The Sangiovanni winery in Italy has the unique distinction of being the country's first certified vegan winery. The question is, does it really matter?
An agrobiological company
The Sangiovanni winery describes itself as an agrobiological company. Founded in 1990 by the Di Lorenzo family, one of the most noble families in the Le Marche province, they obtained organic certification in 2000.
In 2012, the farm was bought by shareholders and relaunched as a new company. They sell mainly to foreign markets with China being the largest, followed by Japan, and other European countries.
Situated in the hills of Piceno, the company farms 30 hectares of vineyards at an average altitude of 320 meters above sea level. They grow typical grape varietals of the region including Passerina, Pecorino, Trebbiano, Montepulciano and Sangiovese.
Vegan down to the glue on the label
In 2014, they became the first winery in Italy to obtain vegan certification.
As CEO, Katia Stracci states, when they discovered they were vegan, it was a bit of a surprise. "We never used animal products during the winemaking process like egg whites, isinglass. We always used bentonite, derived from vegetables to clarify the wines."
She goes on to mention that "To be certified vegan, the winery should use organic fertilization in the vineyards, substances derived from vegetables in the cellar, and vegan glue as well."
Pair Pecorino with Pecorino
Their 2018 Pecorino ($18), is full bodied with salty, mineral sea breeze and lemon acidity.
It is most definitely a food wine and as Ms. Stracci says, the typical pairing in the region is actually Pecorino wine with Pecorino cheese.
"There's something about the salty, nutty-tart cheese and bracing acidity and fleshy stone fruit of the wine that make them a genuinely great pair. "Katia Scracci, CEO of Sangiovani
She goes on to offer additional pairing suggestion. "Pecorino wines also go beautifully with shellfish, and those dry soft, herbal notes found in some bottles make them a natural match for complex, wintry flavors."
Pair Passerina with Seafood
Meanwhile their 2018 Passerina ($14) is light, fresh, and delicate with notable structure and a long finish. The grapes are soft pressed and aged in stainless steel for just 10 days.
Per the tech sheet, Passerina wine is actually the rediscovery of a very ancient Picena grape.
What I find distinctive about it is its straw golden color yet lifted, acid flavor.
The winery suggested pairing this wine with:
- Paccheri (large tube pasta) stuffed with swordfish, pinenuts and raisins
- Tagliolini (like tagliatelle pasta but cylindrical instead of flat) with squid
- Marinara risotto
- Pasta carbonara
Isn't wine mostly vegan anyway?
While it may seem free of animal products, wine may be refined with the help of animal products such as:
- Egg whites
- Casein - a milk protein
- Gelatin - derived from animal hide and bones
- Isinglass - derived from fish bladders
- Chitosan - derived from crustacean shells
Meanwhile, there are non-animal products that could be used to make wine such as plastic substances and purified clay.
However, this problem is not unique to wine.
Conventional sugar is refined through bone char, and sugar is in countless consumer products.
Not to mention that all vegetables and fruits are commonly grown with the help of animal manure. Even if plant based compost is used, one could argue that the worms have aided the health of the soil and thereby helped the fruit to grow.
Vegan Qualitana certification
SanGiovanni winery uses the Vegan Qualitana label that offers certifications in the US, Italy, China, and South Korea.
I reached out to the Vegan Qualitana for specific qualifications but did not receive any more details than:
- The product is inspected onsite by a professional inspector
- They check ingredients at all phases of manufacturing, clarification, and filtration.
At any stage, no animal ingredients origin are allowed
No mention was made of examining agricultural practices. Perhaps that is in the purview of an organic label.
As I learned more about the vegan certification, I started to wonder if this was just all marketing hogwash: a ploy to lure unassuming, animal loving consumers, and most of all make money.
But does this marketing actually work?
I only bought these wines because they had a distinctive vegan certification that made my tastebuds immediately sit up and listen up.
Familiar and affordable
When faced with a shelf full of Italian wines many do not understand with all their unusual grape varietals and unfamiliar, hard to pronounce winery names, the vegan label is at once recognizable, reliable, and unique.
The vegan certification could be the deciding factor between this or that wine bottle consumer has never tasted.
It also demonstrates the winery's commitment to a cause beyond themselves and attention to small details that many other businesses may overlook.
In addition, these wines were very reasonably priced, proving that sustainable, ethical wines can be budget friendly too.
Featured wines were purchased from Table Wine Merchant in Pacifica, CA. As a result of shelter in place restrictions, they now have a very robust online store to order from.
Questions for Discussion
- Are vegan certifications necessary? Or are these tailored to a very acute portion of the wine drinking population?
- Would using a cowhorn in biodynamic winemaking disqualify a wine from being vegan?
- Have you had a Passerina or Pecorino wine? Please share your impressions.
Learn more about sustainable Italian wines
Check out these posts from the Italian Food Wine Travel writers to read more about Italian wineries making efforts towards sustainable practices.
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