Biodynamic, natural + organic wine provides tons of health benefits without harmful additives found in modern wine. Read on for the full story!
Who has two thumbs and loves drinking wine?!?!
I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in my love of wine–if girls nights with my friends are any indication 😉
But seriously, wine is delicious and the benefits of drinking it are far-reaching–it tastes great, and makes food taste better, it's a social affair often promoting deeper conversations, it's relaxing and strengthens the spirit, fueling creativity and it just plain makes you feel better. Amiright?!
And if you're a regular wine drinker, then I'm sure you've also seen the studies promoting the myriad health benefits that come from drinking wine (any excuse to lessen the guilt of our glass, right?).
Regardless, wine's health benefits are real–the antioxidants have been known to improve cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease, especially when combined with exercise. Wine can lengthen your lifespan, may have positive effects on the brain and has been found to reduce depression (source).
But, if we're being honest with ourselves, we can all admit that nobody is drinking wine because they're trying to lower their cholesterol.
We're drinking wine because…life, ya know?
Alright so it's settled: drinking wine is good for the mind, body and soul.
Of course, this only applies to drinking wine in moderation, and anyone who's had one too many glasses knows that's not always the case.
If you've ever experienced a wine hangover, you know the headaches, brain fog and other negative side effects are no joke.
But did you know that these effects may not be from the wine itself, rather from the additives in the wine?
What's Really Lurking In Your Cabernet?
Yep, as it turns out, most most wines, especially domestic wines, are highly processed and contain questionable additives and/or toxic pesticides and herbicides.
In fact, there are 76 chemicals and additives approved by the FDA for use in winemaking.
What's more? Just like our modern industrialized food system, modern wine production and farming techniques have changed dramatically from the naturally fermented grape juice our ancestors imbibed.
Standard modern wines are now much higher in alcohol, higher in sugar, and filled with questionable, if not downright harmful, chemicals and additives to improve texture, color, and flavor. Put another way: winemakers are trying to mask the low-quality grapes and winemaking techniques being used.
To make matters worse, consumers have almost no way of knowing if the wines they're drinking contain these additives because the U.S. government does not require wine labels to include nutritional information or ingredient lists. If you think they're protecting you, think again!
If studying our labeling laws has taught me anything, the lack of transparency isn't to protect the consumer, or even company trade secrets…it's to hide what you're really drinking/eating because if you knew the truth, you'd never buy the product!
Don't believe me? Take a look at some of the most common wine additives used today!
Wine Additives, The Real Reason For Headaches and Hangovers
If you read your food labels, are thoughtful about what you eat, and care about what you put in and on your body…shouldn't you also pay attention to the wine you drink? Here are some of the most common, and harmful, wine additives (source):
- Mega Purple: Ever gotten purple teeth from drinking red wine? It's likely due to an additive called Mega Purple, a super-concentrated coloring agent some winemakers add to their wines to change the color and/or add sweetness. Not only is this additive akin to adulterating a wine, but the need for its use is usually evidence of poor viticulture and/or winemaking. Or put another way: the grapes are low-quality and they're trying to hide it.
- Commercial Yeasts: While yeast is a naturally-occurring organism (and one that is used to make all wines as it's the ingredient that converts sugar to alcohol), many winemakers add commercial yeast (instead of natural, native, wild yeast) to speed up the fermentation process. Not only are these commercial yeasts genetically modified (or GMO), but they're often the real cause of headaches after drinking wine.
- Excess Sulphur: This one is tricky. Sulfur, as a byproduct of fermentation, is found in all wine. But many winemakers add additional sulfur, often in excess, to help stabilize the wine, kill unwanted bacteria and prevent oxidation. Sounds okay, but the problem is the overuse of sulfur. Many conventional wineries use sulfur right out of the gate, when the fruit comes in, and throughout the winemaking process, resulting in a highly processed wine. Sulfur is actually the only ingredient wineries are required by law to disclose on their label because about 1% of the population is allergic to sulfites. So if you see a wine that says “contains sulfites”, it means the wine has more than 20 ppm (parts per million). Some wineries will disclose exactly how much sulfur is in the wine, so it's usually best to stick to wines without sulfur or with low amounts. Of course, this means the wine will be less shelf-stable, so you're taking a risk that when you open the bottle, the wine might have gone bad.
