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What to look for when you need a vegan wine (plus 5 B.C. wines that fit the bill)

From bugs to birds to humans, more and more wineries are thinking of the animals first.
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Photo: Shopping for wine/Shutterstock

By Barb Wild

While I am not vegan, I appreciate the ethical choice behind the “no harm to animals” ideal. Along with food and fashion, wine is niching into vegan-friendly offerings that are often more environmentally sustainable. If you’re looking to drink wine made without animal products, here’s what to look for.

Non-conventional brands

Large, conventional, modern wine brands are generally mechanized in the vineyard and the winery, bringing efficiency, volume and cost savings. Grape harvesting is done by a modified tractor that shakes and pulls fruit—along with bugs, birds, nests and even critters like mice and lizards—into the mix. Modern wineries have optical sorters to spot and remove debris, but nonetheless, vegans: be aware.

Organic wine (maybe)

Wines made with grapes from organic, biodynamic or sustainable vineyards and following low-intervention winemaking practices are typically healthier for the land and increasingly sought out by wine lovers. However, consider that animal manure is often used on organic farms to condition the soil for vine health; on biodiverse farms chickens, sheep and cows often share the land. What’s healthy for biodiversity might not feed a vegan mindset.

Finer fining agents

Winemakers use a fining agent to draw out particles that can make a wine look cloudy and taste astringent. Traditionally, winemakers used animal proteins—egg whites, gelatin, casein (dairy protein) or isinglass (collagen extracted from fish bladders)—which, even in very small amounts, are not vegan. Today, clay-based bentonite, which leaves no taste or trace, is often used to make vegan-friendly wines.

Beyond the label

Many great wines are vegan friendly, including those from California’s Ridge Vineyards and Italy’s Vietti di Castiglioni Falletto. But you wouldn’t know it from the labels. Online resources like Barnivore.com can help locate vegan wines. Your local wine shop might have shelf labels or a dedicated section—and if not, ask for it. They might just start stocking bottles from Summerhill Pyramid Winery, an Okanagan producer that proudly puts “Organic and Vegan” on its labels.

Vegan Wine Time

Want your sips to be more animal friendly? Try these vegan wines from B.C. producers.

Bella Wines Mariana CL509 Gamay Rosé Methode Ancestrale Sparkling 2018
(Naramata Bench, $44.50) Pink bubbles, dry, mashed red berries, white pepper, crushed rocks.

Okanagan Crush Pad Narrative Rosé 2018
(Summerland, $17.49) Bright pink, dry, muddled strawberry and herbs.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery Alive Organic White 2018
(Kelowna, $16.99) Bright, aromatic stone fruit, mock orange blossoms, citrusy finish.

Rust Wine Co. Gamay Noir 2018
(Golden Mile Bench, $23) Ripe red and black cherry, Similkameen rocks, pepper spice.

Clos du Soleil Signature 2015 (Bordeaux blend)
(Similkameen, $45.99) Intense black fruit, spice box, pepper sage, wet rocks.

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