What You Need To Know About Wine Additives
Did you know that there are a lot of wine additives used to make wine?
Most wine additives are safe, however, there have been a few notoriously famous cases of unsafe wine additives in the past. Let’s get into the nitty gritty truth about wine additives and dispel some common wine additive myths.
Worst Case Scenario: A Wine Scandal!
In 1985, German wine quality control scientists discovered the presence of a commercial solvent, diethylene glycol, in some of their low-end wines. Diethylene glycol is a sweet-tasting toxic chemical sometimes used in anti-freeze. After the scientists discovered the chemical, they soon realized that the German producers were illegally blending Austrian wines with theirs.
While there were no reported casualties and the wines were pulled from the market, the media scare caused a long-term fear in consumers over wine additives.
Don’t worry, wine additives are now more closely regulated and the national electronic archives maintains a list of chemicals that are legally allowed for use in wine.
Common Wine Additives
Food products such as beer, juice and wine are unstable. Because of their volatile nature, processes have been developed to stabilize food products such as homogenizing juice. In the wine world there are many different wine additives, some of which have been used for hundreds of years with no ill effects.
The intention of these additives is not to adulterate the wine, but to stabilize it. Wines have the potential to last longer when they are stable. Many of these aren’t really additives at all, instead they glom (with molecular attraction) onto unwanted particles and are removed from the finished wine.
Sulfite sensitivity affects about 1% of the population. Wine usually has about 150 ppm of sulfur added whereas dried fruit has 1000 ppm.
Sulfites are used to kill unwanted bacteria and yeasts in the winemaking process. Since 1987, American producers have been required to mention the presence of sulfur if it exceeds 10 parts per million (ppm) in the finished wine. The EU recently passed a similar labeling law in 2005.
The laws are designed to help protect the small percentage of people who are sensitive to sulfur and should not be confused with the myth that sulfites in wine can give you a wine headache.
Yeast is a eukaryotic microorganism that turns sugar into alcohol. Different kinds of yeast greatly affect the flavor of the resulting wine. Some winemakers prefer ambient yeast that is present on their winery equipment while other winemakers create a custom cocktail of cultured yeasts. Each method has unique benefits depending on the wine variety.
Vitamins! Yeast benefits from vitamins, minerals or any chemical compound that helps keep the yeast alive in grape juice during fermentation. For instance, Thiamine Hydrochloride is a B Vitamin which helps keep yeast happy in high alcohol wines over 14% ABV.