When it comes to making wine, many winemakers would be happy to use anything that’s not nailed down. After all, wine grapes are notoriously finicky, and can only be grown in a narrow range of climates. But despite the challenges of growing the grapes, it’s the dung of the animals that harvest them that has traditionally been used in winemaking.
For years, wine drinkers have known that animal-free grape farming is a good way to avoid the use of potentially harmful chemicals that can end up in wine. But are there other advantages? Yes, and here’s a good one: using algae for fertilizer in vegan winemaking is helping winegrowers in Germany to boost yields per acre by up to 10% while reducing the use of water by up to 20%. I also found that the most successful posts (re-blogged the most and got the most attention) were posts that focused on the “top news stories of the day”. Posts that were unique in some way or went against the grain of public opinion were often also very successful. I also experimented with
Over the past three years, Canadian master sommelier Jennifer Huether has seen consumer interest in vegan wines increase. As a result, the number of winemakers seeking to have their products certified as vegan has literally exploded, she says, calling it a big change.
Although there is no regulatory body for vegan wines, most independent certifiers consider a wine to be vegan if it contains no animal products and if no animal products, including milk powder, gelatin or fish bladder, have been used in the pre-mixing process.
For some winemakers and drinkers, this is not enough. This is why some grape growers have opted for animal-free processes, from seed to table. They see it as a blessing for the animals, the land and the wine.
Querciabella Vegan Vineyards in Alberez, Maremma / Photo: Walter Prina
Sebastian Cossia Castiglioni, from Querciabella, in the Chianti Classico region of Italy, is considered a pioneer in vegan winemaking. He started practicing organic farming in 1988 and obtained a certificate in biodynamic farming in 2000.
Then we took it a step further, says Sonny Gandara, Querciabella’s U.S. brand manager. In 2010, we switched to plant-based biodynamics, which she says is a cruelty-free approach to viticulture.
In traditional viticulture, animal products such as manure (often supplied by factory farms) and sometimes bones and blood are usually applied to the soil. In some vineyards animals are also used to control pests and weeds, they also help with aeration and cultivation.
There are no animal products in Querciabella.
Instead of using animal manure, we have introduced a strict regime of cover crops, says Gandara, which includes special legumes, cereals and grassland crops. This is our way of giving nutrients and life back to the soil.
The team at Querciabella believes in creating balance, not only in our vineyards, but also in our wines, Gandara says.
Tasting RoomKarlo Estates in Wellington, Ontario Canada / Photo: Steven Elphick
Sherry Carlo, winemaker at the certified vegan Karlo Estates in Ontario, Canada, also uses plant-based grape growing methods. She sees it as an evolution of sustainability in winemaking, as well as the next step in sustainability and respect for the land.
According to Carlo, animal-free aging methods and filtering the wines with time and gravity or bentonite clay improve the end result.
Wine critics and novices invariably tell us that our wines have a very pure flavor profile, she says.
Since 1965, Champagne Legret & Fils has been refining its wine with a cellulose of plant origin.
My father had serious health problems for a long time, and for these reasons he has always preferred to produce his wines without animal products or chemical methods, explains owner Alain Legré.
Legret & Fils stopped using cow manure as a fertilizer in 2015. She decided to treat our vines only with plant products and eliminate all animal products, says Legre.
Producers are now using plant-based soil improvers, such as alfalfa pellets.
My father had serious health problems for a long time and for those reasons he always preferred to make his wines without animal products or chemical methods. -Alain Legré, Champagne Legré et Phils
Mr Legret believes that wine made in this way is necessary because we respect wildlife in particular and nature in general.
Some producers believe that the desire to adopt more environmentally and animal-friendly practices is in line with market demand.
There is a new generation of wine drinkers, young people who are more open to change, open to new ideas, and really thinking about what they put into their bodies and how that affects the world, Carlo says.
Huether says these changes are natural, given the longevity of viticulture and the wine industry.
For the last 30 years, we’ve probably been in a very traditional winemaking situation, Huether says. Today the emphasis is on respect for the environment in general.
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