Is There Fish in Your Wine?
A recent proposal by the Federal Government to require listing fining agents as “ingredients” on wine labels is drawing criticism from the industry. At issue is whether or not trace amounts of these agents can cause allergic reactions.
Several fining agents such as egg whites, casein, and isinglass are often added to wine to remove unwanted materials. They bond to debris including dead yeast cells, microorganisms, and astringent tannins before sinking to the bottom of the tank.
The fining agents and unwanted solids are then removed through filtration, racking, or cold stabilization. Bill Nelson, President of Wine America, explains, “It’s kind of like sweeping the wine. You’re putting in something that holds onto those particles in suspension.”
This is where the issue becomes controversial: are the fining agents completely removed, or are there trace amounts left behind that warrant being labeled as ingredients?
Many industry leaders, including the Wine Institute and Wine America, argue that labeling these substances would simply confuse consumers. After all, casein is a milk protein and isinglass is a substance found in sturgeon. Most people do not think of wine containing egg whites, milk protein, and fish derivatives.
On the other side are several lawmakers and a Harvard scientist named Christine Rogers. They point to studies that show food allergies to be a serious health concern for a small amount of the population. The Federal Government seems quite adamant on this issue, but they have opened the door for the wine industry to prove that there is no real health threat. But this will be a costly and drawn out process.