We live in a paradise of readily available, GMO free, organic, bio-dynamic foods. We have developed a culture around eating locally sourced, sustainably grown and raised foods. More and more packaging is available which shows us what is (or is not) in the foods we are buying. It has become common knowledge that many supermarket chickens are “plumped” with water, most grains are GMO unless otherwise specified, etc. Most of us choose to occasionally indulge in something we know isn’t the best – like those plumped chickens – but we do so with knowledge of what we are consuming. So where does that leave wine? Isn’t it just grapes and yeast?
There are many different ways to make wine. No one way is right or wrong. For instance, many winemakers choose to use gelatin, egg white, or isinglass (fish bladder) during the wine making process for fining of the wines. These products bind with tannin to reduce bitterness and make a softer smoother wine ready for consumption. As a carnivore, I’m not too disturbed by animal products in my wine. My vegetarian husband, on the other hand, would be upset to find out that he’d been consuming those animal products unknowingly. Velcorin®, an antimicrobial product that inhibits yeast growth among other things, is often used in wines (sweet in particular) during bottling to ensure that a re-fermentation or other spoilage doesn’t take place by inactivating any ambient yeast or bacteria. It was developed by LANXESS®, a specialty chemicals group, and is a Dimethyl Dicarbonate. I’ve heard others loosely call this a pesticide (I was told by a representative at Scott Lab that it is an antimicrobial chemical). It is directly put into the finished wine product, and purportedly breaks down into carbon dioxide and methanol within a few hours, dependent on temperature.The MSDS shows ingestion of it in Dimethyl Dicarbonate form can result in intestinal burns. Exposure can result in eye and skin burns. Inhalation of the chemical can result in collapse, coma and death. So should you drink it in wine? That is up to you to decide. This geek out isn’t meant to expose good vs. bad. It is meant to spark curiosity and discussion on what might be in the wines you consume.
There are so many products that are used to mitigate re-fermentation or particulates after bottling (those little floaties you sometimes see at the bottom of a bottle). Do your own research. The internet is a great tool for finding potential additives to wine. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask a winery representative if their wines contain specific products. The next time you find a little particulate at the bottom of your bottle, don’t freak out. Instead, feel good in knowing that what you just drank wasn’t glopped up with a bunch of other stuff. It was just grapes and yeast!
At Aniche we’ve chosen to make minimally processed, vegan wines. We have never used Velcorin®. We use bentonite clay for clarification, potassium metabisulfite for stabilization at 20-30 ppm (non organic dried apricots use sulphur at around 300 ppms, to give you a reference point), and we lightly mechanically filter. Do we sometimes get particulate in our wines? Sure. Are we okay with that? Absolutely!