Single vineyard, vegan, organic: The wine terms you need to know for your next delivery

You only need to walk the wine aisle of your local supermarket or liquor store and see the hundreds of different varietals on offer to realise that New Zealanders have one of the most epic wine selections in the world. 

But you also might have gotten a little bamboozled by all the different terms on each bottle - some are certified vegan and organic, others are from single vineyards or "estate bottled". These are all great terms to throw around, but if you're like me, you'll do so crossing your fingers nobody is going to ask for any further explanation. 

We turned to some of the city's top winemakers and experts for some help to decode what some of the terms splashed across bottles actually mean. 

Whether you're hosting a dinner party this weekend or you're just ordering a few bottles to enjoy in your bubble in Auckland's level 3 lockdown, it's the perfect time to educate yourself so you can show off when sharing with friends, flatmates and family.

'Single vineyard' 

If you've travelled around the country and seen the impact different climates have on their respective vineyards, you probably have something of an inkling that a vineyard environment plays a large part in the flavour of the grapes. 

For example, Pinot Noir grapes grown on Waiheke are going to taste pretty different to those grown in Central Otago 

But what you might not have known is that thanks to modern processing, often the grapes you pour into your glass at home are actually blends from multiple sites. 

The increasingly popular 'Single vineyard wine' in comparison, only uses grapes sourced from one vineyard, which has been isolated from all other vineyards due to its "superior" combination of elements like soil, water quality, sunlight and daily temperatures. 

Wither Hills is one brand focusing on a single vineyard in its popular range. "The wines are made in an artisan style, using craft practises to deliver quality and character unique to the vineyard it comes from," a spokesperson said. 

The local brand has a new range of single-vineyard wines the winemakers say taste specific to the site of each of the three selected vineyards. For example, Wither Hill's Rarangi Sauvignon Blanc is grown in a sea-level vineyard, about 200m from the ocean which creates a soil structure and microclimate different to other vineyards in the area. The minerality and sea salt of the location comes out in the wine, making it extra dry. 

Singe vineyard wines are increasingly growing in popularity, thanks to their superiority.
Singe vineyard wines are increasingly growing in popularity, thanks to their superiority. Photo credit: Instagram/@WitherHills.

Other single vineyard varietals from brands like Mt Difficulty even come with notes on exactly how the respective seasons hit each vineyard, and how that impacted the wine's particular flavour. 


If you've been plant-based your whole life or you've recently transitioned to a vegan lifestyle, you might be shocked to learn not all wine is vegan. I mean, it's just a bottle of crushed, fermented grapes right? Well yes, in theory, but it turns out traditionally wines are processed using fining agents that often aren't vegan - many aren't even vegetarian.  Blood, gelatine, fish oil, fish bladders, milk casein, crustacean shells and egg albumen are all widely used in modern wine production.

The good news is that, increasingly, winemakers are choosing to use fining agents that are not derived from animal products like bentonite clay, kaolin clay, limestone and plant casein.

Typically wines will tell you if they're vegan (just like people am I right? No - I'm kidding) but some of our top picks include Astrolabe Marlborough Chardonnay and Kumeu River Kumeu Village Merlot. You can actually find a full list of local vegan wines here. 

Villa Maria 

Organic wine started as a trend you saw on only a handful of wine lists around the city, and it's increasingly becoming more mainstream as winemakers focus on protecting their vineyards for future generations. 

They also used to be much pricier than their non-organic counterparts - but thanks to brands like Villa Maria's Earthgarden range and the Marlborough Earth Mother range, they're much easier to access for under $20 at your local supermarket. 

Villa Maria chief winemaker Dave Roper explained a little more about how they farm their Earthgarden organic range, telling Newshub that organic winemaking "has long been a thing". 

"We've been farming grapes since the late 90s, and doing away with herbaceous and pesticides and going organic just seems the most sensible way to preserve the long term viability of the vineyard," he told Newshub. 

The vineyard instead nourishes its soil with compost from grape skins and seed and the output from our worm farms, while wildflowers grow green material that is returned to the soil to improve its organic matter and quality. Seaweed sprays are also used to preserve vines. 

Roper says organic wines are becoming increasingly popular as consumers care more about where their food comes from. 

"If you think of the way that attitudes towards food have changed - people are more aware of where either meat comes from, their plants come from. Green-fingered people are keen on growing themselves and there are more natural ways of composting."