Winemaker Chats: Part One

Winemaker Andy La Nauze never really had one of those Oprah-style moments where the heavens seemed to open and he realised winemaking was the path for him. The love developed more via osmosis – the tastes, smells, the land, community, the seasons. Growing up in the Barossa, wine becomes an intrinsic part of your way of life.

He left the Barossa initially to study and work in an academic, non-wine related field, but he soon realised it lacked the creativity he craved. Now having a background in science, viticulture was a great way to combine his passions, knowledge and drive to create.

Since 2004 Andy has been bringing this passion and expertise to your glass with Yalumba. The Vegan Wine Project grew from an overall wine philosophy, rather than a dietary one.

“The drive was to create wines that are a true reflection of the varieties and where they are grown,” he said. “In doing so, we questioned everything we were doing from vineyard to customer and in each case, we asked ourselves: why?”

In some of those instances, it was simply a case of ‘we’d always done it that way’. Though history and tradition hold great value, Andy wasn’t afraid of a little change to showcase the greatest possible expression of the grapes and therefore, the wines.

His philosophy is pretty simple:

“Start with quality grapes, make everything smooth and efficient through the winery, don’t interfere too much and you should be left with a reflection of the fruit that was grown on the vines.”

The execution of this, however, took learning and refining. Starting with just a few varietals, Andy and his team tweaked and tampered with ideas to perfect the final product with minimal intervention.

Of course, the difference with vegan wine is that there’s less margin for error. Animal-based fining agents used to purify the wine, allow for small imperfections to be corrected. Without those agents, we need to be laser-focussed on growing healthy grapes, picking at the optimum time, and treating them with respect through the winery in a timely fashion. Meaning, sometimes we play them Aretha Franklin and let them take a bubble bath.

There wasn’t a ‘Eureka!’ moment, as such for Andy. For that, we assume the people of the Angaston would be thankful, no one wants a naked scientist running down the street flailing and yelling. Once the first few wines had been perfected with new methods and techniques, Andy slowly progressed to the more challenging varietals.

This meant bucking trends. Tannins, which make red wine delicious, can leave white wine grippy and bitter and need to be removed. Animal proteins do this with ease. Think about adding milk to a cup of strong black tea, the milk alleviates the bitterness. The same applies to wine. For example, as a winemaker you’re taught not to expose white wine to air, but to make vegan white wine without the bitterness you need to go against the traditional rule book.

The result of stepping outside the box speaks for itself. Andy’s current favourite from The Vegan Wine Project collection is the Sauvignon Blanc, a varietal that can be somewhat pish-poshed in highbrow wine circles; yet this is fresh, zesty and delicious.

Andy will attest to the fact that doing things differently was always going to be a journey of discovery. Whilst we’re still learning along the way, we’re thrilled with the results so far. Regardless of dietary preference or ethical beliefs, we think our vegan wine suits all folks and occasions. Pick up a bottle and let us know what you think!