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This local winery is using green tea extract to make its organic wines
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This local winery is using green tea extract to make its organic wines

Loveblock Tee - Green Tea Sauvignon Blanc

In a bid to keep sulphur and other additives out of wine, green tea leaf extract is being used as a natural alternative by this Marlborough vineyard.

Loveblock founder Erica Crawford has developed their latest Sauvignon Blanc with green tea extract, believed to be the first in the world to use it in this way.

Here she discusses alternative antioxidants and the rise of vegan and organic wines.

Erica Crawford & Queenie

How did you and the team come up with the idea to use green tea as a natural preservative in replacement of sulphur?

In an effort to protect the wine, while complying with organic certification requirements, we wanted to find a natural and effective alternative – and we found it in green tea.

Alongside this, we’re always looking to discover new ways of innovating with our winemaking processes and had been watching South African winemakers with interest, who have been experimenting with Rooibos (red bush tea) and honeybush teas. It piqued our curiosity, and when we found out that a green tea leaf extract was already registered as a wine additive in New Zealand, we jumped straight in.

How did you use a green tea additive in the winemaking process?

Oxygen is both a friend and foe to wine at various stages and phases of the winemaking process. Wine may need a little oxygen initially but mostly, protection from its plundering effects is needed as the wine can oxidise in its presence (i.e. turn brown and taste “off”, like bad sherry). Therefore, at every stage where the wine is exposed to oxygen (that is, every time the wine is moved) we add green tea in the form of high-grade leaf extract powder to protect the wine from oxidation.

How does a green tea additive change the character and taste of a wine?

We have not observed flavour transfer from the tea to the wine – it is definitely varietally Sauvignon Blanc. It does add an additional component to the wine though, allowing the usually hidden, exotic nuances such as mandarin zest, cumin tones and saffron to show themselves – in my opinion, anyway! I think sulphur grips flavours very tightly, whereas with green tea we have found the flavour flow to be softer and the texture more prominent. Green tea is technically a tannin, so the wine is a bit more grippy on the finish.

Does the drinker benefit from the antioxidant properties of green tea, or does this go in the process?

No, Loveblock Tee, nor any other wine – conventional, natural or organic – offers any specific benefits. The use of green tea as a replacement for sulphur is an innovation in natural winemaking and the benefit is that it gives consumers choice and the freedom to discover new ways of winemaking.

pouring wine into glass

What other possibilities do you think organic additives can add to the winemaking offering?

The whole objective of organic winemaking is to add less things to the wine, as well as less manipulation and tinkering. Our aim is to let the wine speak for itself, expressing its true and naked terroir, with as small a handprint from the winemaker as possible.

In terms of the possibilities that new additives such as green tea and possibly other natural preservatives in future offer, this could be anything from flavour development to longer preservation times – but we won’t know until we start experimenting further.

What makes a vineyard certified organic?

It simply means that no chemical herbicides, pesticides or fertilisers are used in growing the grapes. We instead rely on healthy soil to provide a robust environment for the plant to thrive and biological means to control pests and disease. The vineyards and winery are subjected to a stringent, independent audit process certifying its legitimacy as an organic environment.

Are most wines vegan friendly, or is this a special category in winemaking?

In most commercially made wines you usually find animal products, be it gelatine, isinglass or egg whites. We only use plant-based products in our winemaking procedures.

How do you know that a wine you see on the shelf is truly natural and organic?

Always look for proof of certification. In New Zealand we need to show the vineyard number with the proof of certification on the bottle, so that consumers can track and trace the legitimacy of the organic claims. Loveblock is certified organic with BioGro (our certification number is 5266).

What are other interesting additives you have heard of, or are interested to try?

We will be trialling both the South African teas (Rooibos and honeybush) tannins that I referred to earlier, next vintage. Keep your eyes peeled!

Why do you think natural and organic wines are having a moment?

People want to know what they ingest, eat and drink, what it can do to them and where it comes from. This trend is truly consumer driven. I also want to impress upon you that organic and biodynamic producers have a deep commitment to earth care, and the profit margins are certainly not as wide as with commercial wines. It’s a deeply held philosophical thing.

Choose your wine carefully, drink less, but drink better.

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