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What’s in Wine

Ottawa Magazine - - WINTER 2018 - BY KATIE SHAPIRO

David Loan on weird stuff in wine

David Loan worked as a som­me­lier for seven years at ZenKitchen — a go-to restau­rant for ve­g­ans and cu­ri­ous din­ers — be­fore it closed in 2014. Katie Shapiro talks with the lo­cal food-and-wine guy about ve­gan wines and why you might start see­ing some sur­pris­ing in­gre­di­ents on wine la­bels. How did you get into wine? I got into wine be­cause my ex-wife (chef Caro­line Ishii) and I de­cided we wanted to open a restau­rant, and be­fore we opened the restau­rant, we started do­ing monthly din­ners — what are now called pop-up restau­rants. I re­al­ized that while she was fo­cus­ing on the cook­ing, some­body needed to fo­cus on the wine ser­vice as well. I started tak­ing the som­me­lier cour­ses at Al­go­nquin Col­lege, grad­u­ated from there, and be­came a teacher in that same pro­gram while work­ing as a som­me­lier at ZenKitchen. Since the restau­rant closed, I have been work­ing with [wine events group] Savvy Com­pany. Are peo­ple seek­ing out ve­gan wines? At ZenKitchen, it was a con­ver­sa­tion I had with cus­tomers half a dozen times ev­ery day we were open. “What do you mean, ve­gan wine? How could there be an­i­mal prod­ucts in wine?”

I ex­plained to them that when a wine­maker is al­most done with the wine, they’ll some­times de­cide that it needs to be fil­tered in a cer­tain way — maybe be­cause it has too many tan­nins. One of the tech­niques to get rid of them is to in­tro­duce what’s called a fin­ing agent.

In Bordeaux, for ex­am­ple, wine­mak­ers some­times stir egg whites into the bar­rel of wine. As the wine set­tles through the egg whites — or other pro­teins like milk prod­ucts, gelatin, isin­glass (which comes from the swim blad­ders of stur­geon) — those ex­cess tan­nins or other com­pounds will be picked up. That’s the fin­ing process, and it helps to clar­ify the wine.

Now, that all set­tles to the bot­tom. There’s re­ally a very, very low amount left in the wine, but for ve­g­ans, that use of an­i­mal prod­ucts in the wine makes it un­ac­cept­able.

I was try­ing to buy some ve­gan Ital­ian wine years ago, and the wine rep I was work­ing with got in touch with some winer­ies in Italy and they es­sen­tially said, “Yeah … we don’t re­ally want to talk about that.” Some­times some old winer­ies still use some prod­ucts like blood as a fin­ing agent, but some don’t like to talk about it be­cause it sounds gross. Is the ve­gan mar­ket some­thing that wine­mak­ers are tun­ing into? I think wine­mak­ers are aware that many peo­ple are try­ing to avoid an­i­mal prod­ucts, so they are aware of which of their prod­ucts are fined with an­i­mal prod­ucts and which aren’t.

Now, there are other things they can use as a fin­ing agent, like ben­tonite clay. But wine­mak­ers say that th­ese are all tools in the tool­box, and for this wine, they’ll use ben­tonite, and for that wine, they want to use egg whites. It just de­pends on what they’re try­ing to achieve. But there are winer­ies, like Karlo Es­tates in Prince Ed­ward County, that refuse to use any an­i­mal prod­ucts in their wines, and they’re very proud to be 100 per cent ve­gan. Are winer­ies ob­li­gated to put that kind of in­for­ma­tion on their la­bels? Not yet, but many of th­ese fin­ing agents are, in fact, com­mon al­ler­gens. There are new la­belling re­quire­ments that were in­tro­duced by the fed­eral govern­ment in De­cem­ber of 2016 that re­quire al­co­hol prod­ucts that have more than a cer­tain mea­sur­able amount of al­ler­gens be de­clared on the la­bel. They gave wine­mak­ers and dis­tillers five years to do that — so they have un­til the end of 2021. You will start to see th­ese things ap­pear on the la­bels as they are in other coun­tries. I’ve

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