What's In A Wine - A Whine About An Issue Of Trust

Last week, I spent a few days in Calgary and was delighted that my daughter Jenny (WHO IS NOW VEGAN!) took me to restaurants serving very high-quality vegan meals. However, on my last night there, we found ourselves in a Moxie’s. I was somewhat in need of a beer, but our server (and the rest of the staff) had absolutely no idea if their (bottled or tap) offerings were vegan, or even any knowledge that beers could be non-vegan.

It’s moderately unsettling that even some long-time vegans are unaware of the fact that not all alcohol is free of animal products. Many are still blissfully unaware that the fining (clarifying) processes used in both beers and wines often use such unpalatable (to vegans) ingredients as egg whites, casein (derived from milk), gelatin and isinglass (obtained from the bladders of fish).

Those who are in the know will perhaps refer to www.barnivore.com to discover whether a beverage contains these nasties. Barnivore’s free database requires that you simply type in the name of the beer/winery whose products you wish to know more about. Be warned that many may disappoint you. We have had to abandon numerous favourites because they breach our strict vegan code.

You also need to be aware that the Barnivore information is not comprehensive. You may find no listing for what you seek. Nor is it necessarily timely. The data is only as good as the most recent research or response given by the supplier. Wineries, for instance, regularly change wine making practices depending upon the year of production, and there is no guarantee that a listing is altered to reflect changes in the fining process.

Personally, I find it very disappointing that even if they have it, few producers seem to value their status as ‘vegan friendly’. They don’t exactly shout it from the rooftops or boast about it (how many wines have you seen overtly labelled as such?). This is probably because the mass of the buying public might regard obviously vegan wines with the same suspicion and disdain they hold for vegan food!

It’s a great shame that labelling laws don’t require alcohol manufacturers to reveal their ingredients with enough detail to enable us vegans to make our kind choices easily. Whilst they do not, we are still subject to uncertainties. So, it should come as something of a relief when an organisation like BevVeg comes along.

BevVeg is apparently part of a law firm. In an otherwise unregulated marketplace, they are the first to offer certified vegan accreditation, along with a trademarked logo that manufacturers may stamp on their bottles, attesting to their vegan friendliness. They’re creating a minor publicity storm and have been featured by Forbes, PETA and various TV outlets including CBS and NBC. You can download their free app, which in appearance at least, is more than a match for the rather dated and ordinary Barnivore site.

You may, of course, find yourself asking why a law firm would want to step into