What’s in Your Wine?
Wine is delicious, there’s no doubt about it. What is in doubt is exactly what’s in that glass of wine you’re drinking. Grapes, obviously. It’s all of the other stuff that gets confusing. There are three things that seem to generate the most questions, so we’ll focus on those today.
Sulfites and Tannins and Arsenic, Oh My!
Sulfites are preservatives that keep wine and lots of other foods from going bad. Sulfites are also found in candy, jam, soft drinks, canned soup, French fries, frozen juices and dried fruits. In the U.S., wines are required to be less than 350 parts per million (ppm), but French fries and dried fruit, for example, average more than 1,850 and 3,500 ppm, respectively. Red wines typically have fewer sulfites than whites. A small percentage of people with asthma are sensitive to sulfites.
If you want to avoid sulfites, read the labels carefully. Note that most countries besides the U.S. are not required to use the “includes sulfites” warning on labels. Organic wines from the U.S. must not add sulfites, but other countries have varying definitions of organic.
Tip: You can easily reduce the sulfites in wine by decanting it or using an aerator. We offer an aerator that reduces sulfites by 56%.
Read more about sulfites on WineFolly.com.
Tannins are naturally occurring compounds that exist inside grape skins, seeds and stems. The scientific word for these compounds is polyphenols. Red wines have stronger tannins than whites. Aging wine in wooden barrels adds tannins as well.
Tannins create the dry, slightly bitter taste in your mouth after drinking some wines. They also serve as a natural antioxidant that helps red wines age better.
Do they cause headaches? That’s a great question, and there’s still a lot of debate on this topic. If you do get headaches after drinking a glass of red wine, try switching to white. If you want to completely remove tannins from your diet, keep in mind that chocolate, nuts, apple juice and tea should also be avoided.
Read more about red wine and headaches on VinePair.com.
Arsenic: There was a brief, but well-publicized, flurry of concern about arsenic levels in some California wine in 2015. The short version: The U.S. regulates the amount of arsenic in drinking water. A Denver laboratory ran tests on some of the country’s top-selling wines to determine how much arsenic they contain. Some had four to five times the amount allowed for drinking water.
What do you need to know about this? First, you should not drink as much wine as you do water. If you do, it’s not the arsenic you need to worry about.
Second, arsenic is found in air, soil and water throughout the world. Therefore, it can also found in grains, fruits, vegetables and seafood due to absorption through soil and water.
Finally, the lab that conducted the tests and raised the flag also happens to sell alcohol analysis services and thereby stand to benefit from stirring this particular pot.
The morals of this story? Enjoy wine in moderation. Read the labels. If something makes you feel bad, stop doing it.