If you’re of the vegan persuasion then you’ll be chuffed to know that Blackenbrook Wines, in Tasman Bay near Nelson will be printing ‘vegan wine’ on all their white wines from the 2011 vintage.  The demand for vegan wines is on the increase according to Duncan Gillespie of Wellington’s Regional Wines & Spirits. “It’s following on from people looking at what’s in their food more closely” he says. “People are being more conscious of what they’re putting into their mouths. As well as requests for vegan wine, there’s been a trend towards people with allergies looking at how their wine is made and whether it is produced sustainably”.  Vegan’s will not knowingly consume anything which has been produced using animal products of any type, and Blackenbrook is one of less than 5% of wine producers in New Zealand who make vegan wines with accredited sustainable practices.

Moana Park winery in Hawke’s Bay have also been stickering their wines with ‘Vegetarian Society Approved’ monikers for a number of years now. So how does one clarify what constitutes a Vegan or vegetarian-friendly wine?  Well, that’s precisely it.  It’s all in how the wine is clarified, or ‘fined’.  This is the process of making the wine super-drinkable, sparkly-clean and stable before it’s bottled.  Fining removes bitterness and other unwanted components from the young wine, using milk, egg whites or fish products. Vegetarian wine rules allow casein, the main protein in milk, to be used to fine and clarify wine, along with albumin, or egg white whereas Vegan-approved wines ban casein and albumin, plus other animal products altogether.   In addition to Casein and Albumin common fining agents that are used in New Zealand are Isinglass (sourced from the swim bladder of the Sturgeon fish), Gelatine – (sourced from the hooves and tendons of cattle) and Carbon – (the burnt and ground bones of cattle) Although only minute quantities of these fining agents actually remain in the finished wines.

“A lot of people don’t realise that animal products are often used” says Daniel Schwarzenbach, Blackenbrook’s owner and winemaker. “We don’t add any finings because we don’t need to. Our driving philosophy has always been to let the grapes speak, with as little interference as possible. We’re able to produce vegan wine because of the design of the gravity-fed winery and the processes we use. Every time you pump or press the juice or wine, the rubbing motion creates bitterness. We don’t have to use fining agents because gravity does most of the work and our young wines are balanced and don’t show any bitterness” he says.“I think it’s important that if winemakers are doing things differently and not using additives that they label that well, because there is a market for it” adds Gillespie. “I’m pleased that Blackenbrook state clearly that no fining agents have been used, and will add the word ‘vegan’ because that makes it clear to the consumer.”

“The vegetarian status in our winery comes from a position of us not wanting to add these components to our wine and having a regime of honest winemaking. It of course means we need to pay more attention to detail, but we are sure of the benefits in the finished product. This approach to wine making is very minimalist with less additives used, and a resultant superior product” announces Moana Park’s website.  They too use gravity as a means of cleaning their wines, but they also use Bentonite, a natural Aluminium Silicate which eliminates any haze in the wines.  “We also cross-flow filter our wines so we don’t have to use bleached cardboard filter pads.  Leaving these products out of the wine means that our wines have superior mouthfeel, texture and flavour”.

Wrights Wines in Gisborne are also produce wines and verjuice which are organic, biodynamic and vegan.  www.wrightswines.co.nz.  www.vegetarianchristchurch.org.nz also has a list of vegetarian/vegan wines and beers available here in New Zealand or contact www.vegetarian.org.nz for further information.


Naked Winemaking

New on the market is New Zealand’s first ever documentary on the process of winemaking.  Produced by wine retailer Ben Naden and his mate, winemaker Shayne Cox (Corazon Wines) Passion and Patience, a wine story covers the entire process from getting the fruit ripe to getting it in a bottle.  Naden and Cox believe the 60minute documentary shows the level of skill and grit that goes into creating fine wines in a level of detail that’s never been seen before.  “Passion and Patience really sums up the winemaking process and we’ve tried to capture that, to give people a taste of what winemaking is all about.  We believe even the most ardent wine drinkers will learn a lot from this film”.  I really like the soundtrack, it’s contemporary and groovy – no boring, stereotypical jazz here, and Shayne’s narrative style is down-to-earth and cuts through all that industry jargon nicely.

The doco itself is very raw, and by that I mean that the camera work is wobbly, the audio is all over the place, the lighting is blown-out and the editing is rough.  There’s no flashy animation (a map of New Zealand is simply a souvenir teatowel tacked to the office wall) and the language is questionable i.e. birds are “little bastards” and people who steal the lids from your tanks and sell them for scrap metal are “arseholes” but it’s a genuine look at one mans journey, and I like it.  I also like that it’s practically compulsory for wineries to have a winery dog of some description, but at Corazon they have a stray kuni kuni pig sauntering around instead. The film took several years to make (the lads look a wee bit younger on screen than they do now) and it was funded almost entirely with wine swaps with wine and film professionals to keep production costs down.  And that’s paid off because it means you and I can purchase the film for just $19.90 in selected stores or from www.passionandpatience.co.nz


Relishing the Regions

Wrap your lips around Australia’s regional diversity with the new regional appellation reserve wines from Jacobs Creek.  Consistently punching above their weight in the value-for-money stakes, Jacob’s Creek have gone a step further by focusing on fruit which suits individual regions.  In addition to the classic Barossa Shiraz and Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon examples, there’s an absolutely lovely Chardonnay from hot new ‘cool’ region the Adelaide Hills and a Barossa Riesling which is clean, dry and minerally .  Best of all they’re widely available.



Fromm Vineyard La Strada Marlborough Chardonnay 2008 $32

A delicious aromatic combination of custard squares brandy snaps and tropical brulée notes. In the mouth it has incredible freshness and weight with an edge of hazelnutty complexity on the back palate. A stunning, lengthy finish makes it chardonnay perfection.www.frommwinery.co.nz

Fromm Chardonnay 2008
Fromm Chardonnay 2008

Kate Radburnd Sun Kissed Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2010 $18 

A delicious aromatic combination of quince and spiced custard apple and in the mouth it’s tropical yet dry and textural with an edge of peachy complexity on the finish. Superb with stir-fried garlic prawns on Vietnamese salad. www.kateradburnd.co.nz

Kate Radburn Pinot Gris 2010

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $21 

Dried herbs, ripe plum, sweet cocoa, wild mint and a vein of smoky, cedary, spiciness will wash across your tastebuds as soon as you sip this gutsy red.  The acidity is fresh and the tannins quite chewy, which bodes well for those of you disciplined enough to keep a bottle for another year or so.  By then it’ll be pure magic.  Widely available.

Jacobs Creek Regional Reserve Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Jacobs Creek Regional Reserve Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2009