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Posted: November 11, 2011

Vino for your holiday vegan

Plus a Thanksgiving story about Uncle Al's glass eye

I don't want to get ugly about this - but isn't wine one element of a lovely holiday meal that carnivorous hosts and hostesses need not worry about when their table is populated by the vegan who eschews all things "animal-linked"?

After all, when you eliminate turkey from the offerings for someone dining at your Thanksgiving table, your menu checklist still maintains a robust fare filled with green beans, potatoes, cranberries, pie - and plenty of vino - right? It's a meal fit for any non-poultry-eating guest (you know who you are). So everyone can take a load off, relax and get tipsy via the time-honored tradition of drinking a wee bit too much zinfandel so as to be able to tolerate several hours of Uncle Albert and his body noises.

‘Tis not so. Turns out, wines are sometimes made with animal products and can and often do have a production process wherein an animal may have been involved.

While wine is basically built on grapes, occasionally animal products are used in small amounts in the production process, making them taboo to a vegan's diet. Something called "finings" is often employed to remove organic particles which are in the mix during the wine making and can make a wine cloudy or impair the flavor. Finings are often animal-derived: blood, milk, Irish moss and egg whites are finings traditionally employed in the process, but modern production finings include isinglass (made from fish bladders), carbon and gelatin (made from animal bones).

How to tell if a wine is truly, strictly vegan? The best way is to Google "vegan wines," which turns up a list of millions of possibilities. That doesn't do a wine drinker much good, however, if a restaurant choice must be made quickly. Another option is to ask your local wine store to stock some of the strictly vegan wines you've researched and drink wine only at home or wherever a bottle can be toted along for an event.

Another word of caution to vegans: Wines labeled "organic," have nothing to do with a wine's adherence to vegan standards. "Organic" on a label simply means the wine was made from organic or biodynamic grapes and may or may not be a wine made with animal products.

Speaking of animals, Uncle Albert (this is fact) once popped his glass eye out and into his palm at the Thanksgiving dinner table. He then downed a large glass of wine in one breath, winked his good eye at us kids, and popped the glass eyeball back in. Aunt Oleander (his wife) divorced him six weeks later.

Which is why we (now grown up kids) really, really enjoy our wine today and make sure the Thanksgiving table is loaded with several bottles, "vegan-ok'd" and otherwise.

One Winning Wine Tasting

A Night of Wine & Celebration
On Friday, Nov. 18, The Grant Avenue Community Center & Sacred Place in Denver will host "Beaujolais Nouveau, a Night of Wine and Celebration," from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The event is part of a worldwide celebration of the harvested grapes of the season, Beaujolais Nouveau.
The Community Center is located at 216 S. Grant Street in Denver and the Merchants of West Washington Park will be at the event. Cost is $50 per person. For further information call 303.257.0983.

Weird Wine Trivia
William Shakespeare's credibility is examined in a new movie that challenges whether or not the scribe actually penned any of his words ("Shakespeare Conspiracy").

Before the film reveals that another guy wrote his words and ruins it for us all, here are a few wine quotes allegedly penned by the (so far) most celebrated playwright in the world, William Shakespeare:

"The wine cup is the little silver well, where truth, if truth there be, doth dwell."

"Good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used."

"A cup of hot wine with not a drop of allaying Tiber in't."

"Good wine needs no bush."

"O thou invisible spirit of wine! If thou hast no name to be known by, let us call thee devil!"

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Readers Respond

Thank you, Pam. You make a very good point - one I wish I'd made in the column! http://www.cobizmag.com/images/smileys/smile.gif By Cathie on 2011 11 14
I think proper etiquette dictates that a Vegan guest should bring his own wine ... especially if you're already providing the tofurkey. Another great article, Cathie! By Pam Burrell on 2011 11 13

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