The Additions in Wine You Don’t Want

By Emily Effren – November 1, 2019

As the sun sets on another eventful day, one may reach for the TV remote to unwind. Another may crack open an old book or cook an elaborate meal to decompress. Or, a person may indulge in one, or possibly two, glasses of wine.

When it comes to vino, we each have a variety of labels that hold our loyalty, or certain types of wine we will gravitate toward. Some of us enjoy a buttery chardonnay, while others crave a full-bodied cabernet sauvignon. Wine is a social must to some and an oasis for others, but sometimes, not all of us know what exactly we are sipping into our bodies.

As there are so many different types and labels of wine that are unique to our hearts, not all wine is created the same way. Yes, too much of anything can be dangerous for the body, but what kind of dangers hide in just one or two glasses of wine?

Typically, when we turn over an inexpensive, processed snack to analyze its label, we find an extensive list of chemicals and scientific vernacular, because the law requires the ingredient information to be (mostly) transparent to the consumer.

Wine, however, is a different ballgame. Turning a wine bottle around, we don’t see an extensive list of chemicals and additives on the label, because it’s not required.

“The wine industry has fought very aggressively and successfully — a very powerful lobby — to keep contents labeling off of wine. That didn’t happen by accident,” CEO of Dry Farm Wines Todd White says in a Bulletproof podcast interview.

In the United States, there are 76 approved additives for the use of winemaking that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, only 56 additives are approved in Europe, White says.

This means that Europe has not allowed these 20 additives in their wines for a specific reason, while the U.S. has allowed these additives to continue to be used in our wines.

Some of the additives allowed in wine in the U.S. include metals, coppers, ammonium phosphate and defoaming agents, White says.

However, there is not exactly a justification to show that these additives improve our health — but there is a justification when it comes to wine industry profits.

For example, defoaming agents, deemed GRAS, or “Generally Recognized As Safe” by the Food and Drug Administration, is an additive that’s only purpose is to decrease the amount of foam that is created from moving wine between tanks, White says.

“Worldwide and in the U.S., we want to make wine faster, not necessarily better. We want to mitigate risk and increase profits, so we have defoaming agents to make the foam go away right away so we can make the wine faster,” White says. “That’s the pursuit of profits — that’s the reason we have these additives.”

Alternatively, at healthier wine companies such as Dry Farm Wines — an additive- and chemical-free brand — they simply wait until the foam has died down to then continue the process, without this defoaming additive. In addition, the company has found ways to still produce wine without all the additives and chemicals that we don’t need in our bodies.

Another addition to wine are sulfites. According to WebMD, “sulfites are chemicals that are in some foods, either naturally or as additives. It’s rare, but some people (about one in 100, according to the FDA) are sensitive to these compounds.”

As the number of people who truly do have an allergy to sulfites is actually small (1/100 as mentioned), many people mistake this sensitivity to sulfites from the symptoms they receive from what is actually the histamine found in wine, White says.

“People who complain of wine making them feel bad usually say that they can drink white wine, but they can’t drink reds,” White says. “Well, in fact, sulfites are higher in white wines than they are in red wines, but histamines are not.”

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Histamine, originally considered as a mediator of acute inflammatory and immediate hypersensitivity responses, has also been demonstrated to affect chronic inflammation and regulate several essential events in the immune response.”

As the juice from both white and red grapes are clear, red wine gets its color from soaking the grape skins for a long time (a maceration process) which is what creates histamine, White says.

So, that headache or inflammatory response after one glass of wine probably isn’t from the alcohol content — it could be from all of the chemicals, additives and histamine that accompany that one glass.

Luckily in Austin, we can find several brands like Dry Farm Wines that have figured this issue out and adapted the winemaking process to be healthier and more beneficial — not just for the company, but for the consumer as well. Brands such as Frey Vineyards, Coturri Winery, Badger Mountain and many more have found unique ways to produce all of our favorite types of wine without all of the additives, sulfites and histamines that we don’t need. So, next time you go for that buttery chardonnay or full-bodied cabernet sauvignon, opt for a healthier brand that cultivates a natural winemaking process to leave you nothing but satisfied and guilt-free.


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