Vegan wines? That implies that there are non-Vegan wines right? The answer, absolutely.
You won’t find things like chicken, or pork in a list of wine ingredients but that doesn’t mean that animal products aren’t somehow involved in the production of many wines. One vital step in the winemaking process is called “fining.” It is a process that accomplishes a multitude of desired effects. Fining is done to bring clarity to the wine, removing any suspended solids in the liquid, resulting in a clear as opposed to hazy appearance, in addition to clarifying the wine, it can remove the browning that often happens when a wine becomes oxidized. Fining also removes taste components, astringent and bitter elements of a wine, as well as odors. All of this is typically done with, believe it or not, animal products. Egg whites, milk caseins or gelatins made from fish and cow parts.
In order for a wine to qualify as vegan, no animal products can be used during it’s production. For the Italian winery, Ciù Ciù and the Argentinian producer Domaine Bousquet, animal products are eschewed for mineral based fining agents, like bentonite and kaolin.
Ciù Ciù (pronounced choo choo) is in the slightly unknown wine region of Le Marche. A relatively young winery operation, Ciù Ciù was one of Italy’s first vegan certified wineries, they are also 100% organic, and the mission at Ciù Ciù is the exploration of some of the little known, indigenous wine varieties. The wines are remarkably priced across the board, and while the certifications make for a captivating story, the wines speak for themselves. They are very well made from a technical point of view, but they offer the kind of depth and complexity that makes them one of those wines that gets better after it’s been open for at least a day.
A blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese produces a sappy intense red wine with aromas of dried violets, and dried fig. The palate is vibrant and fairly concentrated, particularly for a wine with 4 to 5 years of age. Lively flavors of red currant, montmorency cherries and elegant tannins. This wine is straightforward and loaded with fruit.
Where the Gotico is 70% Montepulciano this is a 50-50 blend of the two and the fruitier, more rustic elements of the Sangiovese come to the fore. This is a fun, easy drinking wine with aromatics of dusty strawberry and raspberry, and a red berry palate to match. Fine grain tannins highlight red berry fruits, with a rustic simplicity that begs to be paired with fresh pasta.
100% Montepulciano, is a rich, robust wine with ample oak influence. Aromas of mocha, black plum and hints of herbal influence mark a wine that is loaded with husky dark character but balanced with the signature freshness that underlies all the Ciù Ciù wines. The palate is dark, layered with a core of black fruit, accented with notes of cocoa powder, smoke and a touch of minerality.
If there’s a signature variety from Le Marche, it may be Verdicchio. The white wine is an outstanding example of one of the world’s most overlooked varieties. Aromas are effusively floral with a mix of coriander and peach skin, The palate is lush, and fresh with cut stone fruit, white flowers and the slightest fennel undertones. This is a really wonderful wine.
Named for a traditional lace weaved pattern made in Offida the MERLETTAIE is made from an ancient, native variety; Pecorino. This is a unique wine from 100% Pecorino, perhaps a new signature variety for Le Marche, loaded with floral and grassy aromas along with notes of walnut skin and white pepper. The wine is mouth filling, with a restrained acidity, that gives the wine’s body notes of freshness. The palate is mineral driven and sappy white fruit. Pecorino was thought to be on the verge of extinction but has rebounded and is becoming one of Italy’s new/old white wines to discover.
Domaine Bousquet represents a French family’s voyage to the New Wine World in Argentina. The vineyards were established in 1997 and the winery has sought out multiple organic certifications. Domaine Bousquet is serious about making New World wines in a way that honors the four generations of winemaking history, dating back to Southern France, but also honoring the land there in Mendoza and being the best stewards of this new home, they can be.
The Domaine Bousquet Reserve Malbec is next level in terms of its deliciousness, it drinks like an aged Old World wine, as opposed to a one to two year old South American standard bearer. It is different in terms of its aromatic complexity, much more reminiscent of the Northern Rhone Syrahs or perhaps even something out of Burgundy. This may be the only really elegant Malbec I’ve ever had (my experience though is still limited). The aromas are earthy, mineral driven and even offer hints of mushroom and peat. The palate is elegant and easily drinks at something three to four times its price. Flavors offer dried fig, blackberry preserve, turned earth and streaks of minerality. The finish heightens the flavor profile and offers outstanding acidity.
Much like the performance of the Malbec, folks going into this wine looking for an underwhelming New World Pinot Gris, hold onto your hats. This is technically a blend of Pinot Gris and 15% Chardonnay which may provide some of the complexity for this white wine. This wine is loaded with depth, aromas of flower pollen, tropical fruit and honeysuckle. The palate is fleshy, ripe peach, beeswax and lemon meringue. An elegance you don’t often find in Pinot Gris from this side of the Atlantic, and a fresh finish. Over performs at every level.