A New Lees On Life
IT HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER TO MAINTAIN A PLANT-BASED LIFESTYLE, AND AS MORE AND MORE BRANDS MAKE THE EFFORT TO BECOME VEGAN-FRIENDLY, IT WAS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE THE MOVEMENT MADE ITS WAY INTO THE WORLD OF WINE.
HERE, TRISTAN LOTT SPEAKS WITH KASPAR HERMANN, ONE OF ROCHFORD WINES’ TALENTED WINEMAKERS, TO DEMYSTIFY THE WINEMAKING PROCESS AND LEARN ABOUT THE MOVEMENT TOWARDS PLANT-BASED WINEMAKING AND ITS EXPANDING COMMERCIAL MARKET.
Images courtesy of Rochford Wines
Fining by me
For a beverage that is made up of mostly grapes and water, animal-products often play a surprisingly important role in the winemaking process. Hermann confirms that wines are not typically vegan. “They may contain traces of fining agents containing animal products,” he says. Though not necessary, fining is a useful process that dissolves any particles and proteins left in the wine after fermentation that can give young wines a cloudy appearance or sour taste. These particles will dissipate on their own over time, but fining speeds up the process.
Hermann explains that many animal-product fining agents are commonly used in a variety of ways; isinglass (fish eggs) and gelatine are often used to fine small and hard particles from white wines, while albumin protein (found in egg whites) is particularly suited to gently fining course tannins in full-bodied red wines. When the wine is siphoned away from the leftover solids – known as lees – during a process called racking, most of the fining agents should be removed. But there is still a chance that remnants of these agents will linger in the final product and, of course, it’s impossible to eliminate the fact that animal products were used to make the wine you’re drinking. A less common, but still important factor in knowing if a variety is vegan is by being aware of the bottling – beeswax is sometimes used to seal bottles alongside agglomerated corks that use glue made with dairy.
More and more plant-based fining agents are being used in and developed for the winemaking process. Vegan-friendly fining agents include bentonite clay, activated charcoal, limestone, silica gel, potato starch and pea proteins.