Vegan, Vegetarian and Organic, - what does it all mean????

Aren't all wines Vegan or Even Vegetarian?

Nearly 2.5 million Aussies state that they are vegetarians, and we are the third fastest-growing vegan market in the world, Aussies today are looking more and more for healthier alternatives and are watching what we put into our bodies.

So in saying that we all know wine is made from grapes. Yeasts, either natural or cultured, convert the grape juice sugars into alcohol. So this sounds to be vegan-friendly so far right .

The reason that all wines are not vegan or even vegetarian-friendly has to do with how the wine is clarified and a process called ‘fining’. All young, new wines are hazy and contain tiny molecules such as proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics. These are all natural, and in no way harmful, but most wine drinkers like their wine to be clear and not to have floaters in their glass.

So traditionally producers have used a variety of additives called ‘fining agents’ to help the process along. The fining agent reacts with the wine components either chemically or physically, then like a magnet – attracts the molecules around it.

The most common fining agents are casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein) and isinglass (fish bladder protein). These fining agents are known as processing aids. They are not additives to the wine, as they are precipitated out along with the haze molecules.

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.

Many vegan wines are using clay-based fining agents such as bentonite, which are particularly efficient at fining out unwanted proteins. Activated charcoal is another vegan and vegetarian-friendly agent that is also used.

Why organic wines:

The main difference between organic wine and traditional wine is that the organic variety is made from grapes free of artificial, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.

The beauty of organic wine is in its simplicity. With less intervention, organic winemakers can capture the natural beauty of the grapes and this is reflected in the flavours you’ll discover in the glass. Organic wines are known for their purity and clarity of flavour, as well as their ability to be a true reflection of the terroir that they come from.

To sell Certified Organic Wine in Australia a winery must be certified. There are a number of different certification bodies including Australian Certified Organic, NASAA Organic, Certified BioGro Organic – look for the logo on the bottle to confirm the wine is Certified Organic.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2). ‘preservative 220’, or even ‘antioxidant 220’.

Sulphites are common as preservative agents also – hence the ‘may contain sulphites’ notice you’ll see on many bottles.They reduce the possibility of spoilage of the wine by wild yeast and bacteria and they stop the wine from oxidising. But the better the grapes are handled in the vineyard and the better the quality of the fruit, the less need there is to add any such preservatives.  

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