What Makes Wine Healthy + Exactly Where To Buy Better Options
It's oft-quoted that wine is good for your health. It helps with gut health! It boosts omega-3s in the body! It can help balance blood sugar!
But these benefits can be outweighed when consuming wine that's rife with chemicals—and I'm not just talking about pesticides on the grapes. Winemakers draw on a list of over 60 approved additives—none of which are required to be disclosed on the bottle—that help balance tannins, acidity, mouthfeel, flavor, and more. There are a number of reasons to avoid these additives, including dietary preferences (many wines rely on fish bladders to clarify the product, which makes the result decidedly not vegan) and a desire to avoid ingredients like chemical sulfites (which have been linked to respiratory and gut issues1) or commercial yeasts (which can be problematic for the histamine sensitive2).
Navigating the world of wine labels.
USDA organic certified wine isn't allowed to include any artificial additives, and all of the grapes must be grown organically. No GMOs are allowed, and no sulfites can be added (although some might naturally occur and are allowed up to 10 ppm). If you see the label "made with organic grapes," however, it merely indicates that the grapes are organic, and the wine itself may still contain sulfites and other additives. Biodynamic wines take the growing process itself a step further, with practices that consider the ecosystem as a whole. It's widely considered to be better for both your body and the environment, with one caveat: While the organic label is regulated by the USDA, the biodynamic label is regulated by an independent agency called the Demeter Association. It's a reputable, international organization, but it's worth noting that anything calling itself "biodynamic" isn't government-regulated. Also worth noting? All of these certifications are expensive, which means sometimes small wineries will adhere to these practices but be unable to afford the label.
Finally, raw or natural wine references grapes that have been allowed to ferment fully naturally, without any added yeasts (organic wine allows added yeast for fermentation, as long as it, too, is organic). Because it's naturally fermented, raw or natural wine tends to vary quite a bit from bottle to bottle and is hard to produce en masse, a quality many wine aficionados find appealing. At present, it's a fully unregulated term, meaning that to find natural wine, you mostly need to rely on wine-shop owners, sommeliers, or simply finding brands you love and rely on.
So what's the best way to find healthy wine?
You can look for biodynamic or organic wine in your local wine shop, but these days, it can be easier to find healthy wines online. A number of companies have sprung up in recent years to do the work for you, ensuring all of their products are free of the aforementioned added chemicals while maintaining their delicious flavor. Primal Wine sells natural, biodynamic, and organic wines from around the world by the bottle at reasonable prices. Thrive Market recently added Clean Wine to their membership options, with curated cases of delicious, affordable bottles (or you can opt to build your own!). Dry Farm Wines has created a wine club and will send six specially selected wines on a monthly or quarterly basis. The company has garnered a number of wellness world-celeb fans, including Dave Asprey and Mark Sisson, all of whom applaud the brand's high standards when it comes to both taste and health.
Liz Moody is an author, blogger and recipe developer living in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated with a creative writing and psychology degree from The University of California, Berkeley. Moody has written two cookbooks: Healthier Together: Recipes for Two—Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships and Glow Pops: Super-Easy Superfood Recipes to Help You Look and Feel Your Best. She also hosts the Healthier Together Podcast, where she chats with notable chefs, nutritionists, and best-selling authors about their paths to success. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Glamour, Food & Wine & Women’s Health.