5 THINGS YOU'LL WANT TO KNOW ABOUT WINE
I get asked A LOT about alcohol - "can I drink it? Is red wine good for me? Should I only drink vodka sodas?" The answer, as with most nutritional conundrums, is everything in moderation. "Moderation" blah blah. It's an overused and pretty boring saying but it's true. The bottom line is that alcohol does not add nutritional value (there are negligible levels of antioxidants in red wine but you'd be better off eating a few grapes) and it can actually deplete the body of vitamins and minerals. But I'm also a realist and I love having a few glasses of wine and I know for many of my clients excluding alcohol completely just isn't an option. I'm a big believer in indulging in the things you enjoy in life. Happiness is such a big part of the wellbeing puzzle, and it's often overlooked.
Seeing as I'm no sommelier, I sat down with Kevin from The Wine Butler , who provides an organic wine home delivery service in the UK, to ask him some hard truth questions I'd been wanting to find out. Some of the following may surprise you...
1. MOST WINES ARE NOT VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN
TWB - "One of the stages of the wine making process is fining , which is where a winemaker will manually filter out organic matter like tannin or proteins to make the wine clear as opposed to it being slightly cloudy. To do this, a number of animal products can be used - egg whites, isinglass (fish bladder), casein (milk protein). Vegan wines are left to clarify naturally so there is no need to use any products to manually do so. Unless you see the specific vegan or vegetarian symbols on the back of the bottle then expect that the wine has been made using animal products. There are some small producers who's wines are vegan or vegetarian but won't have the marker, but any decent wine importer or distributer will inform their customers that these wines are in fact animal free. Thankfully there has been a huge rise in vegan and vegetarian wines, especially those made organically."
2. ALL CONVENTIONAL WINES CONTAIN PESTICIDES
TWB - "Unless a wine is organic then chemical sprays and fertilisers would have been used in the vineyard. Organic is not only better for our bodies, but it's way better for the environment. Farming without the use of chemicals promotes life within the soils and amongst the thousands of animals, birds and insects that create the eco-system around us. This has a huge effect on the quality and health of the grapes that eventually become that bottle that we love so much. Organic wines showcase the unique and individual characteristics of each region, the year they've been grown and the passion of the winemaker. The only way to make great wine is buy having healthy grapes that haven't been diluted with chemicals."
FP - I'm a big supporter of buying organic and sticking to the 'clean fifteen' and avoiding the 'dirty dozen' when I can't source everything (I'll do a separate post on this soon for those who aren't familiar with it). Unfortunately, grapes are included in the 'dirty dozen' because they are a thin-skinned fruit so absorb more of the pesticide residue. When you think about it, your wine is concentrated grapes so in theory you will be getting the concentrated pesticides along with the grapes too. I take a similar approach to juicing - I'd feel much happier knowing it's organic. As well as avoiding pesticides, it has also been proven that you will get more antioxidants from organic produce (I'll save that for another day too!). When I can, I buy or choose to order organic wine. It's actually getting much easier as the demand for it seems to be increasing.
3. WINES AREN'T REQUIRED TO HAVE AN INGREDIENTS LIST (but it's not just grapes)
TWB - "It's a misconception amongst most wine drinkers that your bottle of wine is just made from grapes. We wish! Frankly they don't have to (include an ingredients list) legally. Apart from the words 'contains sulphites' there really isn't anything else ingredients wise that you'll see on a wine label. I believe that winemakers should have a list of what goes into their wines just as you would ANY food product you'd buy. We're living in a world where consumers care far more about where their products come from, what goes into them, and how they're made, so wine should follow suit."
4. ALL WINES CONTAIN SULPHITES (but some more than others)
TWB - "They do but in very different amounts from 10ppm (parts per million) for natural and organic wines, up to 210ppm for conventional major wine brands. Firstly, sulphites are a natural bi-product of the winemaking process. It tends to be the added sulphites or sulphur dioxide (SO2) that is the topic. SO2 is added to wine because it acts as a preservative, and basically kills off anything that may cause the wine to spoil. Organic winemakers tend to use a lot less SO2 than conventional winemakers. They use less because they believe it's another addition that can have an effect on the flavour of the wine and your body. If you are intolerant to sulphites then avoid any major wine brands and seek out organic wines, and wines marked as low sulphur. These tend to have between 10ppm and 50ppm - four times less than conventional wine."
FP - Just a side note on sulphites - I try to avoid the wines that contain higher amounts as I find it really aggravates inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Interestingly, red wines typically contain the lowest levels, followed by rosé & white and the worst offender is prosecco!
5. SPENDING AN EXTRA £2 ON A BOTTLE OF WINE CAN HAVE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE
TWB - "The average price of a bottle of wine bought in the UK is £5.39. The value of the liquid itself after tax, duty, packaging and other costs is only 60p! Now if you spend £2 more (£7.39), the value of the liquid itself goes up almost three times to £1.60. So for £2 more you're getting triple the value in your wine. The real value starts around £10 per bottle where the value of the wine itself shoots up to £2.80 which is four and a half times more value for only an extra £4.60. Simply put, the more you spend on wine, the more you get."
HOW TO BE A BETTER WINE SHOPPER - THE GLOSSARY
- ORGANIC WINE - "organic refers to the way grapes are grown, so no pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilisers are used" - TWB
- BIODYNAMIC WINE - "biodynamic is basically 'organic plus'. Biodynamics takes a more holistic view and treats the vineyard as one whole living ecosystem. pruning, planting and harvesting are all regulated by a special biodynamic calendar governed by the moon. I know it sounds a bit weird but if it produces a better quality of wine then I'm all for it." - TWB
- NATURAL WINE - "natural wine is a term used for wines that are made organically at least, and where nothing is added or taken away when it comes to turning those grapes into wine. So no sulphur added, the wine is unfiltered, unfined, and is a true representation of the grape and land as you can get." - TWB
FP - So the message - drink less but drink better. Spend a few pounds more on an organic, biodynamic or natural wine and just skip the cheap stuff! It's better for you (I'd rather not have the side order of pesticides) and better for the environment too. Winner!