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Are there allergens in your wine? Add to ...

The Question

I recently found out I am allergic to eggs. There are often egg shells or products used in the fining process, so I am constantly on the lookout for affordable wines without egg products. When are wines going to be required to list ingredients, like our food products?

The Answer

You need not worry, but you raise an issue that most wine drinkers know little about.

Eggs, though not egg shells, are often used to clarify wines after fermentation. Egg whites, usually in powdered form, are added to the barrel and stirred around, where they bond to suspended solids and sink to the bottom. In addition to eggs, winemakers also can use milk, gelatin (another animal product) and even isinglass, a derivative of sturgeon bladders. But non-animal products, such as a clay called bentonite, can be used, too. No animal residue should remain in the finished wine, which is eventually separated from the heavy sediment. When it comes to allergies, it's essentially a non-issue, assuming the fining process has been conducted properly, and it almost always is. The big issue here really is for vegans who choose, for ethical reasons, to avoid products that use animal products.

That said, Health Canada, in deference to allergy sufferers, will introduce new rules as of August, 2012, requiring virtually all packaged foods to carry warnings on items that contain a host of allergens, including eggs, milk, fish and nuts. Liquor boards, such as the LCBO in Ontario, which will be responsible for complying with the rules as they apply to imported products, plan to demand that wine producers carry the warnings if their wines have been fined with animal products whether or not residues remain in the wines, because there's no viable commercial way to test for low-level residues. The LCBO, for one, feels it's better to err on the side of caution. But Health Canada has decreed that wine producers don't have to sticker their bottles with warnings if no traces of eggs, milk or fish remain.

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E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Wine & Spirits newsletter and on The Globe and Mail web site.

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