“There is no wine so sweet as wine taken from a foe,” wrote George R. R. Martin in ‘A Feast for Crows.’ It’s anyone’s guess how our own regional ‘game of thrones’ will play out as Alberta’s Premier Rachel Notley continues to joust with BC Premier John Horgan for pipeline access to this province. At least for now we can breath a sigh of relief that her bitter ban on BC wines was lifted before that imposition had a chance to inflict any really serious damage on producers. Good to have learned, however, just how well paired BC vintages are with standing up for water protection and climate action!
For those who imbibe we have such a wide variety to choose from. Today there are vineyards and wineries in the Similkameen Valley, the Fraser Valley, the Cowichan Valley, and up and down Vancouver Island including here in the Comox Valley and on numerous Gulf Islands. Some historical references erroneously credit a Catholic missionary with the origins of wine-making in this province in the Okanagan in the 1860s. Others note that grapevines were planted by settlers on Salt Spring Island even before the trading post and port of Victoria was founded by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1843 (exactly 175 years ago this month!) Allegedly, these gnarly vines can still be found scattered across Salt Spring on abandoned farm sites.
Much has certainly changed in the interim. The ethical considerations inspiring so many of us today to prioritize environmental protection and other harm reduction measures over profit, convenience and custom, logically extend to the food and beverages available to us. It can come as a surprise to learn that a great number of wines may actually contain ingredients we would prefer not to consume. The next step after fermentation in the wine-making process is clarification. Traditionally, egg whites, casein derived from milk, gelatin and isinglass obtained from the bladders of fish are used as fining agents – organic compounds employed to remove both undesirable particulates and soluble substances that can reduce the desired quality of the finished product. Some countries require that wine labels reveal the use of fining agents that may be allergenic substances. In Canada such labelling regulations apply to “all non vintage wines and to wines with a year date of 2012 and later, but not to vintage wines with a year date of 2011 and earlier.”
The use of animal ingredients is hidden from consumers in many unexpected places – from plastic bags and fireworks to fabric softeners and bike tires. Bone char is used as a decolourizing filter to whiten sugar. There are over 20 components from animals that can end up in shampoo and conditioner, and even the glycerin in your toothpaste could be animal-derived. When it comes to shopping for personal care items, at least we have the option of reading labels and supporting vegan brands that assure us that no animal byproducts were used or live animals tested upon. To find out whether or not an alcoholic beverage of choice is vegan-friendly, check out www.barnivore.com. This extensive on-line resource currently lists over 37,000 beer, wine and liquor products by country. If you don’t see your favourite listed there the next step is to contact its maker directly.
Of course buying wine made from organically grown fruits is important if we wish to avoid supporting the use of toxic pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers that also put animals and our ecosystems at risk. By the fall of 2018 here in BC, all producers, processors and handlers of organic foods and beverages will require documentation verifying their products have accredited organic certification – including at farm gate sales, farmers’ markets and retail stores. According to the Certified Organic Association of BC (COABC) this new regulation is driven by the consumer need for clearer definitions and regulations around the term “organic,” and is long overdue. Forty-nine growers are currently included in the ‘wine’ category on the COAB website, with a handful listed as ‘transitional’. A bit of cross-referencing is required to determine what kind of fining agents might be utilized by any one certified organic (or transitioning) winery. But it only took me a couple of minutes to locate several who also eschew animal products in their clarification process – Rustic Roots Winery in Cawston, Covert Farms in Oliver and the award-winning Beaufort Winery right here in the Comox Valley!
I recommend a dry white (like the Beaufort Epic) as the perfect accompaniment to the following recipe!
Resistance Risotto (Vegan Gourmet Mushroom)
(serves 4 to 6)
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 3 T. olive oil
- 2 pounds (4 cups) sliced mushrooms (white, brown, portabella, oyster, porcini)
- 2 T. dried mushrooms, reconstituted (optional)
- 2 shallots, diced
- 1 and 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- sea salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3 T. finely chopped chives
- 2 T. organic Earth Balance (or other vegan butter)
- 1 tsp. Truffle oil (optional)
- In a saucepan, warm the vegetable broth over low heat. I like to make my own with
organic ‘Better than Bouillon’ paste.
- Using a large pan, saute all of the sliced mushrooms in 2 T of olive oil and cook until soft, approx. 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and their liquid and set aside.
- Lower heat to medium-low, add 1 T. of olive oil and stir in the shallots. Cook 1 minute.
- Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes.
- When the rice has taken on a pale, golden colour, pour in the wine, stirring
constantly until it is fully absorbed.
- Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 a cup at a time, stirring continuously until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and stir in the mushrooms, Earth Balance, chives and truffle oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!