Wine: a dose of sweetened chemicals?

Why your glass of wine may be more of a "splurge" than you realize.


We are starting to see a growing movement of consumers starting to question what's in their food and how it's affecting their body. With programs such as RESTART and Whole 30 are becoming household names and Monsanto recently in the news, people are starting to realize maybe food industry doesn’t have our best interests in mind.

But what is not talked about is what's lurking in our wine. Why are we not asking the same questions when it comes to glass of Cabernet that we're pairing with our grass-fed beef roast and organic veggies? Have you ever noticed that wine doesn't have an ingredient label? Wine is not required to have one, which means wine makers do not have to disclose what is in their wine. That "mouthfeel" and "full-body flavor" could be a slew of chemicals and sugar for all we know.

Wine, theoretically, should be a pretty simple beverage. Nature provided grapes all the ingredients necessary to create their transformation. Put grapes in a container and eventually the yeast from the skins of the grape will work their magic, turning the sugar in to alcohol. My father recalls my grandmother making wine out on the farm when he was growing up. The recipe was as simple as mixing some grape juice, sugar, and a little yeast in a large crock, putting a cork on top, and leaving it to ferment. Today, mass-produced wines go through chemical manipulation in which winemakers are able to draw from a bank of 70+ chemicals to tweak the wine to the perfect color, aroma, thickness, and acidity. Thirty-eight of these fall under the FDA's GRAS list, which stands for "Generally Recognized as Safe." Not to mention the poisonous pesticides that are used in the vineyards and leave residue on the grapes.


What's in your wine?

Some common additives in wine include:

Sulfites/sulfur dioxide: Low levels of sulfites are naturally occurring in wine. However, many wine makers add heavy amounts of sulfur dioxide at multiple steps in the wine making process, which acts as a preservative and stabilizer. Sulfites are the only ingredient winemakers are required to disclose as about 1% of the population has an allergy to sulfites.  It's also important to note that some people have a genetic mutation that alters how their body processes sulfur.

We’ve started asking questions about the chemicals in our food. Why haven’t we done the same with our wine?
— the holistic dietitian
Wine tour along the Niagara Wine Trail.

Wine tour along the Niagara Wine Trail.

Sugar: Many winemakers add extra sugar at then end to boost alcohol content or flavor. Some wines may contain up to 16 grams of sugar for a 5-ounce glass. But don't be deceived, tannins and acidity may mask residual sugars in wine, meaning the wine may not necessarily taste sweet.

Mega Purple and Ultra Red: These "wine boosters" are essentially concentrate grape juice which are added to intensify the color while also turning your lips purple. They also contribute to the mouthfeel, adding a velvety texture because of the extra sugar.

Copper Sulfate: Is often used as a pesticide in agriculture. One study revealed that vineyard sprayers experienced liver damage 3 to 15 years after exposure. Chronic exposure to low levels of copper can cause copper toxicity, anemia, and mineral imbalances.

Pesticides: To maximize yield and profits, many vineyards rely on pesticides and fungicides. A small, independent study found that 10 out of 10 wines grown conventionally contained trace amounts of glyphosate (RoundUp). A survey done by Wine Folly in one zip code in Napa Valley found 30 different chemicals of varying toxicity being used. Some of these compounds have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and environmental impacts.

Isinglass: Isinglass (dried fish bladders), egg whites, gelatin, milk proteins, and bentonite clay are a few additives commonly used to clarify wine. This is a process of removing any particles that may be floating around in the wine. While they are not in the end product, vegans and vegetarians beware, your wine may use non-vegan materials.


can wine play a part in a real food diet?

I think it's perfectly fine to enjoy a glass of wine on occasion but make sure it's not loaded with chemicals and sugar, which would negate any positive health benefits (antioxidants + probiotics).

Before we had our son, my husband and I used to enjoy drinking wine. We visited several vineyards and wineries, both local and when traveling. One of such trips was to Niagara Falls, in which we crossed over to the Canadian side and enjoyed some of their specialty Ice Wine. However, we stopped drinking when we had our son because the headache (even after one glass) and compromising our standards was not worth it. We're picky with what we put in and on our bodies and try to minimize the toxins/chemicals in our food/beverage


However, we discovered Scout & Cellar, which offers wines that do not contain any preservatives, chemicals, synthetic pesticides. They're also low sulfites and contain no added sugars -- containing less than 2 grams of sugar for a 5-ounce glass! But more than that, this company is supporting small wine makers who utilize biodynamic farming practices, which takes organic one step further. Not only are they not using harsh pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, but they're looking at what feeds back in to the land - the nutrients, the bugs, and the bacteria!

But best of all - this company is creating a movement. We've started asking questions about what's in our food, now we need to ask those same questions to the beverage we drink! If you'd like to learn more, click the button below.