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What Did I Just Drink?

What Happened to Me?

A Wine Reaction… Thats what!

This week I planned on writing about some often overlooked grape varieties, but something happened to me last night that changed my focus for this week’s post. One night a week I meet with a group of local wine professionals to practice blind tasting techniques. I am in the final section of the Wine and Spirits Education Trust’s Diploma program. One part of my final test is to assess twenty-four wines blindly, meaning I have no clue as to the origin, variety, or style of wine. I have to use my tasting skills to best describe these wines. It takes a lot of practice to hone these skills and that is the reason I have this group of like-minded people joining me weekly.

Evaluating the Wine

Last night as we started evaluating our third wine (not sold here at Small Wine Shop), I knew right away by color and aroma it was a rosé and more than likely from the Provence region of France. Provence rosés tend to have a typicity that stands out much like New Zealand sauvignon blanc. I started writing my notes and began tasting the wine. Everything was on point; strawberry fruit, bright citrus acidity, mineral edge, and a crisp and light body. Then about one minute later something happened. My cheeks started to flush and I was suddenly hot. My eyes started itching. I started sweating profusely. This rosé was having a negative effect on me. I was having a wine reaction! What in the hell did I just drink?

Sulfer Dioxide is often blamed for wine reactions

What Causes Wine Reactions?

I wish I could tell you exactly what it was in this rosé that affected me so horribly. One of my pet peeves about wine is the lack of information wineries will tell you about what they use in the cellar to actually make their wines. Wine bottles are not required to carry ingredient labels. The vast majority of wineries say nothing about additives they may use. Most wine drinkers do not know that a winemaker can use around seventy-five different additives during the winemaking process. Many of these are natural and not harmful but some can have serious effects on consumers. Yet the lack of transparany makes it impossible to know what is causing their wine reactions. 

Sulfites are not Your Enemy

Many of you would say that it is sulfur dioxide (SO2), or sulfites when it is broken down in a wine. Sulfur dioxide is the big bad that I hear most often when it comes to wine reactions. But here’s the thing, it is rarely sulfur dioxide. If you can eat any dried fruit without having difficulty, you do not have a sulfur allergy. If you have wine reactions to reds but not whites, you do not have a sulfur allergy. Commercial white wines have more sulfur dioxide additions than red wines. Here at Small Wine Shop, many of the producers we carry make no-SO2 or very low SO2 wines. The vast majority are under 50 ppm, which is less than a shrimp cocktail or a small box of raisins. Plus, I like dry fruit so I know it I am definitely not having wine reactions to sulfur dioxide.

Do Tannins Cause Wine Reactions?

There is tannin sensitivity and some people do have a problem with tannins. It can cause migraines, cluster headaches, and sinus trouble. But this is a rosé so the tannins here are almost non-existent. I doubt it’s the tannins.


Wine additions may cause wine reactions

What Additives ARE in Wine?

Here’s a fun word for an additive that is widely used in rosé production: polyvinylpolypyrrolidone. Luckily we can call this PVPP for short. PVPP is a resinous polymer used to correct color and to help in fining. There is also Dimethyl Dicarbonate (DMDC), which is used to eliminate all microbial life in a wine. Ferrocyanide is used to remove trace metals. There are antifoaming agents, protein stabilizers, acid reducers, acid enhancers, color saturation agents, color removers, various enzymes, and genetically modified yeasts. And absolutely none of these additives are on a label. We consume wine the same way we consume food. 

Low Intervention Gives Me Peace of Mind

Here’s the deal. I cannot tell you what it was that led to my wine reaction to that particular rosé I sampled. It could be any of the additives mentioned above or ones that I did not. And that’s what concerns me. I should not have to worry if I will have an allergic reaction to any wine on the shelf. I also cannot make any medical assertion that the wines I sell here at the store will not cause the same type of reaction. But what I can say is that the producers we choose to sell are low-intervention winemakers, meaning they use natural yeasts for the fermentation, frown upon any additives mentioned above, and are very conservative in the use of sulfur dioxide. This does give me some comfort and is the reason I sell natural wines.

Check out these Zero/Zero Wines

(Nothing added… Nothing taken away)

The Other Right Bright Young Pink

Vintage: 2019
Region: Adelaide Hills, Australia
Viticulture: Biodynamic and Organic
Grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay

The Other Right Bright Young Pink is beautiful, light, textural sparkling wine. Super, super drinkable, and most appropriate for the warm summer.

Song: Bright Young Thing by Albert Hammond, Jr


Out of stock

Litrona Partida Creus Tempranillo

Vintage: 2020
Region: Catalunya, Spain
Viticulture: Organic
Grape varieties: 100% Tempranillo

Litrona Partida Creus Tempranillo is a liter of organically farmed Tempranillo, with minimal intervention, unfined, unfiltered, and zero SO2.

Song: Masonic Temple Microdose #1 by Blitzen Trapper


Out of stock

Rietsch Tout Blanc

Vintage: NV
Region: Alsace, France
Viticulture: Organic
Grape varieties: Auxerrois and Riesling

Rietsch Tout Blanc comes from a blend of equal parts of Auxerrois and Riesling juice born of two different harvests. The palate is very lively.

Song: Je Ne Me Connais Pas by Mattiel


Out of stock