Vegan Wine
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A Philosophy Fit to Drink

To take wine into our mouths is to savor a droplet of the river of human history.

- Clifton Paul Fadiman

by Eleanor Black

Ask the average wine drinker what's in his or her favourite drop and the answer will probably be "grape juice".  Ask vegan winemaker Geoffrey Wright and he'll fill you in on the range of animal proteins - from gelatin to skim milk - which are added to virtually every wine on the market to make it taste smoother and less astringent.

Geoffrey Wright's vegan wines come without animal
proteins found in some other wines.

Mr Wright, aged 26, has this year produced his second vintage of vegan chardonnay and gewurztraminer and is soon to bottle an animal-friendly merlot.  His is the first wine in the country to be certified by the Vegetarian Society and it already appears on menus at several vegetarian restaurants in Auckland.  The response has been so good that the former accountant, who packed up his calculator and drove to Gisborne last year for a place in Tairawhiti Polytechnic's winemaking and viticulture course, is having trouble filling orders.

It is his principled approach to winemaking as much as his spicy gewurztraminer and peachy chardonnay that has grabbed people's attention.  Mr Wright, a dedicated vegetarian, decided that if he was going to make wine it would be wine with a philosophy.  "I let the wine describe itself rather than adding so much to it."

He scrupulously avoids the use of fish protein, egg whites or casein, which bond with impurities and drop to the bottom of the barrel for easy removal.  Instead, mouth-puckering tannin is kept at bay and clarity enhanced by filtering the wine through cellulose pads, or simply giving it time to settle.

The winemaker is equally strict about packaging.  His bottles and inks used for the wine labels are produced without animal testing and the labels are attached using animal-friendly glue.

Of course, the real test for most wine drinkers is in the taste, and for true connoisseurs it's probably too early to tell what the future holds for the GW range.  But we can happily report that the chardonnay and gewurztraminer are smooth, fruity and more-ish.  It is only to be expected that next year's semillon will be as good.

Source: New Zealand Herald 2 September 2001; photo credit Richard Robinson

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This page last updated on: Sunday, 18 January 2004

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