Additives in Wine — There's WHAT in My Wine? That's Gross

Before I got into the wine business, I never gave much thought to what was actually IN a bottle of wine —as in what additives in wine there might be. I had the vague idea that is was produced from grapes and aged in a barrel, and that was about it.  My crash course in wine education quickly taught me that so much more goes into that bottle; some it good, some of it not-so-good, and some of it downright gross. I’ll bet that like me, you’ve not spent much time thinking about additives in wine, either. Well, I’m about to change that, but hopefully for the good.

Additives In Wine — Most Definitely

Let’s cut to the chase—there are most definitely additives in wine, and likely there your favorite bottle has additives you aren’t thinking about. In fact, most mass produced wines contain ingredients that would make your eyes pop!  Here’s why. The big wine houses are under the gun to rapidly produce very large batches that look and taste the same from bottle No.1 to bottle No. 500,000. No easy feat, I’ll give them that. The only way to accomplish this is to use additives (the FDA has approved some 300 of them) that we probably don’t know about.

Commonly Found Additives In Wine

So, now we’ve pulled the Bandaid off and realize that it only makes sense that there are additives in  wine, let’s talk about them. The most commonly used additives in wine include:

Mega Purple & Ultra Red. The gorgeous wine in your glass is naturally colored by grapes, right? Um…no. Many manufacturers of mass-produced wine add big glops of these super-concentrated coloring agents so their wine as visually appealing. Mega Purple and Ultra Red also add sweetness (and sugar) as well.  And here’s the thing, Mega Purple and Mega Red are food colorings. If you’re sensitive to food colorings and find yourself getting headaches from drinking a reasonable amount of wine, these could be the culprit.

Sawdust. You know that “oaky flavor” found in many wines? There’s a good chance it wasn’t produced in an actual oak wine barrel. Some manufacturers add sawdust or wood chips instead because they mimic the tannins and the flavor of an oak barrel at a fraction of the cost. Ewww. Just the idea of sawdust in something we drink makes my stomach hurt.

Commercial Yeasts. Time is of the essence in the mass-produced wine market. To speed up the wine fermentation process, many manufacturers add commercial yeasts, many of which are GMO rather than natural and wild. Those probiotics we take to help balance out the yeast in our digestive systems? Pouring in extra doses of commercial yeast when we drink wine counteracts all those benefits.

Sulphites. Sulphites are used as a wine a stabilizer and can also kill unwanted bacteria and wild yeasts. The actual amount of sulphites used as additives in wine varies wildly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Because so many people are highly sensitive to sulfur/sulphites (another wine headache culprit),  this is one additive that must be disclosed on a wine label.

Sugar. Again, speed is the name of the game in most mass wine production. Added sugar doesn’t make the wine sweeter like Mega Purple and Ultra Red, Its job is to speed up fermentation and increase the alcohol content. Extra sugar in anything is nobody’s friend because it’s responsible for things we hate, like weight gain, inflammation, headaches, and a host of other health issues.

Pesticides and Herbicides. Most non-organic wines contain traces of pesticides and herbicides. Roundup is the most commonly used herbicide in US vineyards. Roundup is most likely in your wine. Interestingly, pesticides and herbicides are the only additive missing from organic wines. After the grape is off the vine, anything can be added.

Bottom line, there are additives in wine. And there are lots of other things in mass-produced wines, and there’s a reason most of them don’t qualify as vegan. That story I’ll save for another day. 

Why You Need to Know About Clean-Crafted Wine 

That additives in wine business? Not the best news. But there is some good news. In fact, I think it’s great news. That centers on clean-crafted wines. There is a small and growing segment in the wine industry focusing on what’s called “clean-crafted wines.”  I work with a company called Scout & Cellar (full disclosure – Scout & Cellar is my side-hustle), that is committed to offering only clean-crafted wines.  Chosen by a Level 3 Sommelier, these wines are mindfully sourced from small vineyards around the world and must meet a long list of criteria to qualify for the Scout & Cellar Label. These criteria include:

  • Grown naturally without synthetic herbicides and pesticides
  • Sustainable, organic, and or biodynamic farming methods
  • Most harvested from old growth vines
  • Tended by actual people and not mass-produced by industrial agricultural methods
  • Vinified by hand, not manufactured in a lab
  • Zero grams of added sugar
  • Zero additives
  • Slow-crafted to extract naturally occurring antioxidants
  • Low sulfites — most less than 50ppm
  • Independently lab-tested at UCLA to guarantee all of the above.

On top of all the above, they also have to meet the taste standards of a Level 3 Sommelier, which is a pretty high bar. 

I love wine, and I’m thinking that if you’re reading this, you do as well. But honestly, I’m really not interested in additives in wine — especially things like sawdust, artificial coloring, pesticides/herbicides, and added sugars. That just makes something I enjoy so much be yet another thing I need to worry about. And ain’t nobody got time for that, especially when it comes to wine.

Want to explore the world of clean-crafted wines with me? I hope so, as I would love to go on that journey together. And don’t take my word for it, go do some homework on your own!! But as part of that research, you definitely want to check out Scout & Cellar. I promise that in no time, you’ll see why I was hooked. Have questions? Email me here or post a comment on this article, and we’ll chat. I’d love to help. And together, we can drink more clean-crafted wine!! 

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