Wine. It's made from grapes. And sometimes contains bits of fish...if you get the wrong stuff. Veeg chats to the ladies from Vegan Wine Box to find out how they're avoiding all the things that suck about wine (including headaches) and getting the good stuff.
Tell us about Vegan Wine Box and why you set it up:
We carefully select vegan-only wines with a focus on sustainability. Having become increasingly aware of what we eat and drink over the last 15 years, we wanted to create a company that focussed on where our much-loved drink comes from, the impact it has on animals, people and the environment. So we (me, Dom, and partner, Emma) set up Vegan Wine Box.
We love wine and were saddened to have our choice limited. There's nothing better than trying a new wine you’ve not come across before or settling down for an evening in front of the fire with an old favourite. This led us to do a lot of research about wine, what makes it vegan and, more importantly, finding vegan wines that we can enjoy.
What's NOT vegan about wine?
Given our love of wine (have I mentioned that before?), we were initially shocked to learn that a lot of wine isn’t vegan (or even vegetarian).
The process often uses isinglass (fish guts), gelatin, casein (milk proteins) or albumen (egg whites) - all completely unnecessary!
For those of you just finding out that wine isn’t always vegan, it’s all to do with the way wine is filtered. We also discovered that a lot of wine isn’t labelled properly. So even when it is suitable for vegans, there is no way of knowing, which reduces your options.
Is it true that natural wines are a bit better on the head the next day?
Natural wines are organic wines that also keep intervention to a minimum: nothing can be added or taken out during the winemaking process. The wine is left unfiltered and unfined. As a result, natural wines are very low in sulphur (sulphur does occur naturally during the fermentation process and very small amounts may be added to the wine to preserve it).
Typically white wines contain more sulphur than red because red wines naturally contain antioxidants which help with preservation.
Although only a small percentage of the population are sensitive to sulphites, too much sulphur has been linked to headaches the next day (obviously the amount you drink still plays a part!).
So yes, it is entirely possible than natural wines (drunk in moderation) will help you to stay hangover free.
What’s your take on sustainability in wine then?
Sustainability of wine is incredibly important to us but it is a complex subject. We try to think about the following:
Where is the wine made and how close to the UK is it? Obviously from a distance point of view, English and Welsh wine will always win on this measure. However, if it isn’t close to the UK, does the winemaker do anything else to offset the distance? This can include carbon offset measures such as planting a bamboo farm or bottling the wine in lightweight bottles.
Renewable energy use
Wineries can use a lot of energy and an increasing number of wineries are turning to renewable energy to minimise their impact. Some have even achieved 100% renewable energy in the winery.
Traditionally 1 litre of wine takes about 10 litres of water to produce. Obviously this is not good as water conservation becomes more important, particularly in areas like South Africa and California which are prone to droughts. However, by employing different techniques, some producers have brought this down to as low as 2.5 litres.
Organic methods and chemical use
Everyone is aware of organic certification, but this can sometimes be difficult and expensive to achieve. Alongside certification, we also look for wines that have no/minimal pesticide use. In areas such as the Andes or Southern Spain, this is quite common as there are minimal natural pests. In other areas, we opt for winemakers who try to minimise their use through natural interventions.
In some wine producing countries, wineries can take advantage of cheap labour. Wineries are big employers in these areas and it is important that they pay fair wages and invest in local communities.
Vineyards can destroy local habitats but this doesn't have to be the case. The wine growers can employ careful management to actually encourage the natural habitat to work alongside their vines.
Where are your favourite wine bars in the UK?
This is a bit of a sore point for us, we think the UK is definitely lacking in good quality wine bars compared to the rest of the world. We’ve been to some amazing ones in San Francisco and New York (we recently spent a lot of money in Cork Buzz, Chelsea Market!), but we never really found one in the UK that matches up.
We do however recommend Corks of Cargo in the summer, it’s a wine shop with seats outside overlooking Bristol harbour.
What’s your favourite wine at the moment?
One of the advantages of setting up Vegan Wine Box has been the opportunity to try lots of different wines. After all, we need to know all our wines and be confident in the quality of what we’re offering.
It’s hard to pick just one, in terms of value for money we think you can’t beat the Amélie Malbec. It has really good fruit flavours - rich black fruits and it’s well balanced. It’s also been very popular at vegan fairs with everyone who has tried it.
Our other favourite is the Valisto Barbera, this wine is made high up in the Andes using grapes from forgotten vineyards. When you smell it, it smells exactly like raspberry ripple ice cream, it’s a big wine with bold flavours. Each time we drink it, we discover new flavours.
What makes you different?
We are both vegan and care about the environment so our wine buying reflects this. We are also vegan wine experts and want to save you the pain of deciphering labels, introduce you to new wines and share old favourites. You can be safe in the knowledge that all the wines we have picked are vegan (and therefore also vegetarian-friendly).
We sell wine subscription boxes and a selection of wines for you to choose from whenever you fancy. We work mostly with small importers and local vineyards who specialise in vegan wines. This means we can offer you a varied selection of wines that are not widely available in the shops.
What’s your vision for the company?
Although we have started with a small selection (75 and counting!), this will grow over time. We want to make wine accessible and we stock wine to suit all tastes and budgets.
Over time, we want to be the go to place for buying quality, affordable vegan wine. If you have a favourite wine that you cannot find a vegan version of, talk to us - we love a challenge and we’re sure we can find it!
We also want to achieve this in a sustainable manner, so we look for sustainable wines, try to recycle/reuse wherever possible and want to keep innovating. For instance, we’ve been looking into bicycle couriers for local deliveries.
Browse the wines from Vegan Wine Box at http://www.veganwinebox.co.uk and keep an eye out in your inbox if you've subscribed to Veeg.