People figured out how to make wine a loooong time ago and many cultures have thrived for centuries with it as a part of daily life.
But for many folks, the idea that a glass of wine can be a part of a healthy life is inconceivable.
Just a glass can cause eczema, red face, headaches, and hangovers. Not fun or healthy.
So what’s with the conflict…
Well it turns out that all wines are NOT created equally.
Additives, chemicals, and questionable farming practices can make the art of winemaking into a game of optimizing economics and manufacturing.
We’ve been anal retentive about the source of our meat, the quality of our vegetables, and even the toxicity of our cleaning products. But when it comes to alcoholic beverages, we’ve seemed to have turned a blind eye.
We can have a healthy and long life, and enjoy wine, but it’s not as easy as it seems.
Organic is more important than we thought.
Grapes are sixth on the 2018 Dirty Dozen list. When grown conventionally, they have the sixth highest concentration of pesticide residue of all commercial fruits and vegetables.
Some people think that the process of fermentation reduces the residual pesticides in wine. This can’t be any further from the truth. Actually, because the grapes are pressed and soaked with their own skins and juices, chemicals like Glyphosate (Roundup) are actually more concentrated in wine than in many other fruits and vegetables.
But the vineyard pesticides aren’t only harmful to you, they actually alter the way that the plant grows. Grapes naturally produce polyphenols to protect them from insects, fungus, bacteria, and disease. And they do the same thing for you when you consume them. Polyphenols are known antioxidants that neutralize free radicals, lower inflammation, and help regulate your blood sugar. But when farmers use sprays, the grapes stop producing polyphenols. The healthy part of your wine isn’t even on the grape anymore.
We are shocked by the additives in wine.
Organic farming practices are good and finding organic wines is part of the battle. But, after the vineyard, the grapes head to the winery where wine producers in the United States can use 76 different additives in wine without disclosing any of them on the bottle. This includes things like:
- Artificial coloring – (virtually every red wine under $20 has the colorant “mega purple”)
- Extra sugar or even high fructose corn syrup
- Ammonia can be added as a nitrogen source to feed the yeast during fermentation, but when the wine is done fermenting the rest of the ammonia remains.
- GMO bacteria and yeasts – In order to make thousands of cases of wine that all taste the same, most commercial vintners do not use the natural yeast on the grapes (and conventionally grown grapes don’t really have it anyway).
- Clarifying agents like fish bladder (that’s right, wine is often not vegan) are used to make the wine clear.
- Casein and polyvinyl-polypr-rolidone (PVPP) are used as finishing agents to get rid of particulates in your wine.
- Added sulfites – small amounts of sulfites are present as a by-product of fermentation, but are added in conventional wine as a preservative.
- Velcorin, a microbial control agent – this can kill you if you drink it on it’s own
- This list goes on…
If you knew these things were in your wine, would you have a glass?
Wine is irrigated for money, not quality
In most European countries, it is illegal to irrigate your vineyards. Grapes are insanely resilient. With proper care of the soil they can survive entirely off of an annual rainfall of less than 30 inches, even in climates with long bone dry seasons.
But grapes are sold by the pound, and pumping them full of water makes them more valuable. The additives that are used in conventional wine making can easily makeup for the lesser quality in grapes.
Grapes that are dry farmed are smaller, but in order to survive the near drought conditions, they are full of polyphenols. This makes the grapes (and you) naturally more healthy.
Irrigated grapes take longer to ripen, while dry farmed wines are full of their own natural sugars. This is why irrigated grapes end up with added sugar, or even high fructose corn syrup.
Although water is a renewable resource our agricultural system is exploiting it much faster than the aquifers can be refilled. There is a huge environmental cost to irrigating especially in drought prone areas. It lowers the water table and pulls water from rivers, which affects the aquatic ecosystem. We all should be doing are part to protect our waterways, and choosing the right wine, isn’t the hardest thing we have to do.
But there’s still hope
Clearly this post has been a buzz kill. And since alcohol is one of the only consumables that is not required to have an ingredient or nutrition label, you may just want to sit down and cry next time you find yourself in the wine aisle.
But not all hope is lost. Look for wines that are labeled organic or biodynamic. With both of these labels you can be sure that your grapes are using chemical and GMO free farming practices.
Biodynamic takes it even a step further, requiring farms to approach their animals, plants, and soil as one single system. This method has been accused of taking their practices too far into pseudosciences, but you can rest assured knowing their practices are safe, chemical free, and lead to a healthier bottle of wine.
To be sure that your wine is free of additives, look for wines that are labeled as natural. This can be a little bit more tricky because wines are not certified as natural, but these wines are typically fermented with native yeast. They are usually left unfiltered and unfined. They do not have artificial colors or added sugar. And the fermentation process is left up to nature.
And, if you can find them, look for dry farmed wines. Most of these are from European countries, so you might have to step out of your California wine comfort zone, but you will find a few from the U.S. You will be saving our waterways AND drinking a healthier wine.
Want to make it easier?
There has recently been a buzz among the healthy food bloggers about a healthy wine subscription service called Dry Farms Wine. We tried it, and we love it too.
Their founder, Todd White, traveled the world for a better part of a decade looking for wine that was both healthy AND delicious and now his company is sending these wines right to your door.
Dry Farm Wines has strict standards. They lab test everyone of their wines to be sure that every bottle is:
- Organic or biodynamic
- Natural and additive free
- Dry farmed
- And lower in alcohol
Because these wines are low in sugar and carbs, these wines are even keto friendly and can be part of a healthy and hangover free lifestyle.
A bit of alcohol can help us relax and strengthen connections with others. But more does not mean better. Alcohol is still toxic, now matter how many polyphenols you consume. With lower alcohol content, you can have a whole glass, maybe even two, and not suffer the negative consequences.
Wine can be a part of a long and healthful life, you just need to need to drink the right wines.
Dry Farm Wines will take the guesswork out of it. And right now, they are offering friends of Real Plans a free bottle with your first purchase.
They make it easy, free shipping. You get a subscription for 6 or 12 bottles of whites, reds, or a mix and you can cancel at any time. They even have a “happiness guarantee” so if you don’t like a bottle they’ll refund you or give you something different.
So if you like wine – relax, celebrate, enjoy a cultural experience. Just do it the healthier way.