No complaints about vegan-friendly wines

Today's article is not about friendly vegans, but rather, what makes a wine vegan (or vegan friendly)?

The process that makes wine vegan (or not) is fining. As fermentation concludes, wine is cloudy due to a mix of minute grape skin fragments, yeast cells, proteins, tartrates, phenolics and tannins which occur naturally during fermentation and are in no way harmful. If left long enough these will naturally settle to the bottom of the storage vessel, though time is a luxury that relatively few wineries possess.

Faced with murky wine, far from aesthetically pleasing to consumers, winemakers use fining agents, which speed flocculation, clarify the wine and can soften harsh tannins and phenolics where necessary. Wineries that don't fine are, therefore, vegan. Similarly those following natural winemaking protocols.

Historically, animal-based fining agents - such as isinglass (derived from fish swim bladders), albumen (egg whites), casein (milk) and gelatin - have been commonplace.

At the conclusion of the fining process, microscopic quantities of these fining agents, may remain in solution, which is why you may see back labels stating ``egg, fish or milk products have been used in the production of this wine: traces may remain''.

While this does not affect flavour and is of no consequence to the general public, using any animal product or by-product is unacceptable to vegans. Today, plant-based fining alternatives are available, along with bentonite clay and PKPP (a negatively charged plastic lattice) among others. Their use qualifies as vegan.

I've wracked my brain regarding Otago wineries which are vegan friendly, and can confirm that Akarua, Black Star, Burn Cottage (not 2014 Moonlight Race), Carrick, Chard Farm, Doctors Flat, Domaine Rewa, Mount Edward, Mount Difficulty, Rockburn and Sato are vegan friendly. If I've missed anyone, please get in touch and I'll mention you in a follow-up.



2016 Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Gris

Price: $30
Rating: Excellent

A beguiling nose with hints of wild yeast, comb honey, nuttiness and straw. Nice depth of flavour on entry: a wine that doesn’t shout from the rooftops, but is neatly balanced and all in place. A little bit of fruit jube sweetness finds its match in some chalky, fruit pith to counter. A delightfully fresh and long close makes this rather moreish.


2016 Carrick Bannockburn Pinot Gris

Price: $27
Rating: Excellent

The savoury nuances, nuts and poached pears lend the nose a drier feel. Richly textural, the savoury notes are joined by almond and marzipan, apricot and apricot kernel, giving excellent complexity to the palate, while the citrus acidity brings real brightness. Concentrated and with a core of fruit sweetness, though relatively dry. A delightful mouthful.


2016 Mt Difficulty Bannockburn Pinot Gris

Price: $27
Rating: Excellent

Sweetly floral nose, lanolin and gum at first, with stonefruit flooding in. Supple and fine in the mouth with hints of pepper, spice and nuts topping the fruit backdrop.
Relatively tight at first, yet fascinating as time sees the wine unfurl, building in fruit intensity, weight and texture, adding a simply gorgeous finish. This just keeps on improving.



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