The Truth Behind What’s On Your Wine Label

There have been some things about wine floating around the internet lately, some questionable content if you will. What is and what isn’t required to be stated on a wine label and what’s going into your wines has been on the discussion table. Well, here at The Vegan Wine Project we’re all about transparency. So for its sake, and yours, we thought we’d clear a few things up.

What a wine label has to list in Australia

Firstly, all countries around the world have different systems. There is no universal governing wine body keeping all in check, in one place. Here in Australia, all wine labels by law have to list the following:

● Grape variety

● Alcohol content

● Amount of standard drinks (by Australian standards)

● Bottle volume

● Country of origin

● Name of the producer

● Address of the producer

● Allergens, if relevant

So, do we need to state that a wine is vegan? Well, not so much. As long as the allergens associated with using animal products (i.e. fish or eggs) are listed, no wine HAS to state if it’s vegan or not. This is obviously something that we feel strongly about, with a name like ours.

There are wines on the market that are vegan without explicitly stating so on their packaging; all Yalumba Wines are vegan, for example.

What does natural wine mean?

There is much debate in the industry as to how to define ‘natural wine’. The debate as to whether it should even be considered a wine term at all, is a conversation for another day. For some, natural wine means not adding any additives or corrections which mask or remove wine ‘mistakes’ or ‘faults’. It’s this ‘correction’ that provoked restauranteur Michael McMahon to state to Good Food that "The wines my sommeliers now bring me as natural wines would have been thrown out [of competitions] because of wine faults." Clearly some people have STRONG feelings on this topic.

There are those who say the vineyard shouldn’t be sprayed with any substances. Some say that processes which include naturally occurring substances (such as small amounts of preserving sulphur) are fine under the umbrella of natural wine. Others say you shouldn’t have any intervention at all. We believe the best description of natural wine is

wine with minimal intervention at any stage of the vine life and winemaking process.

What is ‘clean wine’?

Ah, a term that’s been thrown around lately by numerous Insta-experts. Once again, there’s no true definition; however, there are many opinions. Clean wine once meant using additives to remove the aforementioned ‘faults’. Now, it’s quite the opposite.

The newly popularised term ‘clean wine’ now covers a broad spectrum of processes from the way the grapes are treated, to extra legal additives producers can put into wine without specifically listing them. As such, the definition runs incredibly close to that of natural wine.

Buzz words such as ‘megapurple’ and ‘fake oak’ (added colouring and flavouring) are mentioned left, right and centre. Moreover, while yes, these things really do exist, they’re quite rare in Australian winemaking practices.

It’s also true that additional grape-derived sugars can be popped into your wine. Once again, they don’t have to be mentioned on the label. But these can often be detected simply tasting the wine. If it tastes very sweet, akin to soft drink, cordial or juice, chances are extra grape sugar has been added. Grapes are magical little things, but when fermented to dry wine it’s rare for them to be able to create that level of sweetness on their own, i.e. the legal grape derived sugars need to be added back prior to bottling.

Because this is a new phrase (or rather an old phrase with a new meaning), there are no regulatory requirements around using the term ‘clean wine’ on the packaging. This means the very thing that passionate consumers and producers were hoping to clarify could in fact very easily be used against them. People can use the term ‘clean wine’ without the product itself being ‘clean’ at all. A crafty marketing play to create an “us and them” mantra.

Is clean wine organic?

There is a regulatory body that certifies organic products in Australia. However, if a winery has gone through the extremely rigorous process of having their vineyards converted and wines certified organic, there will undoubtedly be an official logo on the label stating this. Simply using the word ‘organic’ on its own, is actually allowed as a marketing tactic, without the product itself being legally certified.

In an industry like winemaking, becoming certified organic can be challenging. The criteria are strict (rightfully so) but even the proximity to other farming can affect the certification. If this is important to you, look for a label with a logo that states ‘certified organic’.

Does that make the term clean wine clearer?

It’s certainly important to consider what you’re putting onto your table and into your body. This is something we feel strongly about at The Vegan Wine Project, and we want to help you differentiate between buzzwords and the real deal. While the original intentions certainly appear pure in this section of the wine industry, this terminology can rapidly be turned into a marketing ploy.

We understand that packaging can be complex. Therefore we try to be as clear as possible when it comes to our beliefs and processes. If you have a question about our wines, consider us an open book. Feel free to contact us and we’ll do our best to give you all the answers. After all, we are in this together.