Get ready to be mind blown, disgusted, pissed and converted by the end of this post. I’m talking all about natural v. conventional wine and it’s about to get REAL.
Let me first start by saying, anyone who knows me, knows I’m no stranger to a good cab franc, cab sab, malbec…heck, I’ll even throw merlot in there because I’m inclusive like that. But let’s take a minute and talk about what’s going on, and in, that bottle of wine we pick up at the corner packie.
In the US, wine producers can use up to 76 different additives in wine without disclosing any of them on the bottle. SEVENTY SIX. And I’m not talking about salt ladies. More like:
- defoaming agents
- artificial coloring (virtually every red wine under $20 has the colorant “mega purple”)
- extra sugar
- high fructose corn syrup
- ammonia (hello hangover!)
- GMO bacteria and yeasts
- fining and clarifying agents like fish bladder, casein or polyvinyl-polpyr-rolidone (PVPP)
- (Not to mention most non-organic and even some organic wines contain traces of pesticides and herbicides).
Thirty-eight of the 76 additives are considered “GRAS” – a FDA acronym for Generally Regarded As Safe….the others? Not so much I guess. One of the biggest benefits for winemakers is these additives provide control over taste and color so wines taste, and look, the same year after year. It also makes them faster (AKA cheaper) to produce. For a more extensive list of additives, check out this compilation.
But beep, beep, beep…back it up for a min. Mega purple??? This is a super-concentrated colorant some winemakers add to their wines to change the color and/or add sweetness. I’m jumping ahead of myself but one thing I noticed about Dry Farms Wine right away was the reds were paler than “normal.” People automatically associate depth of color to depth of flavor and winemakers know it. So they add additional color and flavor to get a wine there. (And it’s usually the reason why people get purple teeth by the way!)
Oh and after talking to Dry Farm, I learned that 52% of the wine made in the US is made by just three giant companies. These three companies produce behind thousands of labels and brands – some of which are worded to make us believe we are drinking farm to bottle. But instead we are actually drinking additive filled, altered, grape product.
And this is so true! Last time I was in New York with my friend Molly, we tried picking up some wine from a bodega and ALL the bottles they had for sale didn’t even say wine on them, they said “wine product” – I don’t even think it was made from grapes.
With The Quickness
To add insult to injury, conventional wine producers often kill indigenous yeasts (using heat, SO2 and filtration) and instead use genetically modified commercial, lab-bred yeast strains that have been designed with specific flavors and to speed up production. Today, most US wines are made with GM yeasts.
AND, most commercial wines are bottled before they fully ferment to speed up the production and (you guessed it) maximize profits. Some producers also add sugar or high fructose corn syrup to their wine to appeal to a sweeter American palate and to boost the alcohol content. Sugar in wine can be has high as 300g/L (a liter of coke has 108g BTW and WTH!)
And P.S. the only way to know the sugar content of a wine is to actually lab test it.
So What’s The Deal With Sulfites?
After a trip to Paris I spent years looking for “sulfite free” wines. Well come to find out I was on a goose chase because technically it’s impossible to make a completely sulfite-free wine. Why? Because wine yeast actually produces sulfur dioxide (SO2) during the fermentation process. And SO2 becomes sulfite when combined with oxygen – so any sulfer in wine will eventually become, you got it, sulfite.
Some winemakers will add SO2 to preserve and sterilize their wines because sulfites have an antioxidant and antibacterial effect on the wine. Sulfites are FDA approved as a food additive and not toxic (unless you are sulfur sensitive) or carcinogenic but winemakers argue they alter the flavor, soul and personality wines. You will find wines with upwards of 350/400 ppm sulfites, Dry Farm draws the line at 75 ppm.
One Glass of Cab Frac And One Glass Of Roundup For My Friend Here
Let’s be frank. Pesticides in our wine is NOT CUTE. The amount of pesticides sprayed on vines is in an upward trend. In 2010 more than 400,000 pounds of Roundup was applied to wine grapes. Monsanto’s Round-Up is the most common herbicide used in U.S. vineyards today. If you want to dive a little deeper, there are several conflicting studies on the health effects of Roundup, this resource documents and links to a lot of them. Either way, I’ll take my glass of wine pesticide-free please.
There Is A God
The sad thing is, I could go on and on but why beat a dead horse. We get it. Conventional wine is disgusting. So let’s talk about some options. One in particular: Dry Farms Wine.
Dry Farm Wines is the largest buyer and reseller of natural wines in the world. They source, taste and lab test organic, natural and biodynamic wines worldwide THEN deliver it to your door monthly or every other month. (It’s like a monthly nontoxic beauty box, sub wine!) Here’s what’s up.
Natural wine, defined by Dry Farm Wines, is real wine made from healthy grapes and happy yeast. It’s nature at its best IMO. To be considered natural, wines are farmed organically and/or biodynamically, free of chemical sprays, additives and fermented with native yeast.
There are so many bennies here but I have to start out with the the one that knocked my socks off; taste.
Wait, first let me say, next to the birth of my two sons, arriving home to 6 bottles of organic/biodynamic Dry Farms Wine at my door was literally the best day of my life. Little did I know it was only about to get better.
I got the mixed delivery which included three reds, a rose, a sparkling white and a sparkling rose.
