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 calendar based on phases of the moon, and it’s this aspect that has sometimes given biodynamic wines it’s ‘hippy- dippy, howling at the moon’ reputation.
But of course organic or biodynamic doesn’t mean vegetarian and definitely not vegan. So where does a product made just from grapes use animal products? Well it can be in the vineyard where fertilisers using bone meal and blood can be used, but it’s mainly in the viniculture, or wine production process that it becomes a serious matter.
How would you feel if your glass of wine was a bit cloudy? The taste wouldn’t be affected, and the aromas would still be the same, it would just not be clear. For most people, a clear wine is essential so winemakers have to deal
with the issue by filtering out the floating yeast and sediment that is left after fermentation. Its what they use as clarifying agents that causes the issues.
Most wines undergo a process called ‘fining’ which most frequently uses animal-based products. It’s common for quality white, rosé and sparkling wines to use a substance called isinglass which is made from fish bladders or casein, a protein from milk, while for red wines egg whites are generally used. All three of course are no-no’s for vegan’s and challenge most vegetarians. There are other options however using sterile ceramic filters or bentonite, a type of clay that ‘gloms’ onto dissolved proteins causing them to sink to the bottom of tanks which can then be removed. Truth
be said, most young wines, if they’re left long enough will eventually reach the same state as fining achieves after a few months, but the issue of course is that some large winemakers don’t have the time on their hands for this. One important thing to note is that all trace of fining agents, whatever is used, is removed before they reach us as consumers.
There is another aspect to fining that must be considered, and that’s the removal of bacteria that can cause wine to spoil too quickly once opened. To ensure that wine is bacteria-free another contentious chemical is used, sulphite. A bottle’s label will state if they have been used and over the past few years there’s been a lot of talk about sulphite use in ‘
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