Joelle Thomson Writer

Author, journalist, speaker

Author: Joelle Thomson (page 1 of 121)

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.

Wine of the week… Inspiration behind the wine Dawn

What will you be doing when you’re 104 years old?

It’s a tough question at the best of times, not least because most of us probably don’t expect to make it that far, but retired school teacher and once keen tramper, Dawn Ibbotson, has the ultimate answer. She enjoys a glass of bubbly every lunch time, which is named after her.

The word on the grapevine is that she would prefer to enjoy more than one glass but she still heeds the moderation advice given to her. And if that’s how she got to 104, along with the tramping, public talking and teaching, then who am I to argue.

The new 2015 Dawn is new on the market now.

The quality of the wine remains consistently high, even if the taste represents a slight style departure – it is drier by a small margin, which is noticeable in flavour as this wine seems more restrained and fresh.

It also has a higher percentage of Chardonnay grapes this vintage (65% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier compared to the 2014 Dawn, which was 52% Chardonnay, 43% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier).

I like and miss the higher Pinot Noir percentage of the 2014 Dawn, which I find is more expressive and toasty right now, but the 2015 has possibly a longer life ahead. Which seems like a fitting tribute to the wine’s namesake.


2015 Saint Clair Dawn Méthode Traditionelle $49

Dawn is one of New Zealand’s top traditional method sparkling wines, made in the same way as champagne with its secondary fermentation in the bottle.

The first vintage was from the 2012 harvest and made to celebrate centenarian Dawn Ibbotson’s 100th birthday. Dawn is the mother of Saint Clair winery founder, Neil Ibbotson.

The wine is made from grapes off a 20 year old vineyard on stony and sandy soils on Rapaura Road, overlooked by Saint Clair Vineyard Kitchen.

It’s a blend of 65 percent clone 95 Chardonnay, 30 percent clone 5 Pinot Noir and 5 percent Pinot Meunier. The free run Chardonnay juice was steel tank fermented with malolactic fermentation in late spring and lees stirring throughout. The Pinot Noir was lightly pressed and fermented at cool temperatures in seasoned French barriques, then aged on light lees until blending in  January 2014. The wine was then blended with secondary bottle fermentation over three months followed by thirty-nine months  aging before disgorgement to eject the decomposing yeast cells.

Residual sugar in the 2015 Dawn is 6 grams per litre compared to 6.2 grams per litre for the 2014 Saint Clair Dawn Méthode Traditionelle. It’s a small step towards a drier style but a big flavour difference from winemakers Stewart Maclennan and Hamish Clark.

The new Dawn drinks well now and has very good potential for aging and evolving into a fuller, rounder bubbly with more pronounced butterscotch and honey flavours with citrusy freshness for balance.

« Older posts