Choosing a bottle of wine is great fun but not easy if you are following a vegan diet that not only excludes all nourishment that is animal-derived but even other food and drink because it has been processed making use of animal substances.
The reason that not all wines are vegan-friendly has to do with how the wine is clarified and stabilised, and particularly with an industry-standard winemaking method called ‘fining’.
As we all know, sweet grape juice left exposed to yeast might turn into an alcoholic potion which inevitably is hazy, cloudy and dull. But, because we all expect wine to look bright and visually appealing, winemakers often choose to judiciously fine their wines.
Used since ancient times, fining is a straightforward technique whereby insoluble particles (from grape skins, pulp, pips and stems but also dead yeast) which are suspended in the coarse base wine are made to precipitate and settle as sediment so that they can be easily separated from the clear wine before bottling.
There are sound reasons for this practice: fining a wine not only makes it look the part, it also makes it more palatable and a stable consumer product. It lowers the risk of unwanted off-aromas and flavours occurring in the finished bottle.
To accomplish this, typically a naturally derived product is used to help unwanted loose particles in the wine lump together and form larger heavier bits that sink faster to the bottom of the tank or cask.
While this so-called fining aid merely passes through and is eliminated from the finished wine, there is a potential moral issue for strict vegans if the aid is animal-based since they oppose the use of animals for any purpose.
Hence, leading wine brands are making efforts to cater appropriately for the vegan community by using inorganic and earth-sourced fining aids or different techniques instead that are just as effective at crafting delicious wine.
On the local front, the Delicata winery has been accommodating. While the winery doesn’t advocate any ethical food choices, in particular, Malta’s award-winning winemaker acknowledges that the vegan diet has entered the mainstream. Vegans, like other customers, of course, ought to be able to tell whether or not a bottle of wine is suitable for them.
So, as of now, the Delicata website provides a helpful list explaining which of the wine releases are vegan and vegetarian-friendly. The inventory, which will be updated regularly, already offers a large choice. Moreover, the winery pledges to do its utmost to ensure that the entire award-winning portfolio of the 2017 vintage can be enjoyed without worry by vegans and vegetarians.
I recommend remembering the following shortlist of six wines which span various styles for different occasions when dining out or entertaining at home. Apart from vegan-friendly, they are actually a great choice for any discerning wine drinker.
They are Gran Cavalier Sauvignon Blanc, Malta’s quality varietal expression of the grape, Grand Vin de Hauteville Chardonnay, a fine white palate pleaser, Ġellewża Frizzante, a lip-smacking off-dry semi-sparkling rosé, Victoria Heights Syrah Rosé, a seriously tasty pink from Gozo, Medina Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, a low-tannin, youthful red blend, and Gran Cavalier Merlot, a complex cask-aged icon red.
Vegan or not, if you wish to familiarise yourself with this exciting flight of six Maltese quality wines, I propose you join me for my tutored wine-tasting session on the topic of vegan wines organised at Delicata’s 17th-century wine vault on October 4.
For details and bookings point to www.delicata.com/masterclass/
This article by Georges Meekers appeared first in the Times of Malta, 15 September 2017.