Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Vegan/Vegetarian Wines - Our first label rejection!

This week I received an e-mail from the TTB, rejecting our 2010 Semillon label that read: "This wine is suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets." (see label, to the right)

Our rejected 2010 Semillon label

We listed this on our label because we don't use any animal-derived products in making our wines (the 2010 Semillon has nothing but some sulfur added - no yeast, ml bacteria, acid, water or anything else). And, to be honest, we expected the rejection. Although, to be totally honest, I'm not exactly sure why wineries are not allowed to claim this.

There's been a lot of discussion about vegan wines lately, especially as consumers become more aware of products used in the winemaking process. If you're ethically opposed to using animal products, this is a huge issue for you. And U.S. consumers are not the only ones having this conversation.

The Canadian government will soon require wineries to list if they use fish, egg or milk products. They'll also have new sulfite regulations and will require wineries to list "contains sulfites" on the bottle if they use more than 10 parts per million (something the U.S. government has required for years; organic wines must have less than 10 ppm sulfites here). Read the full article about the changes in Canadian wine labeling, here.

To be honest, even though we're a winery that voluntarily tried to list that our wines are suitable for vegetarians or vegans, I still believe this should be voluntary for wineries. Here's why:

Winemaking products derived from animal ingredients are most often used for fining, or to clarify wines: they grab big particles then fall to the bottom of the tank. The clarified wine is then "racked" or removed off the top of the particles and other sediment in the bottom of the tank, then most often filtered (let's be honest - not that many producers offer unfiltered wines anymore). Most wineries sterile filter, which, when done right, will remove all living things in the wine (yeast, bacteria, pieces of grape skin, etc.). Not much survives sterile filtering, hence the name.

So, all in all, listing wines as vegan or vegetarian or listing animal-derived products is really more of an ethical question than an allergy question.

Either way, I've been blogging about consumer awareness and the increased level of transparency in the wine business for a while now. This is just another piece of evidence of this shift in the industry.

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