Planning a vegan wedding, as any regular reader of this blog knows, involves thoughtful attention to a host of details from catering to bridal party attire to favors. Making sure the wine and spirits served at your reception are unmistakably vegan is probably one of the easier decisions.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always obvious what wines are vegan-friendly. Even the most meticulous label-readers won’t find “pig’s hooves” or “fish bladders” on the label: unlike packaged foods, animal ingredients used to make wine are not required by law to be listed. Online resources identifying vegan wines are hardly comprehensive, and can be confusing since often one vintage year may be vegan, but not the next year, depending on the quality of the harvest.
If you have vegan guests, there will be some who are always conscientious about drinking vegan wines, some who pay attention at home but not out “in the wild,” and some who just shrug and chug. If most of your guests aren’t vegan, it’s even more important to serve wines that align with your ethics. At the risk of getting “vegan policey,” it’s another opportunity to teach your loved ones about the ubiquity of animal ingredients and that a cruelty-free lifestyle can be every bit as enjoyable.
Animal-derived ingredients commonly used in winemaking practices include isinglass (a very pure form of gelatin from fish bladders, typically sturgeons), gelatin (from boiled cow’s or pig’s hooves and sinews), albumin (the opaque stringy part of egg whites), and casein (milk protein, the same ingredient that renders many “non-dairy” cheeses non-vegan cheeses).
These ingredients are used to “fine” or filter wine to make it visually clear and remove excess tannins, discoloration, and crystalline deposits and precipitates (aka “floaties”) that occur naturally during the fermentation and aging process. Fining agents act as a magnet for the microscopic particles and larger molecules, which then makes it possible for them to settle and/or filter out.
Since it’s your big day, you probably want any haziness in your wine glass to be the result of romantic lighting, or a happy buzz, not tiny particles floating around.
Bentonite clay, a naturally occurring clay produced by the weathering of volcanic ash, is a fining agent that is 100 percent vegan and 100 percent effective in removing haziness and undesirable characteristics. It’s also used to enhance the heat stability of the wine, so your caterer can leave the wine in a hot van for a while without incident.
When making wine without animal ingredients, the most important winemaking process is the art of patience. Fining agents can speed up processes that occur naturally in wine, meaning a winery can rush their product to stores. But at the right temperature and over the right span of time, these particles will naturally settle out of wine by gravity alone. Sustainable old-world techniques, and patience help produce some of the best wines in the world, without using one single animal product. A climate and geographic setting, or “terroir,” that lends itself to producing naturally softer, less tannic wines also helps, such as our vineyards in San Martin on the Northern Central Coast of California.
Whether informal, elegant, or both, there’s something so beautiful and memorable about vegan weddings. We’re always delighted to welcome vegan brides and grooms at our certified sustainable winery.
Here’s to you, and to a wonderful wedding that honors your love for each other, as well as your love for animals.