First things first - all the wines that WEINE, DIE VERZAUBERN offers are vegan. Why this fact, although a consistent criterion for selection or exclusion, is not really a central issue for me, I will try and explain below.
That not every wine (or apple juice, for that matter) is vegan, is by now clear to most vegans. Because of the increasing enquiries from buyers, this is now increasingly clear to the vintners, too. Not that they didn't know what they put in their wines or how they made them, but simply because of the fact that vegan was, until recently, not really an issue among buyers of wine. Despite that, a lot of wines were always vegan, mostly due to completely other reasons.
So what is it that makes a wine vegan or not vegan?
The decisive factor is to be found in the FINING (not to be confused with CLARIFICATION) of wine - the if-at-all and the how. Fining, unlike clarification, is usually deployed as a preventive measure, often even in the must stage, in order to stabilize the wine and avoid future cloudiness (caused, among other things, by temperature fluctuations during transport or storage).
Fining is also - especially in cheaper wines - deployed to remove faults, improve taste or (for white wines) lighten the colour of the wine.
Finings (this is now a noun, to indicate the substance used) can be mineral or organic and are not an additive, but an agent, that is added to the wine or the must to bind colloids and temperature-sensitive proteins and then be removed subsequently.
When mineral finings (such as bentonite) are used, the wine is classified as vegan. Organic finings are protein-containing agents such as gelatin (from animal bones and cartilage), egg white, isinglass (from fish) and casein (from milk) and are almost invariably not vegan. Almost invariably. A vintner (with excellent biodynamic wines) told me about the use of a fining from chickpea protein...
Since 2012, only casein and ovalbumin (the quantitatively most common protein in egg white) have to be declared on the wine label. That's only because they are potential allergens. For the remaining organic finings such as gelatin or isinglass, however, there is no obligation to declare.
Many ambitious winemakers refrain entirely from fining and so make, purely incidentally, vegan wines. The majority of the wines that are offered by WEINE, DIE VERZAUBERN are free from fining, and that for quality reasons alone.
Because of their extended ageing in barrels or tanks, fining-free wines need time. The long storage results in a natural clarification (through sedimentation) and stabilisation (due to the long yeast contact). Ageing 'on the fine lees':
- promotes the release of important taste elements,
- improves the stability of the wine against the release of proteins and crystal deposits (for this, the wine itself must have a certain inherent stability - influenced by cultivation, harvesting and aging),
- binds certain unwelcome substances to the cell wall of the yeast in oder to deliver (without fudging) a cleaner taste and
- has a reductive effect (absorbing oxygen) on the wine (this is an aha experience for me, explaining why a wine - like the 'Vinothek' Riesling from the winery Nikolaihof - after ageing more than a decade in a barrel, can still taste so fresh and youthful!).
Then there are further discussions over vegan wines, which I do want to mention here, but which I want do deal with in detail at a later date. Not because they are less important or relevant, but because they are polarizing and tend to divide the world into good (= vegan) and evil (= not vegan). The world is, however, in my very personal opinion, very elegantly divided into good and good (the concept of evil must be an invention of the devil!!!).
Here there is a conflict of interest, because most of the wines that I offer are biodynamic wines.
Although biodynamic vintners who also keep animals are rather the exception, they are required to use biodynamic preparations in which herbal preparations are stored in hulls of animal origin in order to combine the cosmic powers of plant and animal origin.
Animal husbandry is an important component of the biodynamic cycle, usually on one and the same farm or, as with many biodynamic vintners, in combination with other farms.
I tend to agree to the criticism of vegans that the economization of animals is basically unjustifiable, Although I have respect for compassionate thought and action, I myself do not act quite consequent in all walks of life and therefore have understanding for people who themselves do not - that's all of us, with no exceptions.
What I don't like to do is join others in pointing fingers, because in doing that, the rate of error is 100 percent!