Organic grape cultivation eschews the use of synthetic fungicides, herbicides, fertilizers and other artificial processes. The wines themselves are regulated through legislation that can vary from country to country. One of these certification challenges is derived from the USA, where wine and food are conflated under organic regulations. There, in order to protect various food products, the term 'organic wine' can't be applied because of the sulphur present, resulting in the designation 'made from organic grapes'. We encounter that in NZ when the producer labels both their domestic and exported product with the one label.
Biodynamic winemaking and viticulture draws its philosophy from the premise of Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner, that the Earth (and thus the vineyard itself) is a living organism. In order to keep everything in balance, the rationale is that vinicultural practices need to be timed to coincide with the rhythms of the earth, a philosophy embracing the whole ecosystem, that requires environment, plants, animals and people to be in complete harmony. As with organics, there is a certification system, but it's a global standard, known as Demeter and named for the Greek goddess of grain and fertility.
Natural wines are more difficult to define, and are not certificated in the way biodynamic wines, for example, are. They are farmed organically or biodynamically, hand-harvested and 'transformed' without the addition or removal of anything in the cellar. No additives or processing aids are used, and intervention in the naturally occurring fermentation process is kept to a minimum. Neither fining nor filtration are employed. The result is a wine full of naturally occurring microbiology. Essentially, it's about using what one was given, with the wine evolving naturally to be whatever it will be.
In NZ, the presence of sulphur dioxide is required to be noted on the label. Sulphur is produced naturally from the grapes through the fermentation process, so all wines will contain a certain amount. The other way you'll encounter sulphur is in its addition as a preservative, used to inhibit oxidation and microbial spoilage. The amount used varies, and therein lies the difference: between those who adhere to the formulaic approach and those who do everything they can to reduce their sulphur content. Some wines have no sulphur added at all.
The reason not all wines are vegan- or vegetarian-friendly is down to the way a wine is clarified (i.e. made clear and bright) via a process called 'fining'. Young wines naturally contain proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics. These are in no way harmful, and most wines will eventually self-clarify. However, to hasten the process, many winemakers use fining agents. The most commonly used are casein (milk protein), albumen (egg white), gelatin (animal protein) and isinglass (fish bladder protein). When it comes to assessing what's in there, it's worth noting the label is generally not going to be of much assistance.
Normally with white wine, the juice is immediately pressed from the grapes and the skins discarded. They can, though, be made in exactly the same way as red wines, keeping the juice in contact with the skins. This is how orange wines are made. Their origin lies in the classic wines of Georgia, and in Italy's Fruili region, where fermentation and extended maceration on the skins creates a unique character. Orange wines acquire a deep hue and have a phenolic grip to them, with additional tannins derived from the skin contact. They often exhibit a dry, austere nature, and tend to partner very well with food.
Wine, sherry, port and cider are all made from fruit and don't contain gluten, while gin, brandy, rum and tequila are made from gluten-free ingredients. There is debate as to whether a tiny amount remains in vodka, bourbon and whisky, however, most research concludes that any gluten is removed through the extensive distillation process. If unsure, select vodka made from potatoes, corn or grapes and avoid single-distilled spirits and those made from wheat, barley or rye. All beers are produced using varying quantities of barley or wheat malt. Those claiming 'gluten removed' require investigation. So we did.
Short for petillant-naturel, aka methode ancestrale. A traditional method of making sparkling wine that is, in fact, the world's most ancient. The wine is bottled before the primary fermentation is finished, delivering a lower pressure, lightly sparkling wine in the petillant style. The wine is finished without the addition of secondary yeasts or sugars. Pet-nat wines can manifest as cloudy, unfiltered and capped with a crown seal, and they can be white, rose or red in colour. They are a rare item in New Zealand, and don't have a particularly long shelf life. Tip: do not leave them in the boot of your car in the heat of summer.