Vegetarian wine might sound like a strange concept: surely an alcoholic drink made from grapes would be a vegetarian wine. One needs to consider what ingredients can be used to make non-vegetarian wine to appreciate the concepts of vegetarian or vegan wines.
It is the ingredients used at the fining stage that might turn any of us into a veggie when it comes to wine. Fining is a clarification process to make a wine bright and clear in appearance. Gravity can do this however fining can speed up the process.
Fining agents to particularly watch for include:
Gelatin – 100% animal derived: from the boiled up bones of our farmyard friends. Mainly used in red wines.
Isinglass – A very pure protein obtained from the bladders of various unfortunate fish including sturgeon. Used in red and white wines.
Albumin – Used to remove harsh tannins in red wines. Egg whites are normally the source; up to five fresh egg whites are used per 225L cask of wine. Bear in mind though as with most finings only trace elements of the fining remain. If your wine smells of egg it is probably over sulphured. (See low sulphur wines).
Casein – The principal protein of milk, often used in white wines to remove off colours.
Chitosan – From the shells of shellfish and crustaceans.
Vegetarian Wine excludes some of the above, vegan wine all.
Anyone for a glass of vegetarian wine, you may even prefer a vegan wine!