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Warning: This wine may contain fish bladders

on 07/05/11 at 9:07 am


Wine lovers could be in for a bizarre shopping experience when a controversial federal law comes into effect in summer 2012. Get ready for label warnings declaring that your favourite beverage contains – I kid you not – fish, eggs or milk.

As part of new Health Canada food and beverage regulations designed to protect allergy sufferers and people with severe food intolerances, alcohol producers will be required to list an array of odd-sounding “ingredients,” things you’d expect to find on a plate next to your merlot rather than in it.

Though I suspect most consumers are likely to recoil at the thought, animal-derived products have long been used in wine making as gentle clarifying agents after fermentation. Suspended particles become attracted to the substances, clump together and fall to the bottom of a tank or barrel. The clear wine is then separated from the sediment.

It’s called fining and is often used prior to, or in lieu of, filtration. Many high-end producers avoid the more aggressive filtration step because the microscopic pores in filter barriers can strip a cellar-worthy Bordeaux or Napa cabernet, say, of the particles that contribute to flavour and longevity.

A derivative of sturgeon bladders (known in the industry as isinglass, though the rules require plain language, namely “fish”), egg whites and milk proteins are all part of the arsenal. So is bentonite, a form of clay, as well as gelatin, typically processed from the hide and connective tissue of livestock. Neither of those, however, is on the allergy list.

It’s a stretch to call such substances ingredients, frankly, because they’re used to manufacture wine. They’re not mixed like preservatives or flavourings. I fear that, to the average Canadian consumer perusing a back label, they will sound like additives.

{Full story via The Globe and Mail}

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