Milk in wine – surely not?

The more I find out about food and drink, the more I’m amazed at exactly what is contained in the every day products we so readily consume. One of the best things about have a food intolerance is gaining knowledge – you need to be informed of exactly what is used to create your favourite dish.

I am constantly amazed, and often dismayed, to find milk or some form of dairy in the most seemingly innocuous products. Crisps are a regular offender (chilli and lime flavor – where’s the need for milk in that?), as is any form of ready meal or processed food product. It hides in different forms – skimmed milk powder is easy to recognise, but then there’s whey, casein and lactose (check out medicines for that one!). But it doesn’t stop there; whey appears in many forms, including gelling and stabilising agents like lactalbumin and lactoglobulin. And as for casein, the milk protein that is my problem, it appears in a multitude of guises as an emulsifier and binding agent (gets processed foods to stick together!). So watch out for anything that has ‘caseinate’ in it, such as sodium caseinate or calcium caseinate, casein hydrolysate (that just doesn’t sound good full stop!) or paracasein.

My daughter became a vegetarian at the age of 12 after finding out that marshmallows contained gelatin – or rather that gelatin was made from crushed animal bones. She was flabbergasted and has never eaten a piece of meat since (and she was a real steak and roast meat eater before). It was a real ‘OMG’ moment for her. Mine came after I read an article about wine; it often contains some form of milk! 

I love wine, but it really does not love me!! Having a yeast intolerance as well as milk has meant that wine has been a real no no over the last few years. Previously, if I’ve had wine to drink, I was so ill the next day. Spirits just don’t effect me in the same way therefore I had always assumed it was the yeast. Now I realise it’s a double allergen whammy; it explains so much!!!

Apparently, a multitude of odd products are used by wine makers, and brewers, either directly to add flavour, or in the filtration process. These include casein, egg white, honey, sea shells and isinglass (fish bladders) to name a few. Casein is often used for fining, a process that removes particles and soluble substances that achieves clarity quicker and more economically than leaving wine to mature over months, or years.

I can’t believe I didn’t know this before; I even had a previous boyfriend with a degree in wine making, but I only remember him going on about sulphates and tanins. Oh, and drinking lots of wine……

So what to do? One option is to not drink wine! But, if you don’t have a yeast intolerance, then why? There are vegan wines available on the market; check out websites such as or that provide pretty comprehensive lists. The wines listed will not contain any animal product, covering a huge range of allergens, which is really handy!

The government is making it easier too – at least in the UK. All wines with a 2012 vintage onwards must state on the label whether milk or egg derivatives are used in the manufacturing process, along with sulphur dioxide levels greater than 10mg/litre.  This will make it easier to buy wines at the supermarket, but not sure how a snobby sommelier will react!!

Thankfully, for me there are always spirits to enjoy, although not all of these products are unadulterated so care is still needed! And of course, I have to say, any alcohol must be consumed sensibly and in moderation. Hangovers cannot be blamed on additives alone!

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