Many of us like to have a drink in the evenings or at weekends, whether we use it to wind down after a busy day or just to catch up with a friend of loved one over a nice glass of wine.
I drink wine regularly and recently the quality of the wine I drink has become a concern for me. I recently read a book called ‘Younger’ by Sara Gottfreid, I talk about the book in a previous blog post What I Ate in April.
Sara Gottfried advises drinking organic red wine – in her words: “when you eschew additives, you get the full benefits of wine without the drawbacks.”
Since reading this book we have been motivated to take a closer look at the benefits of organic and biodynamic wines.
Win Organic Wine! Scroll down to the bottom of this article for a chance to win some organic wine from the Organic Wine Club
Wine: Good or Bad?
There is lots of controversy about alcohol and whether it is good for your health or not, we believe consuming anything in excess won’t be good for your overall health.
However studies have shown that wine, red in particular, can be beneficial to your health.
Red wine contains the following compounds:
A 2006 study Significance of wine and resveratrol in cardiovascular disease: French paradox revisited stated “Many recent studies have reported promising health benefits from red wine consumption.”
In this study they discuss the antioxidant, superoxide-scavenging, ischemic-preconditioning and angiogenic properties of the polyphenols in red wine.
There is also some evidence that polyphenols may be good for your gut health. Recent evidence suggests that wine polyphenols exert their effects through interactions with the gut microbiota, as they seem to modulate microbiota and, at the same time, are metabolized by intestinal bacteria into specific bioavailable metabolites.
Polyphenols seem to act as a prebiotic-type substance, meaning that they increase the amount of healthy bacteria in the gut, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria strains.
Many of the health benefits of red wine are believed to come from a compound called resveratol. Resveratrol is a phytoalexin produced naturally by several plants — including vines. (Phytoalexins are antibiotics produced by plants when under attack by pathogens such as bacteria or fungi).
This antioxidant has been linked with many health benefits, including fighting inflammation and blood clotting, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes. Malbec has a thick skin and contains a lot of resveratrol. Vine grapes grown in cooler climates have higher resveratrol levels than those from warmer climes (such as California and Spain).
The varieties with most resveratrol in the wine include malbec, petite sirah, st. laurent and pinot noir.
Procyanidins are essentially polymer chains of flavonoids such as catechins. They are found in many plants, and grape seeds and skin.
The effects of procyanidins include neutralizing oxidants and free radicals and inhibiting destruction of collagen, the most abundant protein in the body.
Some research indicates that the benefits of red wine drinking depend on the presence of procyanidins.
Deeply-colored reds are more likely to be richer in procyanidins. Wines rich in procyanidins provide several-fold more, such that a single glass can provide the same purported health benefit as several glasses of a procyanidin-poor wine.
Malbec and tannat seem to be the varieties with the most procyanidins.
Why You Should Drink Organic Wine
There is a caveat here, because as with anything that you eat or drink, the type of wine you are drinking will play a role in the overall benefits you will gain from drinking it.
Just as the benefits of eating non-organic, grain fed meat greatly diminish any if not all the benefits you get from eating it, drinking non-organic wines likely undermine the positive benefits you will get from it due to the way the wines are produced, and the toxins associated with this.
Conventional wines contain sulphites or ‘preservatives 220’ which are additives that are used during the wine making process to protect the wines from unwanted bacteria. They also hide some faults such as oxygen entering the wine vats so they protect the wine maker from accidental flaws in the wine.
Sulphites are quite an aggressive preservative, which can give that ‘morning after’ headache, allergic reaction or in some cases a more severe reaction such as faster heart rate, dizziness or stomach upset.
Alongside sulphites, conventional wines are often full of harmful substances as the grapes accumulate a lot of pesticides that are used to increase yields, protect them from diseases and as a preservative.
Organic wines however usually contain lower levels of sulphites as they minimise or use no added sulphites in production.
Add to this the fact that the grapes used in the wines will have been grown organically, meaning that no harmful pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or chemical fertilisers are used to grow the grapes.
Grapes are a fruit that are prone to store the harmful substances put on them, so it is increasingly beneficial for your health (as it is to eat all organic, sustainable or local produce) to drink wines made from organic rather than non-organic grapes.
It goes beyond our health
Another benefit of drinking organic wine or buying organic produce in general is that you are contributing to a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable environment.
It takes over 3 years to convert a regular vineyard to be certified organic. Yet can you imagine how much harm intense spraying causes the soil? Some farmers say that after 7 years of intense chemical fertilisation and spraying with herbicides they cannot even grow carrots.
Soil will then need to ‘rest’ for years and years to even have a chance to be fertile again. Terrifying.
How will I know my wine is organic?
There is an extensive array of certification bodies. EU’s approved organic logo is green with a white leaf and stars around it.
Producers are required to conduct a conversion process of 3 years and then follow a rigorous process of adhering to organic rules and regulations. Certified producers can then display the organic logo on their wine bottles.
Things to look out for:
- Organic logo
- Labels stating ‘no added sulphites’ – will have below 10 ppm (parts per million) or lower sulphite content.
*Organic wines contain lower levels of sulphites, as sulphites can occur naturally in the bottle, if there has been added sulphites it is usually no higher than 100 ppm. Levels should be indicated on the label just check that there is less than 50mg/litre for red wine and 75mg/litre for a white wine.
How much wine should I be drinking?
Just so it is clear – this article is not intended to encourage excessive organic wine consumption! But drinking organic wine in moderation is likely beneficial for you, not to mention the positive social and/or stress relieving benefits of the occasional glass of wine.
As a guideline we would recommend drinking no more than one 125ml glass of wine per day.
Organic Wine Club
We recently came across the Organic Wine Club; the UK’s first wine club solely dedicated to organic wines. They aim to focus on healthier choices in food and drink and recently wrote an article called, ‘Is natural wine as close to Paleo diet as alcohol can be?’
The Organic Wine Club state that:
- Organic wines are richer in nutrients & antioxidants* with no harmful pesticide residue.
- Natural & sulphite free are living wines, lighter and better consumed by your liver, no allergy reaction or sulphite intolerance
- Vegan wines, no animal derived material used for filtration or fining
- Biodynamic wines are made in sync with nature, herbal treatments are used, growers create a sustainable ecosystem.
*Organic wine benefits as per Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Southampton, University of Rome’s Clinical Nutrition, University of California at Davis and University of Newcastle
6 of the organic wines that the Organic Wine Club sell are from the UK and for us as local as you can get, they offer high quality organic and biodynamic wines from Surrey & Sussex. They are sourced from Davenport, Sedlescombe and Albury Vineyards, quoted on the site as, “English gems that will delight you with organic flavours.”
We are yet to try any of these UK wines but we do plan to and will update this blog post when we do. We have however recently enjoyed their Aroa Garnacha, a certified organic and no added sulphite red wine from Spain.
The Organic Wine Club has kindly offered a trio of their bestselling sulphite free wines as a competition prize for one of our Paleo Britain followers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and address to enter the competition. Closing date to enter is May 31st 2017.