- 2015 Les Larmes De Divona Pinot Nior (red)
- 2016 Giuseppe Cortese Red Wine (red)
- 2015 Boniperti Vignaioli CArLiN (red)
- 2016 Domaine De Majas L’AMOUROUSE Cotes Catalanes (rose)
- Cintré French Rose Sparkling Rose
- 2010 Cava PERE MATA L’Ensamblatge (brute)
Started with the reds, obvi. Each one was better than the next, I could hardly contain myself. Light, beautiful in flavor, easy to drink, smooth, delicious and elegant. Real crowd pleasers. And we are not talking crazy money. I mean, it’s a nice investment for sure with each bottle working out to be around $25 but it’s not outrageous. (Plus, it tasted like I was drinking a $50 bottle easily. One time I ordered a $38 glass of wine in Vegas – and I can say with 100% certainty, all of Dry Farm Wines tasted better than that one glass!).
The argument around price here is really the same. A 3 lb pastured/organic chicken will run you $25 compared to a $7.99 conventional one. Sliced white bread is .99 per loaf while stone-ground, handmade sourdough will run you $10. It’s nothing new, just another illustration of the old saying You get what you pay for. This is just another opportunity to vote with your dollar. And like I always say, let’s be mindful with our purchases and create economy around products we want to see.Dry Farms Wine delivers the kind of wine that forces you to notice it. That guests will comment on. That will keep you coming back for more.Click To Tweet
What Sets Dry Farm Apart?
I thought Dry Farm was just the company’s name but actually all their wines are sourced from winemakers who use “dry farming methods.” Dry farming relies on natural rainfall for growing grapes. This is easy for regions in Europe like Bordeax and Burgundy where rainfall is frequent. And actually in most European regions irrigation is illegal.
Why? Well, dry farming saves 16,000 gallons of water per acre annually, it produces a better tasting (less diluted) grape and it’s overall more sustainable for the land. BUT because dry farming produces lower crop yields its used by less than 1% of US vineyards.
In addition, EVERY BOTTLE of wine that Dry Farm Wines delivers is:
- Lab tested internally for sugar, alcohol content and sulfur levels
- Sugar-Free (<1g/L) (less hangovers)
- Less calories at 80-90 per glass VS 120-150 minimum for commercial
- Low Sulfites (only natural occurring at < 75 ppm. The US standard is 350 ppm)
- Low Alcohol (no more than 12% to retain the finer notes and make it more enjoyable)
- Mycotoxin/Mold-Free (see below)
- Free of additives and preservatives
- Dry farmed, grown without the use of irrigation
- Grapes are natural, organic or biodynamically grown
- Grapes are hand harvested
- Old growth vines, generally 35-100 years old
- Fermented with wild native yeast
- Made in small productions
- Paleo and Keto friendly
Yeah. You read that right! I also want to elaborate on the mycotoxin issue. So mycotoxin Ochratoxin A (OCA) is a known carcinogen. The EU standard for screening is less than 2 parts per billion. For context, OCA in coffee is allowed in the E.U. up to 10 parts per billion. There is no required testing for OCA in the United States. (I can’t). Dry Farms tests for this.
In fact, Dry Farm Wines lab tests and tastes all of its wines before procuring and shipping.
We have a hard cut off for sugar, alcohol and sulfur levels because any of these in excess is a sign of a unhealthy wine in our opinion. We send test tubes of samples for each wine to a local certified independent enologist. – DFW
Dry Farm Wines fully admits that some natural wines taste funky and in turn only takes on about 30% of the wines they test/taste. It was so obvious too because every bottle I tasted was better than the last! I loved ALL the reds, the rose was smooth and buttery but not overly sweet and the sparkling white!? To DIE for. Light, dry, clean, crisp and extra bubbly. I have one bottle left – a sparkling rose that I will open and share with you guys on my Instagram stories.
Oh and while we are on the topic, here is a compelling video interview with Isabelle Legeron (an iconic figure in the natural, raw wine world) and Dry Farms Wine founder Todd White. It’s all about how the natural wine movement came about + putting value on complete transparency. (Um, still thinking about wild asparagus and the idea of a “wild salad” – Gosh, I have to beef up my country because city me is taking over!).
If this is wetting your whistle, check out what their membership looks like:
Get 6 bottles monthly OR every other month.
Choose what you want either reds, whites or mixed. More here!
Guys, I’m totally hooked. The only decision left is: should go with the monthly subscription or the every other month…Oh! And I’ve hooked you up. Buy here and get a bottle for a penny with your first order!
Make A Choice
We see it again and again friends. Whether it be face moisturizer, a Thanksgiving Day turkey or a bottle of wine. The name of the game is quantity and cost-effectiveness not quality, not nutrition, not health. So what can we do about it? Choose!
Dry Farms Wine is a great option and I highly recommend it but if this is not for you there are several other options.
- Look for the USDA organic seal on your bottle of wine at the grocery. This wine will be made with grapes that were farmed organically but the likelihood is that they still use machinery and other additives in the winemaking process. Farming is only one step in the winemaking process. But this is still a better option than non-organic in my opinion.
- Check out Whole Foods Eco-Friendly wine section – they have an assortment of organic + biodynamic wines.
- Ask to speak to the wine buyer at your local liquor or wine store. Tell them you want a natural wine either organic or biodynamic and they will help you with some options. Most natural wines are not marked as natural. Rely on the experts!
- Order international wines over domestic wines when dining out. Specifically, wines from French regions like Loire Valley and Jura. Dry Farms says they have been making wine in a drinkable, clean style for far longer than Americans have. It won’t be perfect but it’s better than domestic labels.