Joelle Thomson Writer

Author, journalist, speaker

Organic Wine Week take 2

Organic Wine Week – 17 September to Monday 23 September

Organic Wine Week began last year, hot on the heels of Organic Winegrowers New Zealand noticing that over 10% of New Zealand wineries produce certified organic wine. It may come as no surprise to find that the high profile and driest wine region in the country leads the way – Central Otago has 23% of its vineyard land being managed organically; 17% is certified organic with 6% currently in conversion.

This means that within the next three years, 23% of Central’s vineyard area will be completely certified organic.

Over 10% of New Zealand wineries now hold organic certification and over 30 of them are registered in this year’s Organic Wine Week.


Aim of Organic Wine Week

  • To highlight the fact that organic wine starts from the ground up – literally. Organically certified grapes are the prerequisite to organic wine. Nothing can be labelled ‘organic’, unless it is made from produce that has no man-made chemicals used in the growing process.
  • Man-made, industrial compounds are rejected in organic certification.
  • Fertilisers, fungicides, herbicides, pesticides and all GM are excluded from organic produce.
  • Organically produced wine supports vineyard workers’ health with the lack of chemicals used in growing grapes.
  • Transparency means we understand more about what we are consuming when we drink a glass (or two) of wine.
  • Every certified organic wine comes from a vineyard that is grown in a way which protects the environment rather than draws everything from it.

Organic produce is much the same way as many of our grandparents grew up with – fruit, vegetables and meat that was farmed without man made chemicals used in its process.

Vegan vino explained

What is vegan wine?

The question is being asked more frequently than ever before, according to winemakers, retailers and even those from outside the wine industry, such as journalists, many of whom are being asked to account for a definition of vegan wine.

The latest magazine to publish a story on vegan wine in New Zealand is Good magazine, whose editor, Carolyn Enting, asked me to write a piece called Vegan Vino for the next issue. It’s a modest sized story of 500 words, which provides a readable and, hopefully, succinct snapshot to answer the question.

To read this piece in Good, look out for the magazine in stores in September.

In the meantime, here is an explanation on what vegan wine is – and isn’t.

Vegan wine facts

How and why do animals have a part in the winemaking process?

  • Wine is a vegetarian and vegan friendly product as it is made from grapes
  • Most wine goes through a process called fining to remove small particles
  • The most effective way to fine a way is to use a high protein product
  • Vegetarian products are increasingly used, such as potatoes and peas
  • Bentonite is a type of clay, which is also used to fine wine
  • Traditionally some animal products have been used, such as egg whites to remove particles from high quality red wines
  • Fish bladders, gelatin and milk based casein are also used to fine wine
  • Dried blood was historically used but has now been outlawed in the EU

Are all wines fined with animal products?


Not all wines are fined either.

There is a growing trend in some wine styles to bottle them without fining. Some of these wines can appear cloudy and have been intentionally made this way.


How can I know if a wine is vegan friendly?

  • Buy specific brands that make vegan friendly wines. This requires research
  • All Yalumba wines are vegan friendly
  • Some wines from these producers are vegan friendly: Akarua, Astrolabe, Blackenbrook, Brightside and Leconfield wines, which stipulates on its label which wines are vegan friendly
  • The United Kingdom’s shopping chain, Marks & Spencer, has its own range of wines, 70% of which are now clearly labelled as vegan friendly.
  • Any wine that says it is unfined will contain no animal products in the wine itself and therefore ticks the vegan friendly box.

The irony is…

  • Organically certified and biodynamically certified wines are, ironically, the most planet-friendly, in terms of their production processes – and they may contain tiny traces of products such as egg whites in some wines.
  • Vegan friendly wine is not necessarily made from organically certified or (even better) biodynamically certified grapes.
  • This means that non vegan friendly wine may have a lower carbon footprint and may be made in ways that have a lower impact on the environment.

Fast moving consumable packaging compromises

There is no guarantee that every aspect of a wine’s production is vegan friendly because, like all fast moving consumable products that human beings consume, a product’s packaging could contain glue and other animal derived products in its packaging.

This is not only related to wine but to all food and drinks products as well as anything we purchase that comes with wrapping and labelling.


Processing agents rather than additives

  • Animal based fining agents are not used in wine as additives
  • They are used in miniscule amounts as processing agents
  • This means they are always removed but it is impossible to guarantee that miniscule traces don’t remain.

Find out more about vegan wines at


  • I work as a writer and part-time wine adviser for Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington, New Zealand. I am a trained journalist and have frequently been asked for vegan wine recommendations. In my work in fine wine retail, I am increasingly being asked not only for recommendations but also for an explanation of vegan wine.

Four wineries better than one

Four Hawke’s Bay wineries are joining forces at one newly refurbished cellar door for visitors on State Highway 50 in the heart of the Gimblett Gravels winegrowing area.

The collaboration brings Te Awa, Esk Valley, Vidal and Villa Maria wines all together at the revamped Te Awa Cellar Door.

All four brands are owned by Villa Maria Wines, so it makes sense to have them all under one larger umbrella, which can add to the visitor experience, says Villa Maria executive director Karen Fistonich.

The oldest winery of the four is Esk Valley, situated at Bayview, north of Napier city. Its cellar door closed in April this year. Long term winemaker Gordon Russell has been making Esk Valley wines since 1992 when he took over the winemaking reigns from Grant Edmonds, who worked there from the first vintage in 1988.

  • The Te Awa Cellar Door is open 7 days from 10am to 4pm at 2375 State Highway 50, Flaxmere, Roy’s Hill, Hawke’s Bay.
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