Meatless Monday – Cheers? Boos!

A week ago you may have been toasting the New Year with a glass of bubbly. What would you say if I told you that your champagne, sparkling wine or whatever alcoholic beverage of your choice had been cleaned with a fish bladder?

To my shock and surprise I found this to be true. The label of my long-sought after personal size bottle of Kim Crawford wine read “…contains milk, fish and sulfites.” Now sulfites I can deal with but milk and fish? and in wine? I had to investigate.

Apparently wine makers use various fining agents, often animal parts or their derivatives, to clarify their product.

Examples of some fining agents include but are not limited to:

  • egg whites
  • isinglass-a protein obtained from a fish bladder
  • casein (milk protein)
  • gelatin

Suspended solids are removed and often bitterness is reduced and unwanted odours removed in the process as well. These agents work by binding the unwanted material through one of 2 ways: absorbing it like a sponge or by magnetizing it (think  ‘opposites attract‘).

The fining agent has the opposite charge to the unwanted material and creates a magnetic effect thus binding the two together. Once bound to the agent, both material and agent are removed from the final product. Due to the apparent ‘undetectable traces‘ of the agents in the final product, winemakers often leave off the label that their wine may not be vegetarian/vegan friendly.

So what is a vegetarian/vegan who likes to drink to do? Well ‘don’t drink’ is one option. If you still want to drink rest assured that there are vegetarian/vegan-friendly fining agents out there such as bentonite, a type of clay. However, without appropriate labeling, how would one know? You can try contacting the wine company directly and ask them or consult the following website:

As a note, Wayne Gretzky estate wines, both red and white (ah the colours of a patriotic Canadian) are vegan-friendly according to barnivore.

And in the spirit of boos, a big one goes out to Le Commensal. Advertising themselves as ‘fine vegetarian cuisine‘ and long-touted as the place to eat vegetarian in Toronto, they added meat to their menu as of December 18, 2012. And the reason? To accommodate the flexitarian so as “…to be inclusive…”

The first time I ate there I found their food to be so-so. Little did I know that would also be the last time I ate there.  See original post.

While I’m not opposed to a restaurant that has a mixed menu with options for the carnivore and herbivore, I am opposed to a restaurant that has gone against its founding philosophy. Having built its business and reputation on offering exclusively vegetarian cuisine, Le Commensal now offering meat warrants a big Boo! 


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