Thursday, November 8, 2012

Love the Wines That'll Love You Back! + a Challenge for YOU!

On my introductory calls in which I explain the method of LoveLife, I inevitably receive a sheepish question that sounds something like this: “Ummm, I’m kind of embarrassed to ask you this, but uhhh, how long do I have to go without wine during the program?”

Sound familiar?

As a former San Franciscan who practically lived in the wine country in her early 20s, looked at attending enology school to become a winemaker and who moved to Austin with a cherished 150-bottle collection of hand-picked faves, I get it!

However, upon discovering that wine was my nemesis – sleepless nights, brain fog, lower energy and skin issues – I slowly phased it out of my life throughout my 20s and 30s, until finally, rarely dipping a toe back in the bottle only to recall why I chose to nix it.

Many of our clients are surprised to discover that wine makes them feel less than stellar, while others can enjoy a glass or two and feel fine. While ignorance might be bliss - insomnia, stomach issues, low energy and allergies - siphon it away.

But what if wine’s bite softened or even disappeared?

I’ve discovered some less reactive wines and am excited to share these with you in time for the holiday cheer.

I would also like to request your assistance in a fun experiment. Help us find wines that are less reactive and taste delicious!!

How? Drink up Buttercups! And follow these steps:

1. Read this article to learn what to look for in a non-reactive wine.
2. Choose wines accordingly
3. Drink up and listen to your body’s responses
4. Report back here on our Facebook.
5. The winners of this challenge will be further vetted out for reactivity and will make it into our top wine recommendations. We will share these recommendations early next year.

But first, read on to learn why wines can rattle our cages so and what types of wines you want to choose instead.

There’s a lot more to wine’s cherished complexities than most of us realize: fire retardants and cleaning chemicals used in the oak that ages many wines; pesticides and nasty chemicals sprayed to protect the grapes (which by the way are not washed when crushed and ultimately bottled); chemical additives used to finish wines; high levels of sulfites which are added to 98% of wine (separate issue from the naturally occurring sulfites produced by the fermentation process).

Our subtle notes can waft as many as 80 chemicals per bottle along with molds, tannins, sugars and sulfites, creating an elixir of reactivity and unknown long-term consequences.
With so many facets how can we identify our personal culprits and how to therefore suss out our best wine match? While it is difficult to know for sure, one of the best starting places is with sulfites.

Ask wine sommeliers, aficionados or servers about sulfites and you might receive a snub of the nose and a “Sulfites are in all wines” response.

True. Sulfites are naturally occurring in wines due to the fermentation process.

However, 98% of wines also add an additional cocktail of sulfite chemicals, often in high concentrations.

Why does this matter?

Sulfites are more reactive than commonly realized. A classic textbook sulfite allergy includes breathing difficulties and headaches. This type of reaction in rare instances can be very serious triggering an anaphylactic response due to an allergy. This is why the USDA requires labeling of all foods containing added sulfites. These types of reactions however are rare.

Much more common are the little known Sulfite Intolerances. Like other food intolerances, these have yet to gain mainstream awareness and so any snooty sulfite snubbers are simply blissfully unaware.

But in our programs, the symptoms elicited by sulfites which many of our clients experience, both to those contained in wine and those in dried fruits and other high sulfite foods, are undeniable.

Some of these symptoms we commonly witness during the testing phase of our programs include: sleep issues, increased stress and anxiety, digestive issues, allergies, weight gain and lower energy levels.

So why use Sulfites at all?

Sulfites are added to wines as a preserving agent and with this preservation they enhance the wines flavors while also retaining these flavors, even in the face of unwanted invaders such as molds or shipping and storage in higher heats. It takes both great skill and artistry to create a wine that can age and retain its complexities in the absence of additives. In addition it takes more solid control of transportation, harvesting and aging conditions, which are harder to control.

There is a wide variance in the amounts of sulfites each vintner adds. Mass market wines blast their wines with sulfites and heavier chemicals in order to ensure the wine tastes the same year to year rather than embracing vintage variations. Many finer wines fluctuate with the natural harvest year to year and are more of an art form. These wines sometimes use less sulfites but these assumptions do not always hold true. False assumptions can wreak havoc if you’re sensitive.

The most reliable standard is through the USDA. According to the USDA, a wine must contain less than one part per million (ppm) to carry a “no sulfites” label. Wines containing fewer than 10 ppm may be labeled “contains only naturally occurring sulfites or no sulfites added”. Additionally these wines may instead choose to make no mention of sulfites at all on their bottles. Wines with more than 10 ppm must be marked “contains sulfites”.

However, there is a lot of wiggle room between 10 ppm and the max allowed standard, which is 350 ppm for conventional wines!

So what to do? Should you avoid all wines with any mention of sulfites?

Choosing a mix of organic and lower sulfite or sulfite-free labels is going to be your best bet.

Think that organic wines automatically equates to vinegar? Think again. Thankfully, a decade young movement into organic, biodynamic and sulfite free options has matured and is coming into it’s own.

Any wine that is certified organic wine must have fewer than 10 ppm naturally occurring sulfites in addition to containing only natural pesticides. Wines carrying "made with organic grapes" on the label must contain less than 100 ppm of combined natural and added sulfites.

Over the holiday season, we challenge you to test some organic wines and report back with your findings.

  • Which were your favorites?
  • What did you love about them?
  • Which turned your nose?

To get you in the spirit, one of the most celebrated Organic Vintners that carries the toughest labels is: Frey Organic. With a slightly peppery and fruit forward finish, my favorite of the sulfite free wines so far has been their Syrah.

Here is your Sulfite Cheat Sheet for your experiment.

How to Choose Sulfite Free Labels:
·      No Detectable Sulfites: less than 1 ppm
·      Certified Organic: less than 10 ppm sulfites
·      No Added Sulfites: less than 10 ppm
·      Made with Organically grown grapes: 100 ppm or less
·      Contains Sulfites: May contain up to 350ppm Sulfites

We will also be experimenting and reporting back early next year.

Happy vino experimenting!

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