This short post is going to be devoted to wine and spirits as it pertains to vegans.
I was surprised to discover, many years after indulging in alcoholic beverages, that wineries and distilleries sometimes use animal by-products or ingredients throughout the manufacturing process. I was fairly mortified.
I stopped drinking wine and stuck with other beverages that are typically safe for vegans- Woodchuck, for instance, is one of my favorite things ever. Most beer and liquor is vegan friendly, too. Wine, however, is another story. Ingredients like isinglass (from fish), gelatin (from pork), and carmine (from insects) are used in a number of wines like those made by E&J Gallo. And they're pretty snooty about it, too!
According to my favorite vegan drinking directory, a representative from their company has told them the same thing for years, "Our winemakers tell us that gelatin and proteins from animal or fish products and milk or eggs have been used in winemaking for centuries and are recognized as traditional methods for wine fining, or clarifying." Then, they completely disregard the point of the question by adding that, "...none of these products remain in the wine because they are removed by filtration prior to bottling." Because the important thing as vegans is that we don't EAT whatever it is they used dead animal pieces in order to make, right? And none of this information is EVER displayed on a wine label.
Anyway, that brings me back to my favorite vegan drinking directory. It's called Barnivore (bar-nivore, like car-nivore, right? Lol.) and it has listings for practically everything. I use their website whenever I go to get a bottle of wine, or if I see one on special I'm not familiar with to make sure it's safe before I take advantage of a great deal. I just bring it up on my phone and use their handy search tool. It really is that easy.
I would list a few varieties that you can find in your local grocery store, but nearly every supermarket has a different stock with hundreds of wines and it would be nearly impossible to share with you something you're guaranteed to have! I also don't have any favorites to recommend. Sorry! I'm more of the malt beverage type. Which is convenient, because Woodchuck, Mike's Hard Lemonade, and Bacardi are all vegan-friendly. My favorite is Woodchuck, though. It's hard apple cider made in Vermont. They have a few regular flavors to choose from as well as seasonal varieties and a type made from pears. And if you don't have a smart phone, another good idea would be to jot down a few brand names of wines that your local supplier carries while you're shopping and look them up online when you're able. A lot of organic and biodynamic wines are also vegan, too, so if you're in a store and would like to narrow down your options quickly, asking someone where these wines are located may hasten your search.
Additionally, you can venture into making wine at home yourself. There are a lot of stores out there that cater to home wine makers and brewers. For Austinites, there's no better stop than Austin Homebrew. My brother and I are planning a trip there to get supplies so he can help me set up my first wine making experiment while he's here for Christmas. Exciting! I will, of course, share my wine making experiences with my readers.