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Dec. 28 2009 - 6:48 pm | 91 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Your wine: the (unfiltered) truth

Leffe, a Belgian beer, served in its own brand...

Image via Wikipedia

If you’re alive, and in North America, and not in AA, and have 1 (or more) relationship(s) of the familial variety, you’ve probably been engaged in some heavy drinking lately. And power to it, my friend: by now, research has shown that imbibing can be accompanied by all sorts of health benefits, including lower blood pressure, reduced risk of osteoporosis and fewer colds. Of course, moderation is key – and that’s the usual warning surrounding drinking during the festive months. But there’s another advisory that the Extreme Self would like to reinforce: while you can still decipher the label, please check it, and ensure your wine doesn’t hate animals.

That’s right, friends: not all alcohol is vegan-friendly, and some of it’s been processed or purified using decidedly un-festive products. Usually, animal ingredients are used during the “fining” process, whereby alcohol is filtered and purified, but dye and anti-foaming agents can also be non-vegan. If you’re not up on your byproduct-free booze, allow me to offer a brief primer on the ingredients that are sometimes used to produce wine, beer and vodka:

Edible gelatin. The connective tissues of animals.

Isinglass.  A tasty filtration compound made from the stomachs of fish.

Casein. A milk-derived protein.

Albumin. Dried blood! And egg whites!

Cochineal. This tasty little treat, used as a dye.

Charcoal. Carbonized cattle bone. May also be present in your sugar cookies.

If guzzling wine by the bottle is your holiday go-to, be wary: red wine tends to be non-vegan the most, followed by beer, with spirits coming in last. But it’s not all bad news: at the top of the “We Heart Vegans” list is German beer, thanks to a little food clause from the 1500’s:

Furthermore, we wish to emphasize that in future in all cities, markets and in the country, the only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be Barley, Hops and Water. Whosoever knowingly disregards or transgresses upon this ordinance, shall be punished by the Court authorities’ confiscating such barrels of beer, without fail.

Other winners, courtesy of the exhaustive list at Barnivore: Maker’s Mark, Goldschlager, and, the Drummond holiday favorite – Bombay Sapphire (ah, the gin of my childhood).


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    About Me

    I'm a full-time heath & science writer at Sphere and a contributing editor at True/Slant. I also contribute military health news to Danger Room at Wired.com, and have recently written for Marie Claire, World Politics Review and Next American City.

    My first foray into journalism came in middle school - at a French-speaking plaid-kilt-wearing educational institute somewhere in the Canadian tundra. It was there that I decided to start my own newspaper, to disseminate my sarcasm and attitude problem among my peers. We lasted three issues.

    From there I started to freelance, and when I became a medium-sized fish in a small Canadian lake, I decided to move to New York, and become a spore in a vast journalistic ocean. The adventure continues.

    I try to parallel my personal interests with my professional work - so most of my writing has some connection to health, science and animal rights.

    Email me Extreme story ideas at

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