Sparkling wine has always been the preferred choice of many people as a celebratory drink on special occasions. In the United States, Korbel champagne is the brand to remember if you want the best sparkling wine to give prestige to your event.
If you are planning to throw a party at home with your vegan friends, you might also consider buying sparkling wine just to follow the custom of having a celebration. Since Korbel champagne is a trending brand today, this might also be your first choice to add to your cart. Unfortunately, there is an issue in the production of Korbel champagne that will strike it off your vegan options.
What Is Korbel Champagne?
F. Korbel & Bros., the company behind the Korbel champagne, is based in Sonoma County, California. Over the years, it has built the reputation of being the best among all California sparkling wines. You can also find Korbel champagne in every wine store outside the west coast.
Korbel champagne has graced every occasion of American celebrities, politicians, and star athletes. Although, this sparkling wine brand is also a top pick of an ordinary American household. Korbel truly delivers in making bubbly liquors for all walks of life.
People knowledgeable about sparkling wine would tell you that there is only one champagne in the world, and that is French champagne. However, Korbel is already widely regarded as the “California champagne,” promising the same irresistible taste as French champagne.
Korbel takes pride in using the same traditional techniques as how French champagne is made. Still, some wine enthusiasts argue that the classification of champagne is based solely on where it came from. For them, it should only be made in the Champagne wine region in France.
The reason behind this argument is that the Champagne region is home to the pinot meunier, pinot noir, and chardonnay grapes, which are the main ingredients of the Champagne wine. However, California happens to grow the same ingredients, particularly the famed Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. Therefore, Korbel can produce its own champagne that captures the flavor of the original one.
The most popular variety of Korbel champagne is the Korbel natural, dubbed the company’s house style of California champagne. Korbel natural is made from pinot noir and chardonnay grapes.
Why Isn’t Korbel Champagne Vegan?
In some stores, Korbel champagne products are listed as vegan-approved. Unfortunately, this might be due to outdated information.
Before, the basis for declaring something as vegan or not was the contents. If animal derivatives are present in a product, it must be non-vegan. However, as more information becomes available over the years, the vegan classification has also expanded. In the case of sparkling wines and other types of liquors, what makes them non-vegan now also depends on the production process.
For one, earlier company letters from Korbel stated that their wines are made only of distilled grapes stored in oak barrels for a long period. No fish, gelatin, or dairy are included in Korbel wines, so they must all be suitable for vegan consumption.
As we go through the means of producing Korbel champagne, we can see why it is not vegan. Korbel’s processing stage for their wines requires a liquid gelatin solution. As all vegans know, gelatin is animal-based and therefore disqualifies any product that contains or requires its use for mass production.
Korbel states that gelatin is used only in a small percentage of their liquors, like Korbel Brut and Extra Dry liquors. However, the company claims that gelatin is not used in their production for their other products, such as Korbel Blanc de Noir, Korbel Brut Rose, and Korbel champagne.
With this claim, there is some hope that Korbel champagne could still get a vegan label. However, the fact that gelatin is present in Korbel’s factory raises doubt that all products made here might still be contaminated with an animal derivative. Vegans would not want their food and drinks to have even minor traces of animal byproducts.
The best way to ensure that sparkling wines’ production is free from animal products is to use a wine processing system made with diatomaceous silica, cellulose-based pads, and synthetic membrane cartridges.
Now, with all the details mentioned so far, you might have a 50/50 chance of considering Korbel champagne as a vegan. But here comes the dealbreaker – Korbel champagne contains C&H sugar. The issue here is that C&H sugar uses bone char in filtering sugar. This alone should remove Korbel champagne from your vegan list.
What Makes Champagnes And Other Sparkling Wines Non-Vegan?
Not only Korbel uses a liquor processing system with liquid gelatin. Specifically, gelatin and other animal byproducts are used as fining agents to purify the liquor.
Fining is the process of removing the unwanted contaminants from the liquor that were introduced while it was sitting in storage. Fining is part of the filtering and purifying process of wines that requires the addition of a special substance to filter out the elements that make the wine unclear or hazy.
Gelatin effectively removes colloid contaminants in the liquor, such as phenolics, polysaccharides, and tannins. Eliminating these substances also improves the taste of the liquor by flushing out the foul or bitter-tasting compounds.
Some winemakers refuse to fine or filter their products. They are afraid that the filtering process would also remove the wine’s distinct natural flavor and texture. The physical means of filtration would be enough for them, but this would only filter out the coarse particles from the liquor.
There are sparkling wine products available today that are labeled as natural wine. The reason is that these wines do not undergo fining or filtering. For vegans, this signifies that gelatin and other animal-derived filtering agents are not used in producing these wines.
Here are some of the animal products other than gelatin used in fining wine, therefore making the wine non-vegan:
- Isinglass: Isinglass is a substance found in the dried swim bladders of fish. It is collagen that has the same filtering qualities as gelatin.
- Carmine: Carmine is extracted from the dead bodies of cochineal beetles. It has many industrial uses, including wine production.
- Casein: Casein is a major protein in milk products. While dairy is not a primary ingredient of pure wine, casein can be used as a fining agent, specifically for white wines.
- Chitosan: Chitosan is a sugar extracted from the outer body of shellfish, including shrimps, crabs, and lobsters. This sugar is not used to enhance the flavor of wines but to act as an efficient fining substance during the filtration process.
- Egg albumen: Found in egg whites, albumen is used to make a fining solution to remove the phenolic compounds from raw liquor. As a protein, albumen binds with the larger polymeric materials in the wine so that they can be easily filtered out.
Champagne Products For Vegans
As we mentioned in the previous section, refined sugar is another major component of wines that can render a wine product anti-vegan. The use of charred animal bones to refine the sugar is not mentioned on the product label. Although, you can check with the company itself if they do not use animal by-products to process their sugar.
It is harder to tell if a champagne product uses vegan sugar. Looking at the label sometimes will not suffice if you want to make sure that all the processes used in the champagne’s ingredients do not require animal derivatives.
Fortunately, there are some champagne brands out there that are known to be vegan. These champagne makers understand that a good portion of their market comprises vegans and are good enough to make their products suitable for them.
Given below is a list of vegan champagnes that you can order online:
- Champagne Fieury
- Dom Perignon
- Domaine Ste
- Michelle Blanc de Blancs
- Michelle Blanc de Noirs
- Michelle Brut
- Michelle Extra Dry
- Michelle Luxe
Korbel champagne is a popular California sparkling wine product that is unfortunately not approved for vegan consumption. Still, you should not feel bad for not being able to try it because there are other vegan champagnes out there that you can buy.
After all, vegan champagnes are still made of the same ingredients to give you the exact same taste as champagne. The only difference lies with how the champagne was fined and filtered during the production stage. In terms of flavor and texture, vegan champagne definitely packs a punch.
As a vegan consumer, you must remain careful in picking your champagne. While it is true that there are certified vegan wine products in the market, there are some that might be incorrectly labeled as vegan-friendly.
For one, there are champagne products that are claimed to be vegan because they are natural and do not require the use of animal by-products for fining. However, you are not sure if the other contents in the champagne, such as refined sugar, are also vegan.
As always, the best way to confirm if a champagne product is vegan is to call the company directly. You can ask them politely if their champagne is suitable for vegans. If not, they can still have other vegan wine products to offer you. Remember that there are many choices out there that you can look up.