Call me ignorant but, until recently, I wasn’t remotely aware that most wine production is largely un-vegan.
This changed when I paid a visit to Adelina’s (159 Greenpoint Ave.) to sample a glass from their newest wine casks and Toby, the lovely owner, told me that their new Chianti is not only produced in an organic way but it is also vegan, to which I expressed some surprise. Aren’t all wines vegan? Isn’t that the joy of grapes? Apparently not. But given the way that vegan friends of mine happily knock back any wine available, I had a hunch that they weren’t in on this fact either.
The thing that deems wine unsuitable for vegans, I learned, is the process of ‘fining,’ whereby a small amount of protein is introduced into wine to attract any loose particles and help them to settle to the bottom of the barrel. This helps to give the wine a smoother finish. Proteins used in this process can include blood and bone marrow, albumen (from egg whites), gelatin, and fish oil.
Although the protein isn’t actually present in the final product, in order for a wine to be classed as vegan the producers must either choose not to ‘fine’ their wines at all or must use an animal-friendly fining agent such as bentonite clay, which is used in the production process behind the Chianti at Adelina’s.
Having learned this important lesson, I’m afraid to say that I proceeded to team this delicious vegan vino with a less-than-vegan dinner: Adelina’s yummy lobster ravioli, Brussels sprouts laced with garlic and grana padano cheese, and a heavenly creme brûlée.
As well as the bold, tart Chianti, we tried their great new Californian Cabernet Sauvignon which was smooth and fruity like big plump berries, followed by a glass of sustainably farmed Riesling that had a fragrance of honeyed nectar and was perfect with dessert.
Whilst I’m sorry to not to be able to report that I restrained myself to an entirely vegan dinner, wine and all, I was definitely happy to discover that vegan wine exists and to learn the process behind it. I was happier still to linger in the pretty window seat at Adelina’s on a rainy spring night sampling their superb new wines all the name of research.