What is Vegan Wine?
What makes a vegan wine? Isn't all wine vegan? Mags investigates.... The vegan community is on the rise, with more than half a million vegans living in the UK at the last count. Does the decision to go vegan mean giving up your favourite tipple? Certainly not! There are a huge selection of wines that are suitable for vegans. But both vegans and non-vegans alike may wonder why animal products might be involved in wine production at all. After all, isn't wine just made of grapes? Of course, the raw ingredient of wine is grapes. If these grapes were left to grow wildly and the fermentation process allowed to happen spontaneously and totally uninterrupted, the product would certainly be vegan. However, the taste would be nothing like what we’re used to drinking, since winemakers typically intervene in the process to improve the quality of their wine – and these interventions may sometimes involve products derived from animal sources. A basic understanding of the winemaking process will shed some light into vegan-friendly wines. The process goes as follows: The Winemaking Process: Harvesting - Crushing - Pressing - Fermentation - Clarification and Fining - Stabilisation - Bottling At the crush, the winemaker can add enzymes such as pectinase to aid in the extraction of flavour aromas. These enzymes can be naturally extracted (from mushrooms), or synthetically produced in a lab. The choice boils down to price points sought, the grape variety and suitability to the winemaker’s preference. Then there’s the clarification and fining stage, performed because most drinkers don’t want “bits” floating around in their wines. After fermentation, the alcoholic liquid isn’t the clear and bright elixir we see on our shelves; it is more akin to a cloudy cider than a glass of wine. Simply filtering the wine isn’t as easy as it sounds, since the lees is so fine that you’d need specialized membrane filters, which come at a cost and may harm the wine’s flavour. The answer is to use fining agents such as Bentonite, Casein, Gelatine, Isinglass, or Kieselsol, which can be natural, synthetic, plant or animal based. The reason that animal products might be used at this stage may be due to cost, but also because some fining agents are more suitable to certain styles of wine. For example, Albumin from egg whites gives a smoother mouthfeel and softer tannin profile to fine red wines, hence its widespread use in Bordeaux. It’s important to note that, whatever fining agent is used, it doesn’t remain in the wine – the process of fining removes both fermentation particles and the fining agent itself. However, vegans will still wish to avoid drinking wines which have been fined using an animal-derivative product. There is good news however. As winemaking science continues to make great strides, winemakers are finding increasingly clever ways to achieve stable, clear wines with minimal intervention. Being vegan is no reason to avoid drinking wine, since our huge range of vegan-suitable wines is sufficiently diverse to please even the most discerning of palates.
My WSET Journey
Starting today, Roberson is now an accredited provider of WSET courses. WSET qualifications are globally recognised as the international standard in wine and spirit knowledge. You need no prior knowledge or experience of wines, just an interest and a willingness to learn and explore. WSET Level 1 is very much an introduction to the world of wines. You learn the main types of wine, how to pair them with food, how to serve and store wine and the main grape varieties. This enables you to confidently select wines which will best accompany any dish, and answer nagging questions which might have been too embarrassing to ask such as, “what’s the difference between Champagne and Prosecco” – besides the price of course! The WSET sets you on a path which opens a world of endless possibilities and opportunities. For me, it revealed a passion for a subject I never knew existed. Never again will you be intimidated by a wine list. You’ll become the “wine-o” amongst your circle of friends, the trusted “expert”, and above all, you’ll gain a qualification which is internationally recognised. I started as a 19-year-old cider drinker with no knowledge of wine whatsoever. What began as ‘casual learning’ and an opportunity to earn a little more (working in the wine department of a major supermarket) ended up as my career, enabling me to travel to some incredible parts of the world, meeting some amazing people. I went for a 5k run along the shores of Lake Garda, sipped Xakoli at midnight in the Basque country and stood at 1,000 meters altitude at Adige, overlooking Trentino. All that started with a single WSET class all those years ago. Today, I’m studying for the Master of Wine qualification. Take WSET Level 1 at Roberson and you will have the opportunity to learn about wines in an actual winery, something which many wine students would kill for. The course is designed to bring wine studies to life. There is no theorising - you will have the unique opportunity to see everything from a press to an oak barrel up close and personal. Immerse yourself in this one-day course and discover the fascinating world of wine. You won't regret it. For more information and to book, visit our WSET page.
