In recent years, many Italian wine producers have experienced a definitive shift towards making efforts to make their products as healthy as possible. For many, this means taking the organic route, ensuring that their lands are as natural as possible so that those who want to avoid consuming anything that may have been exposed to man-made chemicals are still able to enjoy some high-quality wines. Others are catering to more niche markets, with vegan wines becoming increasingly popular in recent years as some people in society tend towards avoiding meat and meat products entirely.
If these types of wine interest you, it is important to note that there are some differences between each that you are going to have to be aware of. You can’t guarantee that an organic wine is also going to be vegan-friendly, for example, so it is important to know what the look for so that you don’t have to play a guessing game. The key rule is that not all organic wines are vegan and not all vegan wines are organic. It all comes down to the specific methods used in their production. Here we will take a closer look at organic, biodynamic and vegan wines so that you can develop a better understanding of each and how to be sure that you have selected a wine that is right for you.
The key thing to remember with organic wines is that they will have been made using grapes that have been certified as organic. This means that they come from vineyards that make a specific effort to follow organic methodology, such as avoiding the use of man-made fertilisers and other chemicals that may otherwise affect the natural nature of the wine. Instead, they will make use of natural fertilisers and pesticides, such as bone meal, to ensure that everything the grapes take in come from nature, rather than anything that is man-made. It is also important to reiterate that this doesn’t necessarily mean the organic wine will be suitable for vegans. After all, the use of bone meal, in some cases, may put vegans off.
If you want to understand exactly what organic wines have to offer, this list will give you a better idea of what you would be getting.
- According to a 2009 study in New Scientist, wines made using the organic method carry a far lower carbon footprint that those made using more traditional methods. This makes then ideal purchases for people who are concerned about the effect that the Italian wine industry is having on the environment.
- They largely contain higher levels of the antioxidant resveratrol, which is one of the reasons why red wine is able to offer so many health benefits. As such, if you drink wine so that you can have a healthier heart or otherwise benefit in terms of your health, organic may well be the way to go.
- They also contain far lower sulphur levels, which is traditionally used as a sort of preservative in wines. This can help to reduce headaches and allergic reactions, though it is important to note that sulphur is rarely completely absent from organic wines altogether.
For many people, the terms ‘organic’ and ‘biodynamic’ are fairly interchangeable, but there are a number of key differences that you need to be aware of. While production methods are fairly similar, wines produced to be biodynamic will carry what is known as a Demeter label, which certifies that it has been made using a very specific method.
As such, you should note that biodynamic wines offer a little less freedom, in terms of production methodology, than organic wines. This makes them ideal for those who have very strict concerns about what is used to make their wines. The following are all important components of a biodynamic wine that may make it differ from an organic wine:
- It has been produced with an active interest in the laws of nature, using a holistic approach that takes nature into account at every single step of the way.
- It may involve planting methods that incorporate the moon, stars and sun, with one of the most prominent examples being lunar planting.
- Producers who use the biodynamic method will also place significant resources into using the best manure for fertilizing and compositing, while also making a continued effort to improve the fertility of soil using natural methods.
Again, it is important to note that some biodynamic wines will be vegan, but you can’t guarantee that all of them will be. The explanation for why will be in the next section.
So now we come to one of the more complex questions; how do you know if the wine is vegan or not?
The key is in one happens to the grapes after they have been fermented, as a process called clarification, which is also known as fining in some areas, needs to take place. This involves the use of a special agent that allows the removal of sediment, which would otherwise take months to do on a large scale due to having to wait for the sediment to collect.
Many fining agents are made using animal gelatine or fish-based products, which instantly makes them unsuitable for vegans. Others make use of egg whites and milk-based products, which may make them suitable for vegetarians but still leads to them being unsuitable for vegans.
As such, for a wine to be truly classed as vegan, the producer must not only ensure that they don’t use any animal-derived products during the production methods, usually barring manure as this is a completely natural product that is not actively farmed from an animal. Furthermore, they have to take the time to allow the sediments in their wines to settle naturally, rather than using a fining agent.
In some cases, producers may also use a special fining agent called Bentonite, which is an inert clay, but in all instances the process takes a little longer. For vegans, this means that they often need to do some research to find about a producer’s methods of clarification, though they may find that some wines are specifically labelled for them.