New Zealand winery Loveblock has achieved what looks like a world first - using green tea as a natural preservative instead of sulphur
Award-winning Kiwi winery Loveblock is leading the charge in wine innovation, with a Sauvignon Blanc that is thought to be the first in the world to use green tea as a natural preservative, as a replacement for sulphur.
Instead of sulphur – the traditional preservative used in wine – green tea is used as a natural antioxidant to preserve Loveblock’s 2019 TEE Sauvignon Blanc. Green tea (Camellia sinensis) is known for its antioxidant properties, something that is being rediscovered and explored in various fields such as medicine, beauty, and now, as a new innovation in winemaking.
Green tea, which is a registered wine additive, is added at each stage of the winemaking process that sees the wine exposed to oxygen, including harvest, crush, float, racking after ferment, filtration and bottling.
Loveblock’s unique approach results in a sulphite free wine with lifted aromas of lemon verbena, saffron, orange peel and ruby red grapefruit, followed by a herbaceous layer and earthy cumin tones. Juicy white peach and citrus flavours complemented by fresh acidity round out the wine with a crisp, lingering minerality on the finish.
Made using grapes grown on Loveblock’s certified organic Awatere Valley vineyard, Loveblock TEE Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is also vegan-friendly and certified organic by BioGro.
Erica Crawford, Loveblock founder, is excited about the possibilities that new winemaking techniques such as this could present. “We believe this is the first wine in New Zealand, if not worldwide, to use green tea as a unique alternative to sulphur,” says Erica. “We are very excited about the prospects of this new way of winemaking – in our opinion, winemaking should be as natural as possible, and many wine drinkers are now exploring the natural and organic wine category more than ever before.”
Erica was inspired by wine innovation in her home country of South Africa, where research has led to some wineries successfully replacing sulphur with rooibos (a South African red bush shrub), powdered tea and honeybush tea leaves.
The first of her experimental green tea Sauvignon Blanc was bottled in 2018, and originally named Loveblock Orange due to the wine ‘pinking’ and developing an orange tinge that clarified after a few weeks. After additional research, green tea was added at each point along the winemaking process to prevent the pinking effect, resulting in Loveblock TEE Sauvignon Blanc in 2019. The name ‘TEE’ translates to ‘tea’ in Afrikaans, in a nod to both Erica’s heritage and the ingredients in the wine.
The use of green tea also means the wine does not ‘go off’ or oxidise. Typically, when wine has no preservative, it can assume sherry-like flavours and a dark orange or brown colour; however green tea protects against this oxidation – meaning Loveblock TEE can remain open in the fridge and retain it intended flavours for at least five days.
“TEE is the first in what could become a very exciting category for Loveblock and New Zealand wine, which we’re looking forward to exploring later this year and early next year,” Erica continues. “Using green tea is really throwing the textbook out the window, and we will be testing other natural antioxidant preservatives that we hope to introduce to our wine range in time.”
Founded by Erica alongside husband and winemaker Kim Crawford, Loveblock began as a result of Erica’s passion for organics. Their vineyards are tended through organic farming principles, allowing the wines to display their true terroir.
Loveblock’s wines are not only sustainable, but award-winning; in late 2019, Loveblock earned its second placement on the prestigious Wine Spectator Top 100 List, ranking 46th of 100 on the 2019 list for its vegan-friendly and sustainably accredited Pinot Noir Central Otago 2018. In 2018, its Loveblock Pinot Noir Central Otago 2015 earned 42nd place in the Top 100 List.