Vino! Sophisticated, Urbane and Usually Gluten-Free
Drink a toast to safer sipping.
[Updated: May 18, 2015]
Wine. Vino. Vin. It’s the most popular alcoholic drink in the world and the third or fourth most popular of any beverage on the planet. Enjoyed for at least 9,000 years, there are ancient references to wine from the wedding at Cana in the Bible to drinking on Purim in the Talmud. Even Louis Pasteur, the father of pasteurization, sung its praises: “Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.”
Sophisticated, urbane and usually gluten-free, wine has been loved throughout the centuries by the likes of Galileo Galilei who poetically proclaimed, “Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” Even America’s native son Benjamin Franklin opined, “The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation.” It seems every generation in recorded history has enjoyed wine with nary a complaint.
Yet in its creation and components, wine is “a complex beverage,” says Katrina Frey, co-founder of Frey Vineyards, a certified organic winery in Redwood Valley, California.
Once an entirely natural beverage, historic winemaking practices changed after the Renaissance. Among the changes, the practice of adding preservatives like sulfites became commonplace. Then the 1980s ushered in the organic movement— a “new” way of farming that actually harkened back to historic, more natural winemaking methods. Most recently, an agricultural practice, called biodynamic farming, pushes the concept of organic farming to a higher level. It treats the farm as a living organism with the goal of ecological, social and economic sustainability. This extends to the “green” treatment of animals and animal feeds, flowers and trees, water and composting. It means that biodynamic grapes and wines, like organic, are produced without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.
So what do sulfites, organic farming, biodynamic practices and other complexities of winemaking mean to you, the modern wine consumer? If you wake up with a headache the morning after indulging in a bottle of red, if you break out in a rash with your first sip of a new wine, if you feel sniffly anytime you enjoy a glass—these symptoms may mean you have a sensitivity.
But a sensitivity to what, exactly? Often, the culprits in wine aren’t clear but the list of usual suspects includes sulfites, tannins, histamines and fining agents. Even alcohol itself can be behind your sensitivity.
What to do about it? Teetotaling aside, a small number of vintners are addressing the concerns of sensitive imbibers with organic, low-sulfite, pesticide-free, biodynamically produced wines.