When I was in South Africa last year, I met a revolutionary winemaker…
His wine was completely organic. It had no toxins, and it contained powerful antioxidant properties.
It was infused with a local herb called rooibos, also known as “red bush.” You may have seen rooibos tea on supermarket shelves.
I immediately knew this wine should be made widely available in America — and I’m still hopeful a distributor will bring it here.
I enjoy a nice glass of red wine from time to time, but the trouble with most of the wines sold in America is that they’re loaded with dangerous chemicals.
Winemaking was once a very simple process. You would pick wild grapes, mash them and leave them to ferment for a while. You wouldn’t add anything. The result was a low-alcohol beverage rich in antioxidants with real health benefits.
Even your primal ancestors used fermented fruit juice — for medicine as well as for enjoyment. But the wine in your glass today is much different from your ancestor’s traditional brew.
Modern producers now doctor their wines to get a standard, predictable beverage that can be produced and sold at low cost.
But there is a big problem: Almost 80 chemical additives have been approved in the U.S. for making wine — yet only 38 of these substances have been determined to be safe.
Common wine additives include:
- Sulfur dioxide. Low levels of sulfites occur naturally in fermented grape juice. But winemakers often add sulfur dioxide as a preservative. It kills off bacteria and wild yeast. But sulfites can trigger your immune system to release histamines. They’re linked to asthma, sneezing, itchy skin, hives, abdominal pain, diabetes, and low blood pressure.
- Commercial yeasts. Before 1974, all wines were fermented with their own natural yeasts. But now winemakers use commercial yeasts to speed up fermentation. Many of these are genetically modified. And like sulfites, they can trigger histamines.
- Mega purple and ultra-red. Vintners add super concentrated sugary grape juice to red wines to get a deep ruby color. But this is what turns your teeth purple and stains your rug or anything it touches.
- Pesticides. About 90% of all grapes are grown with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. In the U.S. most vineyards use Monsanto’s Roundup. It’s been linked to cancer and can disrupt your hormones.
- Oak chips and sawdust. These are added to give wine “oak notes” without real oak barrel aging. But this wood may be treated with fire retardants and other chemicals.
- Fining agents. To remove unwanted impurities in wine, producers add things like egg whites, fish bladder, casein, pork and cow stomach and pancreas, and bentonite clay.
- Sugar. Producers can add up to 10 grams of sugar to every liter of wine. This increases the alcohol content and can make hangovers even worse.
If you ever get headaches, brain fog, stuffiness, or even diarrhea after a glass or two of wine, it’s probably the additives, rather than the alcohol itself. Sadly, unlike other food and beverages, wine bottles do not require a nutrition or ingredients label. So you can’t tell what’s in your wine glass.
But the good news is that you don’t have to avoid wine…
The Health Benefits of Rooibos
For example. Rooibos wine is packed with many health benefits, including:1,2
- Protects against cancer
- Reduces heart disease
- Eases inflammation
- Cancer-proofs your cells
Rooibos wine is unique, because it contains no caffeine and has lower tannin levels which makes it ideal for making wine.
The winemaker I met found that rooibos reduced the need for allergy-inducing sulphur and other common preservatives. So now he uses rooibos wood chips in the wine-making process instead of the traditional oak.
But until South Africa’s rooibos wine Audacia makes it to the U.S., here’s what to look for to protect yourself when buying wine:
- Low Sulfites. Most wines have up to 350 parts-per-million (ppm) of added sulfites. White wines typically have more than reds. All wines with more than 10 ppm sulfites must say “Contains Sulfites” on the label. Low-sulfite wines should have less than 60 ppm. Most screw cap wines create a better seal than corks so producers are able to add less sulfite as a preservative.
- Dry Wine. A wine is “dry” when the yeast fully ferments all the sugar into alcohol. Remaining sugars contribute to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and hangovers.
- Un-Oaked Wines. Buying un-oaked wines helps avoid the problem of chemically treated woods in the aging process. Some vintners are experimenting with woods other than oak to age wines much like South Africa’s Audacia rooibos wines. The rooibos wood acts as a natural preservative and reduces the need for added sulfites.
- Organic. Certified organic or “biodynamic” wineries use no pesticides, herbicides, or pesticides. Also they can only have naturally occurring sulfites.
- Natural Wines. Even better than organic wine is natural wine. These wines use organic grapes. They have fewer additives and don’t add sulfites. Most use wild yeasts instead of commercial versions. They use minimal fining agents, oak, or added sugars.
Look for them in your local wine store. Or check out Dry Farm Wines at https://www.dryfarmwines.com/ to buy natural wines online.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Marnewick JL., et al. “An investigation on the antimutagenic properties of South African herbal teas.” Mutat Res. 2000 Nov 20.
2.Marnewick J., et al. “Inhibition of tumour promotion in mouse skin by extracts of Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) and honeybush (Cyclopia intermedia), unique South African herbal teas.” Cancer Lett. 2005 Jun 28.