Roberson Staff Christmas Picks
Christmas is a busy time for staff at Roberson Wine. Whether they’re helping our customers with their online orders, or dealing with seasonal demand from our restaurant, hotel and independent wine merchant clients, there’s always a huge amount going on. So, when the last order has been taken and the final bottle delivered, what do Roberson staff members look forward to cracking open and getting stuck into? Read on and find out…. Paul Williamson - Private Client Sales Manager Christmas morning for me is all about bubbles. And family. But mainly bubbles. Jean-Paul Thevenet's sparkling Gamay 'On Pete la Soif' is the perfect wine for getting the day started. Light on alcohol, lively bubbles and just the right amount of sweetness makes it extremely gluggable and the perfect morning tipple to start things off with a pop. Ben Greene - Head of Retail and Online As a wine professional I’m sure I should have read John Szabo’s excellently-reviewed “Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power” when it came out last year. In mitigation, I should say that I have spent much of the time I saved by not doing that, drinking and enjoying wines grown in volcanic soil. In particular, whites from Santorini and, like Cantine Murgo’s Etna Bianco, Mount Etna, which seems to share some of the same qualities of minerality, depth and freshness. At this price, Etna Bianco is one of my finds of the year. Anna von Bertele - Online Department Assistant Manager The red and white from Pandolfa are perfect for any occasion with friends – not only are the label images completely charming with their rosy cheeks and pointy noses, but the wines also taste pretty darn delicious too! Fruit-forward in style, these are easy-to drink and go well with a wide range of foods; I’m yet to meet a friend who hasn’t also fallen in love with them. They’re the ideal white and red for any drinks party or entertaining this December. Simon Huntington - Ecommerce Specialist I adore red Burgundy at Christmas time. OK I adore red Burgundy all of the time – but with Christmas foods the combination of delicate, silky structure, and ripe, fragrant, red berry fruit, just seems to sing. At home we’ve always enjoyed red wines with our turkey on Christmas day, and a magnum of Guillemot’s Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Aux Serpentieres should go perfectly this year. Being from one of the less well-known vineyard areas, but made by the incredibly talented Pierre Guillemot, it’s an extraordinary wine at a relatively ordinary price. Sarah Jones - Marketing Executive For the main event, I plan to drink two of my favourite red discoveries this year. It would be rude not to include one of our brand new incredible Californian wines, a distinctive Carignan from Mendocino. It’s velvety, crunchy and filled with red berries – the perfect match with turkey. And I can’t write this piece without including my favourite wine of the year - Seth Kunin's Syrah, an elegant, medium bodied, Rhône-style wine from Santa Barbara. It’s such a classy wine, I really doubt that anyone could dislike it. I will raise a glass to Seth, a much respected and missed pioneer in the trade, long may the Kunin estate continue to make wines of such quality. Lee Talbot - Fine Wine Trade Sales Christmas is undoubtedly my favourite time of year. As soon as we skip happily into December, my vast array of Christmas jumpers come out with pride, annoying everyone in their path. Once my jumper is on and I'm in the festive spirit, it’s on to choosing the Christmas wines for the family. One of the first wines on my Christmas shopping list every year is Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV. Christmas Day breakfast is a special meal in my family - not just something you have to meander through before ripping open your presents. Smoked salmon, creme fraiche and caviar blinis topped with a smidge of dill and cayenne pepper - nothing too extravagant. After years of drinking bucks fizz with breakfast, I eventually encouraged the family to invest in a proper drink, and we've never looked back. Ruinart’s ripe citrus acidity goes fantastically well with those wonderful fishy flavours, and the full bodied, creamy richness and brioche flavour that is quintessentially a Blanc de Blancs shines through for this absolute stunner of a Champagne. Another reason to look forward to Christmas then. Shana Dilworth - On-Trade Sales An elegant all-rounder, the joy of A Tribute to Grace’s Santa Barbara County Grenache is the diverse range of food it pairs with - anywhere from short rib ragout to nut roast - as well as being great on its own. I equate it to the kind of person who you want to have over for Christmas - warm, kind and well-versed; someone who encourages conversation without dominating the crowd. In a word - scrumptious. Happy Drinking!
Riesling - The King of Grapes
I’m going to stick my neck out here and say Riesling is the best white grape out there. I’m sure some will find this controversial, but hear me out. Yes, I grant you Chardonnay at its very best in the Côte de Beaune and latterly, California, can be beyond glorious. Yes, there are some wonderfully expressive Italian grape varieties out there. For some a cool crisp Marlborough Sauvignon is unbeatable, but as Jancis Robinson says (she beat me to it) “Wine made from Riesling is quite unlike any other.” Versatility: Riesling's Strength and weakness? Is there another grape variety that is quite so versatile? This is a grape that always expresses its soil and climate. From the steeliness of a bone-dry Clare Valley, to the sumptuous complexity of an Alsatian Grand Cru; from the gentle minerality of a Mosel Kabinett, to the pure lushness of a Niagara Ice-wine, Riesling has versatility in spades. At home in cooler climates, Riesling is also found in regions perhaps better known for other grape varieties. For example, Napa Valley (Smith Madrone), Austria’s home of Grüner Veltliner, the Weinviertel (Ebner-Ebenauer), Santa Barbara (Tatomer) on the central Californian coast, which is usually associated with Pinot Noirs, Syrahs and Chardonnays. Perhaps this wide range of growing regions and styles is why those working in the wine trade can’t get enough. There’s always a new Riesling to seek out; and the play-off between acidity and sweetness, and the characteristics from different regions mean each bottle always offers something new. For food lovers, Riesling provides options to match starters, mains and desserts. A dry style will pair well with old-school roast pork, while an off-dry style is the perfect match with the spice of Thai or Vietnamese dishes. Maybe having such a wide range of expressions has also worked to its detriment. After all, with this grape it’s not always clear what style you’re going to get, something one can’t say of Sauvignon Blanc. To the uninitiated drinker, those Rieslings from its native country of Germany can be particularly confusing thanks to a bewildering number of wine classifications, whose complexity is only enhanced by the many geographic classifications. So how do you find a Riesling you'll like? Happily, the internet has made researching your next bottle of Riesling much easier. Enter the name of a wine into the search engine of your choice, and the resulting tasting notes and reviews will give you a good idea of its style and taste. If this isn’t an option, then a very basic rule of thumb is to look at the alcohol level; the higher it is, the more likely it is going to be a dry style, whereas an ABV of 10% or lower will almost certainly be off-dry or sweeter (Spätlese or Auslese on a German label may be indicative of this as well). Or if you are buying from a reputable wine merchant then simply ask for some advice. Whatever you do, try more Riesling, you won’t regret it. Oh, and it’s Reece-ling, not Rice-ling.
