Published by Alex Hurley on 08/02/2019
Alex Hurley, Roberson Wine's Assistant Winemaker, takes a deeper look into what goes into our wines.
With ‘Veganuary’ more popular than ever this year, many of us spent last month deeply considering our food choices. This magnifying glass can also be applied to the production of wine, which sometimes involves the inclusion of products that are not in line with vegetarianism or veganism. Drinking wine romantically conjures up images of picturesque vineyards, musty cellars full of barrels, and passionate winemakers. Whilst this idealistic representation of wine helps us connect with the product, it shouldn’t be overlooked that in the production of every bottle there are hundreds of viticultural and enological decisions impacting how the grapes were grown and the wine was made.
Some grape growers and winemakers approach grapes with their hands in the air. These are the minimal interventionists, who allow the wines to set their own course. This hands-off approach can result in some astonishingly fabulous wines; wines which speak of their place, their grape, and the personality of the winery. This winemaking method, however, does have its risk and many examples find their way to the table with severe problems. These faulty wines struggle to represent their variety or vineyard, but rather speak of wildness where the hard work with the vines, the vitality of the soil, the climatic influences of the vintage, as well as efforts in the cellar are whitewashed by off-aromas, haze, or poor balance.
This is where a winemaker’s knowledge of chemistry and microbiology enters the arena. From fruit arrival to bottling, a winemaker’s responsibility is to guide the process to ensure that the best wine possible is created from the grapes. This involves making thoughtful enological decisions which fit with the wine style and winery ethos. As part of this process, whether a wine is conventional, organic, or biodynamic, non-grape products, commonly referred to as ‘additions’, are regularly used and added into the wine. These additions have a purpose such as improving the wines clarity, protecting from oxidation, improving shelf-life stability and age-ability, softening or reducing astringency and bitterness, or preventing unwanted yeast and bacteria from hijacking the wine. One such traditional method of wine clarification was, for example, to add egg whites into barrels of red wine. The proteins in the egg white helps to attract and settle out tannins and solids in the wine and helps the wine to become more palatable.
The challenge for the consumer, however, is to get to the bottom of what was used to make a specific bottle of wine. For vegans, vegetarians and people with allergies, this point is perhaps a little more critical as many of these products are derived from animal sources such as eggs, fish, cow’s milk, and gelatine. Whether or not these products have been used can be difficult to answer, so it is the best course for vegans to source accredited vegan appropriate wines. Another option would be to contact producers directly as many wines which are not explicitly labelled as vegan would, in fact, fit the criteria. The good news in this area of winemaking is that many producers are now taking heed of the growing demand for vegan-friendly wines. There are now effective substitutable products in the market place which can be used with similar impact.
We've taken the hard work out of finding vegan wines by putting them all in a handy collection. Browse the vegan wine collection now.
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