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Au natural?
Maybe, or
maybe not
Is your wine as pure a product as you think? Martin Higginson demystifies what makes wine vegan, vegetarian and explains what is meant by ‘natural wine’
You’d think it wouldn’t be an issue. Wine is made from grapes so surely it’s vegan, or at least vegetarian? Well the vast majority of wines produced aren’t either, but the number that are is growing. Demand for them is growing too as we look closer at what we are consuming for health or more altruistic reasons.
To understand what does and doesn’t go into our wines we have to look at two main processes: viticulture, the cultivation of vines, and viniculture, the production of grapes for winemaking, usually involving the production process of wine too.
It’s not just the vagaries of the weather that affects vine growers. Most vineyards operate under a monoculture basis, producing a single crop, grapes. This lack of diversity tends to lead to issues with pests, in the soil and on the grapes themselves. To combat the problems, the use of pesticides is prevalent, with France being the largest pesticide user in Europe, much of it in its vineyards. Just last year the
Bordeaux High Court
acknowledged that a
vineyard worker’s Parkinson’s Disease and the death of another vine grower was work- related and that the vineyards were responsible.
Fertilisers and weedkillers are also required in order for yields to stay artificially high, particularly for mass- produced wines from the New World, where a study in California found 10 major Californian branded wines contained glyphosate, a herbicide listed as ‘probably carcinogenic’. The wine industry, particularly smaller growers, have responded by changing to organic practices and it’s now becoming easier to find organic wines on our shelves. The total organic area under vine has tripled since 2007, and now over 400,000 hectares of vineyard are grown organically with Spain leading the way.
Another growing trend is biodynamic wines. This is when vines are grown in a closed system where no new nutrients or chemicals are added. Activities in the vineyard, from planting, pruning, and
harvesting are controlled using a biodynamic
“How would you feel if your glass of wine was a bit cloudy? The taste wouldn’t be affected, and the aromas would still be the same, it would just not be clear.”

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