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By Chere Di Boscio
Vegan food can be a bit of a landmine: does that cheese-less pizza have egg in its base? Does that vegetarian curry have cream lurking in the sauce? Or perhaps some ghee? Is that sugar-free muffin sweetened with honey?
As a lifelong vegetarian, I thought I knew about vegan’s needs pretty well – that is, until I had dinner with one who asked for vegan wine. At first I thought he was taking the mickey – what the heck is vegan wine? How could that even exist, since it’s obviously made of grapes? But then he enlightened me on a few fishy facts about booze.
For example, the winemaking process often involves loads of animal parts, including eggs, blood, oils, bone marrow and gelatin – which we all know is found in animal bones and hooves. During the winemaking process, the liquid is filtered through substances called “fining agents.” This process is used to remove protein, yeast, cloudiness, “off” flavours and colourings, and other organic particles – but those agents are never on the label. In fact, they’re often considered to be trade secrets!
Amanda Thomson of Thomson & Scott Skinny Prosecco & Champagne explains that a typical bottle of champagne or prosecco may have been made with up to 60 additives, including egg white (used as a fining agent), milk products (to adjust flavours) and gelatine to clarify the champagne or prosecco. Bull’s blood was traditionally used as a filtration method, and sometimes still is.
So how are you to know whether the wine or champagne you love is cruelty-free? There’s basically only one way – ensure it’s labelled as vegan.
But moving away from the grape – even beer isn’t always vegan friendly. For example, did you know that Guinness isn’t vegan friendly because it uses isinglass, which is made from the swim bladders of fish. Although there isn’t a trace of it in the beer, it is a direct product used in the manufacturing process.
And what about mixers for your spirits? Wanna know how Minute Maid’s grapefruit looks so “ruby red”? It’s from cochineal (otherwise known as carmine, carminic acid, or Natural Red 4). Because this dye is made from an insect called the cochineal, it isn’t vegan. Make sure to check the label on any red-hued products you might be using since there’s a possibility, cochineal is one of the ingredients.
The good news is that almost all spirits are vegan, and vegans can certainly find an increasing number of brands they can enjoy, including all those on the list below.