Wine labels, what’s in your wine?
by FoodMaestro | 18 February 2016
Some wines state if they are suitable for vegetarians or vegans and most do not list ingredients as we’ve come to expect on food produce. The wines vary greatly on how tart they taste, or why one is darker than another from the same grape, The taste and colour of the wine depends on the methods used to produce it and the chemicals added during production. The compulsory disclosure on labels to include ingredients and nutritional information would be greatly welcomed to help us all make more informed choices.
Wine producers may use some of the following ingredients or additives during manufacturing:
Sulphites: Sulphites are preservatives used in the production of some foods and drinks. These are used to kill unwanted bacteria and yeasts in the winemaking process. The incidence of sulphite sensitivity in the general population is thought to be less than 2%, but this rises to between 5 and 13% in asthmatics.1
Egg and Milk Protein: Egg white is used as a fining agent in the clarification of red wines rich in tannins. Milk protein, in particular casein (a type of milk protein), is used in the clarification of white, rose and sometimes red wines. Up until now, these allergens did not have to be listed. Since 2012 it is compulsory to list these along with Sulphites.
Yeasts: To make wine you need a special yeast culture, which contributes to the flavours of the wine. Most winemakers add some sulphur dioxide to eliminate any indigenous yeast present on the grapes. They then reseed them with commercial (yet natural) yeasts.
Sugar: The level of alcohol in the wine is linked to the amount of sugar present in the grapes before fermentation. Often, juices don't contain enough sugar to spur the yeast into action so they need some more.
Tanin: Wine grapes are full of seeds which are very tannic. The seeds are crushed with the grapes to add structure to wine. The use of oak aging also adds small amounts of tannin as the wine is exposed.
Acid control: The pH of wine is important to how it tastes and how long a wine will last. Some wines are naturally in balance, but when they are not the following maybe used:
- De-acidifiers Adding Calcium Carbonate (aka chalk) to wine will reduce high acid levels and increase the pH. This practice is common in areas that have cooler weather and ripening is challenging.
- Acidifiers What if there’s not enough acidity? Tartaric Acid, Malic Acid and Citric Acid or any blend thereof could help balance the wine. Many people claim they can taste simulated acids in a wine. Adding acid is common with lower acidity grapes in warmer regions.
1 Source: Allergy UK