- Added Sugar: Typically, sugar is added during fermentation to speed up the process and increase the alcohol content of a wine. The use of added sugar is called chaptalization, and it's actually illegal in California, Argentina, Australia, Southern France and South Africa. But unfortunately, in areas where grapes often struggle with ripeness (like France and Oregon), sugar is often added and the wines are usually higher in alcohol. However, it's important to note that there's a difference between added sugar (which is when a winemaker adds cane sugar, corn syrup or grape concentrate) and residual sugar, which primarily comes from the fruit sugars in wine grapes themselves. Though residual sugar is natural, wines that have high levels of RS are often the source of wine headaches. These wines are literally sweeter, and contain more calories and carbs (read: not as friendly to your waistline). Wine Folly has a great guide to sugar in wine that you can read here.
- Fining + Clarifying Agents: These additives are perhaps the most shocking and disturbing, as they are not naturally occurring in wine and often are made up of common allergens, like dairy, eggs and animal products. That's right! Many conventional wineries add non-vegan ingredients, like milk, fish bladders, gelatin, egg whites, protease and casein, to change the flavor profile of their wines. So if you're a vegetarian or are allergic to dairy, you could be consuming those ingredients when you drink wine, without ever knowing it since it's not required to be disclosed on the label. Even if you're not trying to avoid these ingredients, do you really want to drink wine that's made with fish bladders? Pass.
- Pesticides and Herbicides: Just like food that hasn't been grown organically, non-organic wine grapes can contain traces of pesticides and herbicides, including Monsanto's Round-Up. In fact, Wine Folly surveyed a zip code in Napa and found over 30 different chemicals of varying toxicity being used in the area. Fortunately, if you buy wines that are Certified Organic by the USDA, Certified Biodynamic, SIP Certified, and/or contain the words “Made with organically grown grapes” on the label, you can avoid these toxins. Click here to download my FREE guide to Wine Labeling Laws and what you should look for to ensure what you're drinking is safe (Hint: These certifications also have laws about what additives are allowed, so they're helpful for more than just pesticide reduction!).
Fear not! I know I just delivered a slew of bad news, but there IS a silver lining and you can still drink your wine!!
Not only do I have some tips and tricks to help ensure the wine you're drinking is safe, but I've also compiled a list of The Best Natural Wines Under $25. I've personally tried every wine on the list, so I can vouch for their taste and quality, and many of the wines came recommend from sommeliers, restaurateurs, wine shop owners and natural wine experts!
Rest assured, this guide will help you determine whether a wine is safe and healthy, or toxic and full of harmful additives.
Now onto the fun part!
Where to Buy Organic Wine
While you can absolutely head down to your local wine shop or grocery store and try to find organic, biodynamic and/or natural wines, I've got an amazing resource that takes all of the guesswork out of the process for you! And you can get your first bottle of wine for just 1 cent. Yes, as in a single penny.
I recommend Dry Farm Wines, a revolutionary wine club curating dry-farmed (read: sustainable), low-alcohol, low sulfite, sugar-free and additive-free wines!
Here's the deal:Dry Farm Wines is the only health quantified wine club in the world!
They travel the globe collecting the best organic, natural wines, which they then curate into a box of either 6 or 12 bottles to send their members every 1-2 months, depending on your preference.
You can cancel your membership anytime, so it's risk-free and Dry Farm Wines is one of the only places I know of that you can place an order and be GUARANTEED that ALL the wines you're buying are safe, natural and free of additives.
In fact, each of the wines provided by Dry Farm Wines are lab-tested (they personally test every single wine to ensure its safety) and guaranteed to be:
- Low Alcohol: alcohol content between 12% and 12.5%.
- Sugar Free/No Chaptalization: sugar content <1g/L, statistically sugar free, which also makes them carb free
- Free of Commercial Yeast: only wild native yeast is used
- Free of processed fining and clarifying agents, and all other additives and preservatives
- Natural, Organic or Biodynamic, including dry-farmed (aka no irrigation used)
- Hand harvested fruit from low yields, and made with minimal intervention
So what does all this mean? It means that if you drink wines that fit the descriptions listed above, you should have no headache, brain fog or hangover after drinking.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, there's never been a better time to clean up your wine selection!
While it's true that Dry Farm Wines are pricier than most conventional wines at local stores (the average price is $25 per bottle), you have to remember that you get what you pay for: quality, safety, health. YOU ARE WORTH IT!
If $25 per bottle is out of your budget, don't worry! You can download my FREE list of the Best Natural Wines under $25 right here.
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I've linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust.