What are Vegan-Friendly Wines?
Here at Redman, we’re often asked about whether our wines are vegan-friendly, and the answer very much comes down to the vintage conditions of the harvest and what we as winemakers need to do to ensure the quality of our wines. Let me explain.
Why Winemakers ‘Fine’ their Wine
Wine is obviously a natural product, handcrafted from the grapes that we carefully pick each vintage. But as the grapes ferment and turn into alcohol, sometimes a little help is needed to balance the wine. For centuries, different products have been used to help improve the quality of the final product. Historically, bull’s blood was used in small amounts, but over time this was replaced by egg whites and other animal products.
Without getting too technical, this is because young wines can be hazy and often contain tannins and phenolic particles that can be aggressive on the palate and make the wine less drinkable – ‘out of balance’, some might say. All these elements are natural, and in no way harmful, but winemakers (and most consumers) like wines to be clear and bright, and sometimes, if a wine is slightly cloudy, consumers may think it is faulty. The use of these additives as part of the winemaking process is called ‘fining’ and helps to balance the wine.
If left long enough, most wines will self-stabilise and self-fine, but at times, a little help is needed. This is when fining agents, such as egg whites, fish products, gelatine and milk, are sometimes used, which consequently makes them non-vegan-friendly. Think of this process as like using a magnet – to attract the molecules around it. Once added to the wine, the fining agent attracts these molecules and the particles become too big to float in the wine. These form a sediment over the wine and once the fining agent has settled, the clear wine is then racked (separated) from the sediment and the sediment can be removed easily. This helps to ‘soften’ the wine and create a better balance between the tannins and fruit flavour.
Wines that are vegan-friendly have not been fined, or are fined using alternative products, which also makes them a popular choice for vegetarians or those with particular allergies.
Are Redman Wines Vegan-Friendly?
Our 2016 vintage wines are all vegan-friendly, as the wines were not fined. The 2016 growing season was a slightly warmer one and perhaps this contributed to the end results. The tannins were already elegant and fine, and there was a beautiful balance in the wines that we did not want to interfere with. So the wines settled beautifully in the bottle with no fining required.
The 2017 vintage was different – slightly wetter, but the tannins were also quite soft and it meant that we did not need to fine the end products, so they also remain vegan-friendly.
Whether our wines are produced without the need for fining in future vintages is yet to be determined. It will very much depend on the season and what we have to work with. We’ve been making wine in Coonawarra since 1908, so perhaps, as our vines are growing more mature, they are producing fruit with a softer tannin structure. We are also leaning towards a stylistic decision not to interfere when there is already great balance to the wines. By not fining them, we are giving them a purer expression of the fruit.
In the end, Redman is all about showcasing the best wines possible, and letting the wine speak for itself in the glass. That’s the art we bring to our winemaking and why, sometimes, science is needed to help counteract challenges in the vineyard. It’s important to us to bring our customers a product that we believe in, with minimal intervention.