Fining wine-ing

What do you do when you’re snuggled in a comfortable seat with unlimited movies and a hearty prepackaged meal on your hands?

Well, I decided to order some wine and start binging, because for the next 13 hours, I had nothing else to do but wait for my flight to touch down in San Francisco.

I was travelling from Sydney for a work event and I couldn’t have asked for a better meal or hospitality. Unlike most people’s claims, I’ve always thought airplane food quite good. Despite being a picky vegan, I’ve managed to find the meals palatable and enjoyable.

So of course I was going to complement it with wine. A white sauvignon blanc, please, I asked. And with a wide smile, the cabin staff member handed me a two-serve bottle of wine. Settling myself in a more comfortable position, I glanced at the label as I always did.

“Made with the aid of egg whites and traces may remain.”

My heart stopped in mid air. Egg whites in wine? Wasn’t that illegal? Why would anyone combine grape juice with eggs? What abomination?

Questions bombarded my already heavy head. Everything I knew and loved about wine came to a sudden halt and I started questioning my entire affliction to the grape nectar. I started searching my brain for any information I’d heard or read of that justified or even explained the use of dairy in winemaking. Alas, not even my memories of winery visits and tastings revealed anything to shed light on this phenomenon.

I waited for what seemed like an eternity for the cabin member to pass my seat again. I returned the unopened white and asked for a red instead—a syrah, this time. With another, judgement sans smile, he handed me a bottle, twisting the cap open as if to indicate I couldn’t change my mind anymore.

“Made with the aid of egg whites and milk and traces may remain.”

I drank the wine. I was having bad headache and it wasn’t the time to research or argue with the flight crew about my dietary preferences in alcohol. In a moment of deep sadness, guilt, and weakness, I drowned the wine and slept like a baby for the next 12 hours.

Three days later, still battling jet lag, I looked it up online. According to some articles, winemakers use egg whites, milk, and even fish bones to help separate the natural sediments in wine. Grape starches, peels, and other natural and goopy stuff that occur during the ageing process stick to these dairy products and sink to the bottom of the barrel. This makes it easier for winemakers to filter those sediments from the wine that goes into bottling. The entire process is called fining—refining the wine from the undesirable lumpiness of the residue from crushed grapes.

So there we have it—although the eggs and milk don’t leave any trace in the actual wine that goes into our bottles and glasses, dairy is an ancient part of the wine process.

What’s interesting though, is that most modern winemakers have found vegetarian alternatives like seaweed and volcanic clay for their fining processes. And when they use dairy, they say so in their labels—it’s even required by law in Australia and New Zealand.

Ha. And I used to think “vegan wines” was just a modern marketing stunt!

The past is now

Last year I spent a month in the US for work. And though I did work, I also had the chance to explore the city of San Francisco. I made so many wonderful memories and pictures walking those streets. Each of which I cherish to this day and will forever. Every photo has a separate story—what I was thinking at the time, how I felt, where I planned to go next…

One of such memories is walking down Haight Ashbury. It was a glorious fusion of the modern world and the retro world that always brings a smile on my face. It’s one of my all-time favourites.

Haight Ashbury

Drawing the line

It’s weird how sometimes people never know where and how to draw the line. Although in this case, it looked to me as if the architect of the De Young Museum in San Francisco did a wonderful job of putting their toes out of the lines.


Story of my journey

My first and only time in the US, everything caught my eye. And everything that caught my eye made me catch my breath. The largeness of it all left me gaping and wondering, looking up at towering structures and gulping down amazement. It was like living in a movie—with a dramatic, exaggerative story.

San Francisco

What no one says about travelling

When you read travel blogs, it’s always about how fascinating the journey is, how helpful people are, how charming the kids behave, and how scrumptious the meals are. Few bloggers talk about the sprained ankles, weak knees, and frostbite. And almost no one says how it is to hear about a terror attack in a place they’ve once been in. We should talk about that more often.

Travelling is a wonderful way to spend your life. Not only does travel teach you to handle yourself in a more mature way, but it also teaches you to be respectful, humble, and not be an asshole. Travelling throws you in uncomfortable places, shoves down your throat experiences you don’t want, while still bringing you out feeling fresh and craving more. That’s the beauty of travel. I’ve yet to meet a traveller who’s tired of travelling. I’ve yet to encounter a wanderer who doesn’t want to wander anymore. I’ve yet to camp with a hiker who’s ready to give up high sights for high heels. If there’s anything that all travellers share, it’s the passion for travelling despite the hardship. I’m no different.

Although I haven’t travelled as far and as wide as many other travel bloggers, I’ve seen enough to know that I never want to buy a house and settle down for good. I’ve walked enough to know that I can walk more, and I’ve seen enough to know I’ve seen only a grain of the desert. But I’ve also been to a place that’s no longer the place as I remember it.

Buena Vista Park, San Francisco
Buena Vista Park, San Francisco

I was in California a few months ago. I was travelling for work, but catching as much as non-work sights as possible. The city of San Francisco sits in my memory as a wonderful and welcoming region of all people and opinions. The district of Castro remains as a place I can always visit and share the cheer. So when I left the country, I felt I knew San Francisco a little better than I did before visiting.

Within a month of being back, I heard news about a random shooting incident in Castro. Several people heard gun shots in the dead of the night, and a police officer got hurt.
Out of nowhere a tight knot clenched my throat. I’d been there. I know where it happened for I’d been standing on that same spot a mere weeks ago. I’d bought coffee in that locality. I’d rested my sore feet after hours of continuous walking. The place that gave me comfort had given someone else a death sentence. I didn’t even know the place anymore.

The streets of Castro
Castro, San Francisco

It was no longer the place I’d fallen in love with. That incident made me wonder if what I’d experienced there was even real. Sure, I was a tourist and tourism isn’t the same as everyday life. When I walked the streets of San Francisco, however, nothing about it showed hatred or a potential threat. That’s why the news left me nonplussed. Over the next week, I read about three different shooting incidents in the same city I’d grown to admire.

While this happened, wildfires raged all over California. Although I knew the state is prone to fires every summer, and seeing hills in their neighbourhood go up in flames isn’t new for the residents, it still shocked me. It pained me to watch graphic images of searing red flames lapping up through grass and grass-fed beef as a vacuum sucking up dog hair.

None of these incidents made me hate California. They, instead, left me lamenting. We no longer care for the things we should care about. We don’t see in our land what a foreigner sees. We’ve reached a point where it takes strangers to identify the beauty around us.

All these have made me more vulnerable to distressing news. I flinch when I hear about a stabbing in a place I’ve visited. Even if the incident isn’t related to me or with even the safety index of that particular city, it still affects me. It’s made me more sensitive and inclined to preaching a peaceful society. Travelling has made me care more about this place we call home.

Perhaps, just perhaps, if people travelled more, we’d appreciate the world more — leaving it better than when we entered.

Well, I can hope, can’t I?