Have you noticed all the new, trendy “healthy” wine clubs on the market today? These clubs are aimed at people who have been swept up by the modern day fitness obsession; they make bold statements such as keto-friendly, sugar-free, paleo-friendly, gluten-free, low-carb, low-sulfite and vegan attached to an even bolder price tag. How true are these claims? As a Sommelier, marketing professional and yoga/fitness instructor, I find these claims to be only marginally true, mostly laughable and slightly offensive, especially when attached to an outrageous price tag. If you have dietary restrictions wine is actually pretty safe. If you are heavily involved in fitness stay informed. Learn how to buy what YOU need and not have it cost you an arm and a leg like you just binge-shopped at Whole Foods.
Let’s go over confusing and bamboozling terminology that wine marketers are using to charge you too much for mediocre wine.
Why is this important and what does this mean? Well, excessive sulfur use is usually a hallmark of badly made wine. Badly made wine + lots of sulfur = headaches. Why is sulfur used? Sulfur acts as an anti-bacterial agent in the winemaking process; killing off bad bacteria during fermentation or aging that could cause problems. Sulfites do occur naturally in all wines, and most wineries (even organic and Biodynamic) use sulfur in minute quantity. If a winery needs to add A LOT of sulfur, they probably aren’t managing their winery or the wine making process with love and care. It’s kind of like feeding cows anti-bacterial agents during factory farming. Sulfur when used in excess is a preventative measure that does detract from the quality of the final product. It shows the company doesn’t really care about the final product, just production volume. You don’t need a lot of sulfur to make sure your wine is in good shape and by being attentive to the winemaking process you can even get away with adding none.
How can you buy low-sulfite or wine with no added sulfur?
Organic and biodynamic wines are your best bet. Certified organic and biodynamic wines will not have added sulfur to their wines. Other words you can look for are “sans-sufr” which means no added sulfur in French.
Dietary Restriction – Gluten-Free and Vegan Wines
I saw this on a website of a wine club who will not be named. I had to stop, take a moment and think when I saw the statement “Gluten-Free Wines”. Was there something that I missed in my 5+ years of work as a sommelier and in wineries???
How is gluten involved in the winemaking process?
It isn’t. So please don’t fall for this load of BS and buy any wine you choose my gluten-free friends. I saw cage-free-gluten-free eggs and gluten-free cheese at the grocery store too. Pretty sure these items have always been gluten-free. Pretty soon I will slap a gluten-free sticker on myself too so no one gets confused.
How are wines not Vegan or vegetarian?
*Sigh* Admittedly I eat mostly Vegan in my everyday life and wine is SO not Vegan. When companies label wine Vegan it means the winery has not used animal product to filter the wines. Filtering is one of the last steps in the winemaking process after fermentation. What happens is; the winemaker filters out small particles and clarifies the wine to give it a brighter color, clarity and shine. Most wine is filtered with icinglass (fish bladder), casein (milk protein), hemoglobin(found in blood), or gelatin. “Vegan” wines are filtered with bentonite; a type of chalk.
Why do I think wine isn’t vegan? If you are a strict vegan who doesn’t even eat honey you should know; lot’s of bugs died in the winemaking process. This is a fact. The only exception might be if every single berry was hand sorted and additional materials other than grapes were all removed but this rarely happens. I’ve worked harvest in two different countries now and let me tell you, it is a messy bug ridden process. If you want a truly vegan experience I suggest switching to distilled spirits.
Wine is not Paleo-friendly. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. Cavemen didn’t drink wine. If anything, they probably drank beer, some half-fermented fruit juice, or mead they made on accident. Wine is processed and at its core against the whole Paleo Diet philosophy.
Keto-friendly/ Low-Carb/ Sugar Free Wines:
How does this work? It doesn’t, let the BS alarm sound loud and clear. Wine has a reasonable amount of carbs, usually a little bit of residual sugar even when it’s technically dry and therefore is not really Keto-friendly unless you saved all your daily carbs for glass one. Even if you get wines with little-to-no residual sugar and skip on the sweet wines this doesn’t change. The calories in a glass of wine range from approximately 150-80.
How do you get the least-calorie-laden-sugar-free wine without joining a club that makes false promises? The easiest solution (also my favorite solution for most of life’s ailments) is to drink Champagne. Champagne has the least amount of calories/ carbs and if you select a non-dosage style it means absolutely ZERO grams of sugar are present. Most Champagne comes in at around 80 calories per glass but varies based on the level of sweetness. Most dry wines are not far behind; for example Pinot Grigio comes in at around 120 calories per glass. So, drink Champagne or dry wine (no sweet wine) for the least caloric intake and sugar; it’s not rocket science.
In conclusion, if you are health focused, the easiest thing to do is be selective and of course, drink minimally. Go organic and biodynamic whenever you can and just like you would for food. Read the label to learn about where your wine came from. Don’t fall for labeling and marketing tricks and let people over charge you for false statements! Eat and drink organic, stay gluten-free, drink champagne, and stay healthy friends.