The Search for Authentic Food and Drink
In today’s world it’s common to find many people eating and drinking things that, with a little investigation, they might not consume due to the very artificial nature of what they’re putting into their bodies.
We’ve all heard the horror stories about what’s in fast food: chemicals, sawdust, and plenty of worse things beyond that, which are bad for our health.
Maybe like many people, you’ve turned to organic foods, or healthier, more conscious eating in order to combat the presence of artificial foodstuffs in your life. You’ll enjoy a nice wild salmon, topped with some home-grown herbs from your vegetable garden, perhaps accompanied by a carrot and potato medley you picked up at the local farmer’s market, and think to yourself: everything I’m eating is real.
But there is one surprising area that you may not consider in your quest to eat healthier, more authentic foods: your wineglass.
Chemicals and Additives In Wine?
That’s right. While we all know that soft drinks, sports drinks, and many commercially produced juices can contain chemicals (unless advertised or labelled otherwise), many of us do not think twice about what type of wine we’re drinking, especially if it’s a high-end wine.
But did you know that there are actually a lot of potential additives in your wine, which are usually part of the winemaking process?
Sulfites (technically known as sulfur dioxide) are a preservative that is not only used in winemaking, but in several areas of the food industry (such as dried fruit). While it has not been proven with research, some people report that sulfites give them post-wine headaches or adverse reactions, and indeed, a small segment of the population is actually allergic to sulfites. Some winemakers also produce organic wine without sulfites.
Yeast can assist in providing a great variety in the taste of wine. Some winemakers are happy to benefit from the extant yeast on their equipment, while others proactively insert a yeast cocktail into the mix. One of the main functions of this microbial organism is to assist in turning sugar into alcohol.
Tannin is what provides wine with the bitter taste (however strong or weak that may be in your particular favourite bottle). It can be found naturally in the grapes themselves, in the skin, but tannin may also come from the oak wood barrels in which the wine is aged. Some winemakers will even add oak chips into their wine to effuse extra tannin into their product.
Sugar can be added to wine in order to make it stronger, since, in the process of its fermentation, the sugar becomes alcohol. This does not make the wine sweeter since the sugar is consumed in the process, but the adding of sugar to the winemaking process is actually illegal in some places, like California, Argentina, Australia, Southern France, and South Africa.
So far, many of the additives have seemed reasonable, haven’t they? Yeast, tannin, sugar, and sulfites may be additives, but at least they are natural, and in fact, some of them even originate within the grape itself.
However, during the winemaking process, there is a whole additional category of additives that are more chemical in nature, inserted for the purpose of manipulating the wine towards a particular result, such as maintaining its freshness, colour, or uniformity of flavour.
Copper sulfate can be added to remove additional sulfur, and eliminate aspects of the taste that the bottler does not want to have in the wine. The taste and longevity of wine are affected by the pH, so if it is too acidic, calcium carbonate (also known as chalk) will balance out the pH to a desirable number. If the wine is not acidic enough, tartaric acid, malic acid, and citric acid could be added into the winemaking process or any blend of those acids.
Other additives include acetaldehyde, which is used to stabilize the colour of the wine. Dimethyl dicarbonates (DMDC) are used to sterilize and to stabilize wine as well. While it has been approved in the United States, European Union, and Australia, DMDC is actually poisonous within the first hour it’s added into the wine, but thankfully it breaks down within a half-hour.
Can I Find Additive-Free Wine?
So there you have it. Wine may not be labelled as such, but during the process, there can be plenty of additives that participate in the winemaking process. Some of these chemicals have been reported to provide adverse reactions in wine drinkers, such as headaches, nausea, congestion, or more severe allergic reactions. Even if you don’t have a sensitive palate, you may find yourself preferring wine that is purely natural, or as pure it as it can be without unnecessary additives.
Thankfully, there are some good wines out there that can answer the call to your search for preservative free wine.
We picked two (out of many), one white, to go with your fish or chicken, and the other red, to go with your red meat. Although, if you’re vegan, you’ll just be happy to choose either one of these organic wines, grown in the tradition of sustainable wine-making.
Badger Mountain Riesling
Grown, cultured, and bottled in the Columbia Valley Region of Washington State, Badger Mountain Winery is the playground of winemakers Greg Powers and Jose Mendoza, who proudly crafts wine with no sulfites added, each with “a distinct heady balance of fruit, floral, spice, and earth.” They have a variety of wines (Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and others), and each bottle carries the official USDA Organic Logo.
The central focus of their winemaking process is fresh flavour and pure fruit. “I want to keep the wine as close to the vine as possible,” Powers writes. Much of their wine is also aged in stainless tanks, to avoid the addition of tannins.
Vegan Vine Red Wine
This winery is a family owned operation in San Martin, California. Owners Bill and Brenda Murphy are committed to environmentally sound, sustainable growth, and their vineyard is certified through the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. The Vegan Vine started when a family member of the owner was curious to see if there was a brand of wine that could meet the needs of his animal-free diet since many wines do utilize the chemical properties of animal products (eggs, milk, and even fish stomach. ) Vegan Vine is perfect for anyone who is vegan or wants to make sure that there are no animal-related additives in their wine. Like many wineries in California, they are also involved in building healthy soil, recycling natural resources, and even enhancing the surrounding wildlife habitats.
Sip and Enjoy
In conclusion, there are a lot of additives and potentially many preservatives in many of the wines you may be purchasing, drinking, and enjoying. But the good news is that if you’re looking for a preservative-free wine, there are plenty of great options out there. Many wineries also have websites where you can view their certifications and read about their sustainable, organic, preservative-free philosophy.