(NaturalNews) Although very few beers or wines are made using animal ingredients, such ingredients are often used during the filtration process, in which natural solids are removed to give the final product a translucent appearance.
These solids include ingredients that are part of the original recipe (such as grape skins) as well as solids that form during fermentation (such as yeast cells).
Common filtering (or "fining") additives include egg whites, milk proteins, sea shells, gelatin (made from animal hides) and isinglass (a substance similar to gelatin, made from the swim bladders of fish!).
In the past, cow blood was a relatively common fining agent, but it has now been banned in the European Union due to mad cow disease concerns. Some wines from other regions may still be fined with blood, however.
Alcoholic beverages bearing a "vegan" label are made without any of these ingredients, but in most cases the use or non-use of such ingredients is not marked on the label. The best way to know for certain what fining agents were used is to contact the winery or brewery directly.
Several websites archive information obtained on this issue from different alcoholic beverage manufacturers.