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"Karen, is wine okay if you’re vegan?” —Pam M. (Boulder, Colorado)

Pam, “vegan wine’ is usually defined as wine that hasn’t been in contact with any animal or dairy products. Lots of wines in the world meet this criterion. The key issue is whether or not the wine has been fined. Fining is a process whereby protein coagulants (often from milk, eggs or fish) are added to red or white wine to bind with compounds (such as tannin) which can then be removed. For example, historically, lots of red Bordeaux wines were fined with egg whites to make them taste less tannic and more smooth. I should add that fining is optional; a winemaker doesn’t have to do it. Also, even when a wine is fined, no detectable amount of dairy or animal product is left behind, since the fined wine will be racked off the protein into a new barrel. Despite this, some strict vegans abstain from such wines; other vegans are more liberal on the issue. It’s an individual call.

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