What does it all mean?
'Organic'; 'vegan'; 'natural'; these buzzwords have been rapidly spreading across the wine industry for a while now. What do they actually mean, though? Should they influence your choices of wine? Do the attributes and practices to which they refer significantly affect the quality of the wine? Let's explore!
Organic wines are produced using grapes that are grown without the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, or herbicides. In addition, no artificial or synthetic substances can be added during the winemaking process. Certified organic wines must follow strict regulations set out by governing bodies such as the USDA or the European Union (although it's worth noting that there are wines – usually from smaller, independent wineries – that are not officially certified but are still made using organic winemaking practices). Organic wines are often perceived as more environmentally friendly due to the lack of synthetic chemicals.
Vegan wines are produced without the use of animal-derived products, such as egg albumen, gelatin, or isinglass (derived from the swim bladders of certain fish), which are traditionally used to clarify and stabilise wine. More and more winemakers are now using alternative methods such as clay, charcoal or diatomaceous earth to filter and clarify the wine. Vegan wines are becoming increasingly popular with the rise of plant-based diets and ethical consumerism.
Natural wine is a term that is less strictly defined than organic or vegan. Generally, 'natural' simply means the wine is made with minimal intervention, using only natural products in the winemaking process. This means using only native or wild yeasts present on the grapes for fermentation, avoiding chemical additives, and avoiding manipulation such as temperature control or filtration. Natural wines can be unpredictable and are often described as having unique, perhaps even wild flavours and aromas.
Are they 'better'?
Organic, vegan, and natural wines all have their unique characteristics, providing consumers with a range of choices in terms of animal welfare, environmental impact and, of course, taste! It is essential to note that not all organic wines are vegan, not all vegan wines are organic, and not all natural wines are certified organic or vegan.
Are organic, vegan or natural wines inherently better than wines that aren't? Well, that's for you to decide, but by understanding these terms you can make an informed choice that aligns with your values and preferences. And of course, specialist wine shops like the Wee Vinoteca have informed but informal experts who can answer your questions and help you choose a wine you're going to love.
If you want to broaden your palate even further but aren't sure where to start, why not sign up for a our wine subscription service? Uncover hidden gems personalised to your tastes, with each case enhancing your wine journey and helping you discover new favourites. Oh, and if you join in-store today you could get 80% off your first case. Cheers!