Sorry, I have been watching a little too much Goosebumps recently — not by choice.
But seriously, milk, egg whites, dried fish bladders, and gelatin — which is processed from livestock — might be in your wine, and that is something vegans, vegetarians and people with dairy and egg allergies might not be too stoked about.
However, these agents are used in the winemaking process, and don’t actually count as an ingredient or additive. In fact, the whole point of adding these is to take them out after.
These ingredients are more common in younger wines to limit the sediment in the wine. This process is called fining. They bind to the sediment and the winemaker can filter out the goop in your wine so you don’t have mud at the bottom of your glass. Fining also takes out the more astringent tannins, so the wine is easier to drink. When this process is done, your wine is clarified.
This process happens while the wine is still in the barrel. Egg whites and milk are more commonly used. The winemaker pours in the milk, the milk bonds with the sediment and sinks to the bottom of the barrel. This goop is removed from the barrel, and then goes through the regular filtration process. There is such a minimal amount of these particles left in the wine after the filtering process that you would never be left with a fishy, milky or eggy taste.
The first wine I noticed with egg and milk listed in the ingredients was Wine Men of Gotham, an Australian shiraz that I really like — it’s also about $12 so it fits in my price range. The law in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand require winemakers to list when milk, egg whites, or fish bladder is used in the wine. Canada also requires sulphites to be listed on the bottle. There is no requirement for gelatin.
This law was established by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency under the federal allergen guidelines, but there is no medical evidence to suggest wines that have been through the fining process have caused any allergic reactions.
There are vegan-friendly options for this process as well. Seaweed and volcanic clay achieve the same result, but doesn’t have to be listed on the bottles.
If you are concerned about which fining agent is used in your wine you can email or call the winemaker, and they can clarify for you.