines, as they are known, are fined with bentonite, a natural clay. Some wineries don’t use a fining agent at all, preferring instead to allow the particles in the wine to settle naturally.

Sarah Harker of Rustic Roots Winery in Cawston, BC, says, “I was a vegetarian for seven years and had no idea [about animal by-products in wine]. I make a conscious effort to fine our wines the hard way, with time and patience.” (Rustic Roots uses cellulose pads to filter their wines.)

BC Vegetarian Wines

There are many small BC wineries producing vegetarian wines, but you’ll have to ask the makers for their ingredients or check barnivore.com, a resource for vegetarian beverages around the world.

While you won’t likely taste fish bladder or clay in any wine, knowing what’s in your wine can go a long way toward enhancing your well-being. Which is exactly what wine is supposed to do. 

BC Wineries Producing Vegetarian Wines

Burrowing Owl, Oliver
Uses bentonite; egg white is used if needed, but has not been used since early 2000s. Diatomaceous earth is used for filtration.

Blossom Winery, Richmond
Does not use animal products

Joie Wines, Naramata
Does not use animal products

Quail’s Gate Winery, Kelowna
All aromatic whites are vegan, but reds use egg white or gelatin

Rollingdale Wines, Kelowna
All chardonnays except 2006 are vegetarian, as are the premium free-run reds and ice wine. Some whites use gelatin, some use bentonite

Rustic Roots Winery, Cawston
Does not use animal products. Uses bio-degradable cellulose pads for filtration

St. Urban Winery, Chilliwack
No fining agents are used

Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Kelowna
Does not use animal products

The View Winery, Kelowna
White wine is vegetarian but red and rose wines use egg white