Open Cellar Door
Taste and Buy our Best-Sellers, from the Cellar Door Did you know that we have an award-winning winery, underneath our offices in Fulham? Come and see us at the cellar door to taste and buy our best-sellers - and check out London's first urban winery. Wines available to take home from the winery, or place orders for home delivery. Date: 13th December Time: 5pm - 8pm Location: 21-27 Seagrave Road, SW6 1RP (opposite The Atlas pub)
Hibernating in style
When it’s cold, wet and starting to get dark around the same time you’re eating lunch, there’s only one thing for it: hunker down and wait for spring. After all, why would you want to go out when there’s a new series of Stranger Things on Netflix? But just because you’re wintering like a Grizzly doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself. It’s the best time of year for all sorts of delicious foods. And you’re much better off relaxing with friends over a cosy dinner chez vous, than fighting over the last 8pm table at Tres Cher. So how do you hibernate in style? Here are a few pro-level tips from Roberson Wine: The inexpensive Crémant that’s better than Champagne You might be staying in, but that’s no reason not to celebrate, even if you’re just celebrating the fact that you’re toasty and dry while the rest of the world are out losing their minds over hipster fried chicken and closed loop cocktails. J Laurens’ Champagne-method Crémant de Limoux is so well-made that it’s easily as good as most Champagnes costing twice as much. But at under £15 per bottle, you really can open a bottle just because it’s Friday night and you fancy some bubbles. Whites to keep in the fridge door What’s your tactic for fast-chilling a bottle when someone fancies a glass of white? Stick it in the freezer? Run it under a cold tap? Chuck a couple of ice cubes in the glass? Much better always to have something light, fresh and crisp sat in the fridge, ready for action. But why does it have to be boring old Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio? Try one of these inexpensive, but completely delicious beauties instead: Domaine des Cognettes Muscadet Ebner-Ebenauer Grüner Veltliner London Cru Baker Street Bacchus Fattoria Kappa Etabeta Vermentino Reds to drink with chocolate What could be better than stretching out on the sofa with a good book, some chocolate and a glass of red, while the rain lashes down outside? But does red wine even match with chocolate? First of all, we’re going to have to get something straight: there’s chocolate and then there’s chocolate. Dry red wines just don't match well with cheaper, more sugary, mass-market chocolate bars; if you're a Yorkie bar trucker or a Milkybar kid, you’d be better off going with a Pedro Ximinez Sherry. But increase the cocoa content to 60% or more and red wine matches start to work – after all, high-quality chocolate and red wine contain the same type of polyphenols, which are the plant compounds that act as antioxidants. You’ll still need to go for something ripe and velvety with soft tannins, so we’d recommend the following - all under £20: Vistalba Temporada Malbec Dupeuble Beaujolais Villages Viano Zinfandel Moobuzz Pinot Noir Reds to impress your foodie friends There are so many amazing flavours to be had at this time of year that you’d be crazy not to invite a few friends over, cook something special and get stuck in. Most game birds are now in season, British venison is widely available in the supermarkets, and it’s truffle festival time in Alba. If you want a great read about wines to drink with autumnal foods, check out David Adamick’s post The Great Game, but in general, full-flavoured reds with balancing juicy acidity tend to work well with both game and mushroom-based foods. David recommends: Mushrooms: Le Cantine Murgo Etna Rosso Wood Pigeon and Wild Boar: Coster del Sio Les Creus Venison: Hunt & Harvest Napa Cabernet Sauvignon The ridiculously under-priced sweet wine If you’ve heard anything about Sauternes, you’ll have heard that the most sought-after estate in the region is Chateau d'Yquem. The estate’s combination of topography and proximity to the river Garonne give its vineyards the perfect microclimate for the flourishing of Botrytis – the noble rot responsible for the world’s greatest sweet wines. But if you’ve heard anything about Sauternes, you’ll also have heard that Chateau d’Yquem can cost a fortune. However, nestled in the middle of d’Yquem’s vineyards is an interesting anomaly – a tract of land surrounded by d’Yquem on all sides, but owned by someone else entirely – Chateau Lafon. It’s one of the only significant Sauternes estates still to be family-owned and it’s rich, lusciously sweet, and a perfect match for blue cheese. But unlike d’Yquem, no one’s heard of Lafon, so a half bottle of their delicious nectar can be had for just £11.99. --- Happy Hibernation!
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