Dairy and egg free wine?

Michelle Berriedale-Johnson investigates.

If you are particularly sensitive to milk or egg, have you ever wondered why you sometimes felt terrible after drinking wine? Well, it just could be because the wine you were drinking had been ‘fined’ or clarified with milk, modified casein or egg.

We only discovered this when talking to the makers of Château de Claribès who were singing the praises of their 2006 ‘vegan’ rosé and mentioned that it was, of course, dairy free. How come, we asked?

It all happens, it appears, when the wine is clarified to get rid of cloudiness and impurities, to make it look more appealing and to improve the flavour of a wine in poor condition. Possible fining agents include:

• Gelatine – from boiled animal skin, tendons, ligaments or bones, mainly used in reds

• Egg white – used to remove harsh tannins in red wines

• Isinglass – a very pure form of gelatine made from fish bladders, used in reds and whites

• Fish oil

• Chitin or chitosan – derived from the shells of crabs, shrimps or lobsters

• Milk or modified casein (from milk) - used in whites to remove off colours

Alternative vegan/dairy-free finings exist such as bentonite, kieselguhr or kaolin clays, vegetable plaques and silica gel while newer methods of fining such as centrifuging and filtering are becoming more popular.

Château de Claribès uses a vegan powder to filter their wines, making them suitable for the dairy and egg intolerant.

If you are now curious... Château de Claribès is a small family-run vineyard in the Dordogne (an area renowned for its naturally excellent grapes).

As a ‘sustainable’ vineyard, at the start of the growing season all vines are treated with organic fertiliser followed by a seaweed spray to help strengthen their stems. Indigenous plants are encouraged to grow between the rows of vines – a great way to control excess rainfall and ensure the flavour of the fruit is not diluted.

And if you are now so curious that you want to taste some, Château de Claribès make two red wines, a Sauvignon Blanc and their rosé and you can buy them at Booths Supermarkets, by calling 0203 239 9463, by emailing info@claribes.com, or by checking their website at www.claribes.com.

Margaret Moss comments:
'Vodka and beer contain clarifying agents, as well as wine. Many years after thinking they had become vegan, a group of people tested still had milk antibodies in their blood, perhaps from alcoholic drinks. Vegetarian alcoholic drinks may be clarified with carrageenan, which is believed to increase the risk of cancer, ulcerative colitis and heart disease. Carrageenan is used in labs to induce inflammation. Yet it is in some supplements that are sold to people wanting to reduce inflammation.'

First Published April 2009

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