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Vegan / Organic
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The key to Natural Wine is minimal chemical and technological intervention. This covers both the growing of grapes and the production of wine itself. Whilst wine can be considered both organic and biodynamic it still might fail a strict Natural Wine criteria.
But that’s the problem! There is no agreed standard of Natural Wine (be it across regions or nations) and indeed legally recognizable qualification bodies do not exist.
Perhaps it is more sensible when describing such wines to reference Natural ‘principles’ rather than any apparent factual statement.
It is generally agreed that Natural Wines, at a minimum, must be grown organically. Although it should be noted some wines considered ‘Organic’ may have tiny amounts of sulphur added. This in itself would contravene many Natural Wine definitions.
Some scouring of the internet reveals some common themes around views on Natural Wine criteria:
Grown to organic principles
Native yeasts only
No added sugar, acids, colour, sulphur, flavouring of any kind (some consider oak a no no!)
No or very limited filtration or use of techniques such as fruit concentration
Simply put, nothing should be added or taken away in the production process. The wine is simply naturally fermented grape juice and nothing (or very little) else.
Organic Wine much easier to assess, not the least due to the fact many markets globally have introduced legally recognizable and enforceable labeling laws around what constitutes an organic product. Whilst laws and regulations differ from country to country there are some common themes for authentic organic wine (both grapes and production):
No Synthetic Fertilizers, Herbicides or Pesticides
No Added Sulfites
Biodynamic wines adheres to all organic criteria, plus the doctrines established by Rudolph Steinier, an Austrian philosopher and academic known for exploring the connection of science and spirituality. The principles, as they relate to grape growing, include:
Improving soil quality through crop rotation and allowing a diverse set of crops to grow within the vineyard to promote a more complex ecosystem
Planting, harvesting and pruning practices are determined by a specific calendar, taking into account both lunar cycles and the position of the sun and planets.
Can Wines be Vegan Friendly?
In a word ‘yes’.
The core focus is around (1) how the wine is fined / clarified and (2) does that process take place with an animal-based product? The existence of unfined wines is nothing new but in the main most wines will be clarified to some extent.
The most commonly used fining products include:
Casein (a milk protein)
Albumin (egg whites)
Gelatin (animal protein)
Isinglass (fish bladder protein)
Fining with casein and albumin is usually acceptable by most vegetarians but all four are off limits for vegans because tiny traces of the fining agent may be absorbed into the wine during the fining process.
But there are vegan friendly alternatives. These include: