Natural & Low allergen winemaking - What does it mean? What do we do differently?
Low Allergen or Natural Wine production is not all that entirely different from standard wine production. There are a few little changes we make, and as with all high quality wines it starts in the Vineyard. All the blocks we draw fruit from are grown under either Organic or Sustainable Viticulture, therefore we start the process with less or no chemicals in our wines. Our winery is also accredited through sustainable practice.
Natural wine is where we grow the grapes, obviously organically, or better than accredited organic or bio dynamic vineyards(just without the witchery). We don’t put anything on them at all – but we farm with a more intense labour content, with better cultural operations in the vineyard. Then in the winery we just use the native yeast that occurs naturally on the outside of the grapes…every grape has a bit of yeast on it. Most winemakers do add yeast, and when they add outside yeast it usually kills off the native yeasts. So your natural winemakers just grow the grapes organically, crush them, use the native yeasts, ferment it and bottle it. That’s it. It’s really pure winemaking. There are issues however , it is not simply as easy as that, we must have lower yields as the fruit needs to be in better than average condition, as we can’t employ more modern techniques such as reverse osmosis, or use animal based fining agents (Egg, Milk, Gelatin, isinglass, Carbon) we choose not to add sugar, micro-OX or any other foreign products into our wine.
The real advantage of Natural wine is that it is a philosophy that carries right through from the growing of the fruit in the vineyard, to the way in which we make our wine in the winery, and to how we sell, market and even what we bottle our product into.
Moana Parks wine making philosophy is that of minimal intervention. Quality fruit makes quality wine, only the top quality fruit makes it into the winery for production into the Moana Park wines.
The winery is the only commercial winery in the southern hemisphere to be accredited through the vegetarian society. What does that mean?
Simply, it means is that we don't use animal based fining agents in our wines! It is common practice to use these harsh animal products in the fining process while making wine. Leaving these products out of the wine means that our wines have superior mouth feel, texture and flavour. The animal products not only strip out the cloudy hazes but because they are so harsh they also strip the wine of flavour and colour.
This makes us only the second winery in New Zealand with this approval. We have been making wine this way since our first vintage in 2000.
Food Matching - Does this mean you can't eat meat with our wines? No, the traditional food matches with all our wines still apply. The vegetarian status in our winery comes from a position of us not wanting to add these components to our wine and having a regime of honest winemaking. It of course means we need to pay more attention to detail, but we are sure of the benefits in the finished product. This approach to wine making is very minimalist with less additives used, and a resultant superior product.
Common fining agents used in New Zealand are :
Isinglass - Sourced from the swim bladder of the Sturgen fish
Gelatin - Sourced from the hooves and tendons of cattle
Albumin - Egg white, and you can guarantee they aren't free range
Casein - A product sourced from animal milk.
Carbon - The burnt and ground bones of cattle.
At Moana Park we DO NOT use any of these products.
What do we use?...... We use one fining agent called Bentonite. It is a natural Aluminum Silicate which fines out possible hazes in the wine. We also cross flow filter our wines so we don't have to use bleached cardboard filter pads; by cross flowing we filter out any residual Bentonite as the filter pore size is 0.2 micron. And the real biggy...... is ......we use gravity..... yes if you wait, the heavier pigments will fall to the bottom of the tank, and the wine is left fined. Imagine that!
A point to note is that we also do not add any sugar into our wines. All sugar for fermentation is gained through good viticultural practice. All our wines are dry, with no residual sugar, the exception to this is the Dessert wines which retain natural residual sugar from the grape.
We do not add sugar to our wines as in New Zealand we only have the choice of Cane Sugar. To make Cane Sugar white and available for food processing (wine in this case) it is fined through carbon (see above) to make it white.
During our winemaking process we also use the absolute minimum of Sulphur (Sulphites or preservative 220). We do this through several different methods. Firstly we use a press which operates in vacuum, therefore we have no Oxygen contact, and therefore don’t require preservative. Once in tank of barrel the wines are all kept under a safety blanket of inert gas, whether this be Argon, Nitrogen or Carbon Dioxide depends on where in the process we are. Just prior to bottling we will add a small amount of Sulphur to the wine (as bottling is an oxidative process) although we do want a small amount of oxygen in the wine at this stage, to help the wine age, and to stop reductive fault under Screw Cap. Most NZ wineries will add copper at this stage, rather than oxygen, (and we all know copper is a poison). As the Screw Cap is inert there is no further flow of oxygen into the wine, so we do not need large amounts of Sulphur in the wine.