I used to assume that all wines were essentially Vegan. It’s of the earth, made of fermented grapes, and that’s about it. Or so I thought. And the big O to which I’m referring is Organic wine, not…Ohio.
Vegan and organic wines are often mistaken as interchangeable; because a wine is labelled organic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s vegan. Yet vegan wine is usually organic. Got it? You will.
A vegan wine is due to the process it goes through, specifically the fining or filtering process. During wine production, elements are introduced to clear the wine, ridding it of cloudiness, bitterness – removing ‘off’ tastes and aromas. Fining agents tend to work like a magnet, collecting the unwanted constituents that settle to the bottom of the tank. The filtered, clear wine is filtered once again before it is bottled, so there are no traces of the fining agents that remain in the final product.
Fining agents include:
- Egg Albumin
- Milk Proteins
- Edible Gelatin (from bone)
- Isinglass (from fish)
Since vegans do not consume anything with animal components, you can understand why this would go against the grain. In a truly vegan wine, the most common fining agent used is Bentonite Clay, a safe element that absorbs proteins in the wine causing that pesky, hazy cloudiness and bitterness.
Organic wines are produced without the use of conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers (or sewage-sludge fertilizers…ew), bio-engineering or ionizing radiation. Organic vineyards have a government approved certifier to make sure that USDA organic standards are met.
Types of Organic wines:
- 100% ~ Organically grown with no added sulfites. NSA wines use only naturally occuring sulfites (from fermenting yeast that’s already present on the grapes). It can be considered an NSA wine if any added sulfites or total added sulfites don’t exceed 10ppm/bottle.
- Made from Organic grapes ~ (adhering to the above USDA standards). These wines may have additional sulfates.
- Biodynamically Farmed ~ This uses the vineyards natural resources to produce high-quality grapes without using pesticides, fungicides, herbacides, synthetic fertilizers or growth stimulants. Certified biodynamic vinyards meet and usually exceed standards of organic certified farming.
- Sustainable Farming ~ For a farm to be sustainable, it must maintian productivity while supporting the long-term health of the eco system. They do this in a vairety of ways including encouraging and attracting insects that are beneficial to the vineyard; they attack the nasty ones while maintaining integrity to the vines and ripening fruit.
I Love “Ewe”
That’s a really bad pun. Every time I write a bad pun, you should take a drink of wine. You’ll be through that bottle of vegan wine in no time.
A growing number of organic, biodynamic sustainable farmers are using sheep to groom their vineyards. In fact, there are those who specialize in training both sheep and goats to eat only the weeds at their hooves, leaving the grape leaves, vines and emerging fruit to flourish. It’s a delicate balance; if they’re not trained, they’ll eat everything in front of them. And they might be pretty ticked if you try to tell them any different.
I’ve never had organic wine, much less vegan and I’m looking forward to seeing whether there is a discernible difference between organic, vegan and traditional.
In my next post, I’ll compare and contrast, but I am having a bit of a challenge finding a true vegan wine at my local wine store. I’ll keep looking because the best part about being the wine student is experimenting.