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Debunking the "Healthy" Wine Trend

Sienna Serrao

With so many fitness, weight loss, and health trends circling, it’s no surprise they have infiltrated the alcohol industry, more specifically the wine industry. Some of the “newer” wine clubs out there are claiming to produce and sell low sugar, low carb, diet-friendly, all natural wines...which is great, and may absolutely be true!

To an extent.

However, the problem occurs when the perception becomes that ALL other wines (especially from small wineries) are ‘bad’, ’bad for you’, or are being flooded with loads of sugar and chemicals...which is frankly just not true.

This realization has taught us, that a good number of wine drinkers don’t actually know how much sugar is in wine, or the fact that dry wines have no added sugars whatsoever.

That’s why we’re here to debunk the theory that all wines are packed with sugars, chemicals, dyes, or other additives and to show you what to look for if you are hoping to purchase a healthier, more natural or organic wine.

Just because companies claim that U.S. wine producers CAN legally include a plethora of FDA approved additives without disclosing them to you, does not mean in any way that ALL wine producers do.

The majority of them do not.

This is especially frustrating for the vintners who approach winemaking as a fine craft and spend their lifetime trying to create the best, top-quality wines for their consumers. The wineries that we’ve built relationships with over the years, and the ones we continue to discover, are perfect examples of this.

So, what exactly does “natural wine” on a wine label actually mean?

Hands Holding Wine GrapesIn all honesty, it means pretty much nothing.

So many people today see natural wine as a trendy new fad, or something that has been ‘fixed’ within the wine industry, when in reality it’s just the traditional way to produce wine. Natural wine is merely wine made in the purest and simplest way, by fermenting grape juice with minimal intervention from the winemakers.

Sadly, the bulk wine industry is the main culprit, using a long list of additives and bizarre winemaking methods, that have fueled this natural movement. However, the regulations associated with “natural wines” are neither consistent nor well-vetted/agreed upon throughout the wine industry.

Case in point is the common belief that natural wines, also known as sustainably-farmed, pure, zero-additives, clean, minimally-processed, unfiltered, (and the list goes on), are made by growing and harvesting grapes that have not been sprayed with any kind of pesticide. Then, fermenting them for a period long enough for fermentation to occur on its own. On top of this no additive products like special flavoring, dyes, sulfites or sugar are added.

BUT...what if I told you the bottles labeled as “natural” can (and often do) contain added sulfites, preservatives and/or stabilizers in low amounts, typically after fermentation?

Yes, even when added in small amounts, the wines can still be labeled as “natural’!

And that’s because there are no hard and fast rules or regulations in place that restrict the use of the word ‘natural’ on their labels or in their marketing efforts.

The wines we pick for our 6 monthly wine clubs are meticulously made and each winery has their own set of high standards when it comes to their grapes and wines. Anywhere from minimal intervention, to organic, biodynamic, and more. Plus, since it comes down to the wineries themselves, we’ve also added sections to our website that states which criteria the wines fall under, as well as the sugar and alcohol content!

You can also click here to see a handy little chart that has guidelines on how much sugar and carbs are in a glass of wine, plus if it's keto, raw and paleo-friendly.

What about the sugar in wines?

Sugar Bowl and Sugar CubesThis is a good time to segue to sugar, which is a HUGE controversy and misconception in the wine-drinking world. Too many glasses leading to a horrible hangover = “oh it must have had a ton of added sugar, right?” Wrong!

The sugar content in dry wine is actually measured by the sugar remaining after fermentation. Thus, the term “residual sugar”, or “RS”.

Grapes already contain a certain amount of natural sugar and yeast, making fermentation possible, and as the two react, alcohol is formed. When the wine’s alcohol is at the ideal level, the alcohol kills the yeast and any remaining sugar becomes known as residual. Therefore, dry wines are not loaded with sugar, but rather have a small residual amount.

Related: What is the Difference Between Sweet and Dry Wine?

Further, a wine distinguished as “dry” means that it has less than 3 grams of sugar per 5oz glass, so how could it be the cause of your hangover? We suggest next time to pay attention to the alcohol content and to drink water between your glasses of wine to prevent morning-after side effects.

Sulfur and sulfites are another ingredient/additive that stirs up quite a debate!

Some believe that sulfites are related to terrible headaches. Sulfur is actually a naturally occurring result in winemaking. And some people are more sensitive to sulfites than others, perhaps even more so when a winemaker adds additional amounts to their creations. But again, those wines that are high in sulfites (to the point of causing adverse responses) are generally made by bulk, boxed, or bagged wine producers.

Additionally, it is not proven that sulfur and sulfites are the cause of your headaches either! More than likely, they’re due to the alcohol content.

Even natural winemakers will add small amounts of sulfites to their wines to make sure it tastes the same as when it was first bottled; while others won’t use any at all. Basically, there's no such thing as sulfite-free wine and the small amount of sulfites some wineries add doesn’t make much of a difference when it comes to the health factor of the wine.

Perhaps you may have seen a few wine bottles labeled “Organic” or “Biodynamic”.

Winemaker's Hands in Crushed GrapesSo, does this mean ALL other wines are not organic or biodynamic? Absolutely not!

To label a bottle organic or biodynamic, the producer must purchase special certifications from the state and the USDA. There are 3 levels of organic certification:

• certify just the vineyard
• certify the vineyard and the winery, or
• certify the grapes and winery as biodynamic or organic.

The rigorous and pricey certifications scare off many smaller winemakers who may actually be following the organic growing and winemaking procedures, but choose not to pay the price for the label. A huge number of the wineries we feature fall into this category.

So, just because a wine isn’t labeled organic, vegan, natural, keto, low sugar, etc., does not mean it is bad for you and filled with sugars, chemicals, and other additives. And even if a wine IS labeled with these types of classifications (other than certified organic or biodynamic), the guidelines and regulations are not set in stone, and likely still contain additives that are not disclosed.

But all the wines we feature in our wine clubs are dry meaning they are required to have under 3 grams of sugar per 5oz glass. Reds tend to have fewer than 3 grams.

We select from magnificent small vineyards dedicated to producing quality wines of all varietals without the addition of harmful chemicals, additives or dyes that try to enhance the color, flavor or character of the wine.

All in all, don’t fall for the ‘new’ health fad labels and watch out for cheap, mass-produced wines!