What does "vegan-friendly" really mean?
by Frances Gonzalez
From the day I heard the words "egg whites" during a wine tour in France until even now while in Italy visiting many wineries, I am so grateful I started "Vegan Wines". I knew that once the businesses got in on it, they would start playing around with words to be able to put the word 'vegan' on the bottle. What does 'Vegan-Friendly' on a wine bottle really mean?
Does it mean that no animal by-products are used in the fining, or does it mean that no animal products are deliberately put in from the start, i.e the soil? If we allow these cracks in labeling, then what is the purpose? Do we go back to thinking that as long as we don't know or are aware, then it is ok? These are the major questions I'm currently pondering.
I choose wine like I choose my food: as natural and close to the earth's offering as possible. Wine is not vegan just because it is not fined with any animal products. The soil plays a very important part as well. I have met with a few winemakers along my journey that use seeds, vines, and the plantation that will go hand in hand in with nature to fertilize the soil. They do not use animal manure, especially not animal manure from commercial factory farms. Many of the vineyards have animal manure driven in by the truckloads from meat markets or animal farmhouses to put in their soil. Even if you are not a vegan or vegetarian, yet want your food and wine free of chemicals, what do you think is in the meat farmhouse manure? It's going to be loaded with chemicals that will come through in your wine.
It's just like when I first started my research. The winemakers would say "well, I use egg whites but at the end of the process, the wine has no traces of it". That is not true, and it's because we place too much trust in the food companies, that our world today is having so many health problems. You are what you eat, it's that simple.
Nature has been giving life to our earth way before humans got involved, so why do we feel that we should change it? Besides, vineyard soils cannot take too much fertilizing because the vines benefit from stress to get water deep below. The roots need to find the water from under the ground to produce good quality wine grapes. If you take care of your soil, the vines will produce beautiful grapes. You do not want your favorite wine to taste the same every vintage.
A good wine gets its character from different climates and variations in weather. Good winemaking means the vineyard managers must deal with all scenarios: lots of sun throughout the summer, or lots of rain in the beginning of the summer, or more sun towards the end of the season, and so forth. Beautiful wine means you let nature capture its character, and then the winemaker smooths it out with patience and understanding of the process.
Making elegant wine is like artwork. Wine is not a necessity. It is a choice and indulgence, which is why we encourage everyone to do it right and choose good wine.