Why do fish swim in wine and beer?


When shopping for processed foods, we most often rely on a label, which by law must state all the ingredients contained in the food product. Thus, we can identify among the ingredients those that are unacceptable for vegans, and for some they are even harmful, as they cause allergic reactions. What about alcoholic beverages? Are labels on alcoholic beverages also as consistent in listing ingredients as they are on other foods?

If you may be a fan of wines, then you have definitely checked the label when buying a bottle of wine. Unfortunately, this does not list all the ingredients used in winemaking. True, the basic ingredient in wine is grapes, but quite a few procedures need to be done before the squeezed grape juice ends up in the bottle. Some winemakers use substances of animal origin in the production of wine, such as egg white, fish bladder, milk protein and gelatin, which contains cow bones. The reason for this is the wine clarification process, in which the listed substances remove sediments from the pressed grapes and make the wine cleaner. Animal blood was also once used, but this has become banned. Although some winemakers swear by clarifying wine with animal substances, many winemakers use alternative substances such as bentonite (a type of clay), pea preparations and also synthetic substances.

And how do we distinguish non-vegan wine from vegan? More advanced winemakers are aware that their consumers include vegans, so you can recognize a logo on some bottles of wine that indicates that the wine is suitable for vegans. Unfortunately, logos on wine labels are more the exception than the rule, and even then only appear at foreign, smaller producers. In accordance with EU Regulation no. Article 9 of Regulation (EC) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers states that any ingredient or processing aid that causes allergies or hypersensitivity must be labeled, used in always present in the final product. Unfortunately, Annex II to this Regulation lists exceptions that do not need to be marked, such as fish bladder or fish gelatine. Due to the latter, labels on Slovenian wines are an incomplete source of information, especially for vegans.


Even with beer, the composition is not as self-evident as you might think. Yeast, water, hops and barley are the basic ingredients, but some brewers use fish bladder, gelatin, lactose or even honey in their beer production. Labels on beer bottles are deficient in the content of the listed animal substances. Old English and Irish breweries with a long tradition of brewing beer are the most frequent users of the fish bladder, but they are also aware that the demand for vegan beer is growing. That’s why Guinness, one of the world’s most famous breweries, changed the filtering process at the end of 2017 and officially confirmed that their beers are now also suitable for vegans. In addition to the two largest breweries in Slovenia, the number of boutique and microbreweries has increased in recent years.

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