Having won hundreds of medals and other accolades over the past three decades, Hunter’s Wines continues to lead from the front by recently gaining vegan certification from the New Zealand Vegetarian Society.
Hunter’s, one of the wine industry pioneers in Marlborough and among the best-known family wineries in the country, is now rolling out a full range of 2019 sauvignon blanc, riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir vegan wines.
Certification guarantees all these wines are produced without using any animal products, do not contain any genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and have no ingredients connected with animal testing.
And that means vegans (and vegetarians) – a growing segment of the socially conscious food and beverage market – can now enjoy Hunter’s wines knowing they are completely plant-based and animal-free.
Traditionally, products derived from gelatine (extracted from animal tissues, skin and bones), fish, egg whites and milk protein have been used as fining agents to help clarify, purify and stabilise wine during production.
Now, says Hunter’s laboratory technician Rohan Shah, those animal products have been replaced by plant-based processing agents such as pea and potato protein which, after exhaustive outside research and testing, have been approved as completely vegan.
“Anything and everything that we add during the winemaking process has to be thoroughly checked out to make sure it meets the vegan criteria,” says Rohan who sees the movement towards plant-based food and drink as one of the key issues in the wider debate over climate change and global warming.
“Veganism is growing in a very big way. More and more restaurants now are completely vegan. In supermarkets and food stores you’ll find whole sections dedicated to vegan products.
“A lot of people are moving in that direction so it makes sense for Hunter’s to move forward too. We feel it helps make things cleaner and greener, and reduces our carbon footprint.”
Rohan, who joined Hunter’s about three years ago, and South African winemaker Inus van der Westhuizen – whose first Marlborough vintage was back in 2007 – are the two staff primarily responsible for driving this initiative. “So far it’s been very well received,” says Inus.
Vegan certification marks another significant advance by this environmentally friendly Rapaura Road winery, adding to such measures as planting cover crops in the vineyards, composting grape skins and pulp left over after pressing, recycling packaging and minimising waste.
The winery is also trying to move away from using herbicides and encourage more natural methods of disease and pest control. Rohan says that approach is in line with becoming organic but that requires a different and longer certification process.
Having set the bar pretty high, Hunter’s now has to continue meeting the demanding standards it has established for itself as ongoing certification is carried out every year by the national vegetarian society.
“Each vintage has to have a separate certification,” says Rohan. With that comes a little symbol that can be printed on wine labels and other promotional materials letting everyone know that Hunter’s not only produces delicious, award-winning wines but they’re now also 100 percent vegan.