Last Sunday, I was wandering through the maze of bottles at Dan Murphy feeling totally lost. Bottle shops can be intimidating when you are not a connoisseur—let alone a drinker. Eventually, I spotted a shop assistant stacking beer bottles on the shelf. I asked him where I could find vegan red wine. His lips parted and he gave me a stare like I was an apparition from another planet. “Never heard of vegan wine,” he replied, perhaps thinking that I was joking, everyone knows that wine comes from grapes not animals, right?
Yes, that’s right but as I enter the third week in my plant-based food reformation, a lesson learnt: people don’t really know what goes on into their food (and drinks). Even if you are diligent and read the labels in the packaged food you buy, sometimes the manufacturer does not list all ingredients used, even though this is required by law. In the case of wine, maybe knowing that the drink has been clarified with casein (milk protein), albumin (egg white), gelatine (animal protein) or isinglass (fish bladder protein) would put many customers off.
I read the labels of most food I buy but it never occurred to me to check the label of a wine bottle. I always assumed that certain foods are just in their packs on their own. I only learned about wine ingredients because I bought a vegan cooking book that covered this topic. Now I’m taking a closer look at the foods I buy and getting really surprised with what I’m finding. Fresh grapes contain sulfur dioxide and lightly dried organic herbs contain oil and ascorbic acid. These are just two examples of foods I thought I was eating without any added ingredients. Unfortunately, when we dig deeper we are likely to find hidden ingredients certain to raise an eyebrow. Think of ‘extra virgin’ olive oil mixed with seed oil. Knowledge can sometimes be difficult to digest.
Back to the bottle shop, the shop assistant directed me to the organic section, saying that I might find something I liked there. Indeed, the organic section was stacked with many vegan friendly options, which now I know, are clarified with clay based fining agents (bentonite) and activated charcoal. Although this information was not listed in the wine labels (at least I couldn’t in my recent bottle shop visit) there were words like “suitable for vegans.” Another lesson learned, if you are looking for a wine that has not been made with animal products you should ensure the label contains the words to that effect.
Disclosure: I don’t drink, this wine was purchased to cook a delicious lentil dish.