Thursday, April 11, 2019

A Wine Lover’s Game Plan in Drinking Well (Biodynamic/Organic/Vegan Wines & Supplements)! #WinePW

The popularity of biodynamic, organic, vegan and natural wines is seen everywhere, from shelf space in wine stores to major wine trades. As almost a quarter of the exhibition hall at the recent VinExpo New York, where wine producers from all over the world brought forward their best wines, was dedicated to producers of biodynamic, organic and vegan wines, the trend to drink “healthier” wines is a phenomenon that probably won’t stop in the near future. Biodynamic and organic wine producers see their terroir-driven wines from their certified “green” land, not only a way to optimize their profit margins, but also a major environmental commitment that they will pass down to next generations. People’s pursuit of consuming foods and drinks in their most natural forms does propel and transform the food and beverage industry. 
VinExpo New York's "Barnyard" - A Showcase of Biodynamic, Organic and Vegan Wine Producers
In January, the French winophiles had a chance to dive deep into French biodynamic wines. Today, we have another opportunity to explore biodynamic wines from all over the world per Wine Predator, Gwen’s invite. I’ll look into why a wine lover should level up in choosing “healthier” wines – biodynamic, organic, vegan and/or natural as well as holistically do “something extra” to sustain health and prevent the side effects that come along with the love of drinking wine – a game plan in the making! 
Biodynamic French and Organic Chilean Wines at the VinExpo NY
What Do These Healthier Wines Mean, Exactly?

As seen in my January blog, "Detox with Organic French Wine and Cantonese Light Flair", Dr. Vinny from the Wine Spectator has defined, in layman’s term, what organic and biodynamic farming with a focus on wine is.

Organic: “Wines can be made from certified organically grown grapes, avoiding any synthetic pesticides or additives, or, to take it a step further, “organic” wines are made from organically grown grapes, and are also made without any added sulfites.”

Biodynamic: “… is similar to organic farming in that both take place without synthetic chemicals, but biodynamic farming incorporates ideas about a vineyard as an entire ecosystem.”

The “healthier” wine family have two new members:

Vegan: Wine is made from processes that do not allow animal-derived products that are introduced during fining (i.e., speeding up the process of removing sediments in wine by adding processing aids to bind and remove the unwanted substances). These processing aids are eventually filtered out from the wine and are not required to be noted in the wine label. Vegan farming may go beyond the wine-making process and attempts to eliminate animal products (e.g,, bone meal and fish emulsion) that may be inadvertently found in the vineyards.

Natural: Biodynamic, organic or sustainable farming practices are used in the vineyards and wineries, ensuring the entire cycle of wine producing, from soil management, growing the grapes through harvest to the wine making process, is subject to little-to-no chemical or technological manipulations. Also, the approach deployed is as hands-off as possible, distinguishing natural wines from organic and biodynamic and vegan practices. Since the goal of natural wines is to let nature craft the wines without labor-intensive techniques including sorting grapes, grape-crushing and basket-pressing, natural wines are often made in much smaller quantities with unpredictable yields. Unlike attaining organic and biodynamic certification to assure the practice, standards and compliance with the laws, there is no such certification in natural wines.

Spanish Wines that are Triple-Certified - Biodynamic, Organic and Vegan
The labels are worth a thousand words!
Lesser additives, lesser synthetic chemicals, lesser herbicides, but more natural flavors in wines is a two-thumbs up for wine lovers! For example, Fidora Tenuta Civranetta Organic Moscato Brut is a bottleful of wholesomeness and taste...
"Fidora Moscato Spumante Brut is the flagship bubbly produced at Tenuta Civranetta, the family estate. Pouring out from the 🍾dark mysterious bottle is the light straw yellow color bubbly that opens up its bouquet as you swirl. The moscato grape instantaneously releases the aromas of intense 🍊white orange tree flowers and hints of citrus and 🌿sage. On the palate, the light-touch sweet, showcases fruit and floral notes, and yet balances between minerals and acidity. It’s a bubbly that embraces freshness and elegance."

From Organic to Biodynamic – Domaine Santa Duc

Let’s take a closer look at how a wine producer slowly but surely migrates from organic to biodynamic farming. I attended one of Wine Library’s Wine Talk Series back in February and met Angela Deluca, who is the New Jersey Regional Sales Representative from Martine’s Wines, one of the major French wine importers/wholesalers in the US - doing this trade since 1979. Through her guided tasting, I learned and experienced the exceptional taste of a few Domaine Santa Duc wines that were featured for the night. Domaine Santa Duc is one of the pioneer organic wine producers in Gigondas, southern Rhône.
Yves Gras at his estate - Photo Credit: Domaine Santa Duc
From a wine drinker’s point of view, Angela does agree that biodynamic and organic ways of growing grapes are all about making wine that is the truest possible expression of the land on which it is grown...“When a producer demonstrates the level of care and respect for the earth that it takes to farm and make wine in this way, that level of care is evident in the glass.” Domaine Santa Luc has been farming organically since 1985 with biodynamics being introduced in 2016. As the sixth-generation wine maker, Benjamin Gras expands on organic agriculture that was practiced by his father Yves Gras since1985, converting the entire estate to biodynamic methods in the Autumn of 2016, and re-thinking the range of wines to put the emphasis on local terroirs.  After tasting a few of Domaine Santa Duc’s biodynamic wines, the Vacqueyras Les Aubes 2016 really takes me to their land…
"🍷Santa Duc Vacqueyras Les Aubes 2016 is a biodynamic powerhouse 💪that has scent of rock salt, nori seaweed on the nose. As it opens up, the wet leaves 🍃and cedar box notes channel through. The initial masculine and intense palate is characterized by black fruit, tobacco, smokiness, leather, which is then softened as the wine aerates - snap of red fruit and toast presented. The long finish leaves endnote of stewed fruit. A memorable wine that showcases multiple layers of flavors throughout the enjoyment! "

It is probable to evaluate the “level of care is evident in the glass” through a relatively personal and subjective tasting experience. What is even more measurable is the effort these biodynamic, organic, vegan wine producers put in the growing and wine-making cycles to eliminate herbicides and added processing aids (e.g., sulfites) as much as they could or entirely so that they can continue to have the proud stamps like ‘dementer’, biodynamic’ on their bottles. Needless to say, the process to retain the certification and to comply with the laws is rigorous, often through disciplines and audits by the governing agents. Consumers, particularly the ones who may be sensitive to these added substances, can benefit tremendously from these wines – health-wise or peace of mind! Of course, a true taste of the terroir, in lieu of tasting wines that have been subject to a lot of manual manipulations and are masked by overwhelmingly big oak and big tastes, is so in!

Pleasure Comes With Risks?

Does drinking these healthier wines eradicate risks that are associated with drinking? The answer is no…unless your wines have no alcohol. By the end of the day, alcohol consumption inherently poses some health risks. Saying the obvious, drinking excessively and alcoholism may come with costly health consequences. However, depending on who you are, responsible drinking or enjoying wines in moderation may still bring along some health risks or side effects. To me, enjoying a glass of wine is not without a challenge, as personally, I must deal with the effects of “Asian Flush”. I also know some of my drinking friends experience headaches on a regular basis while drinking wines, not to mention the occasional hangovers after a night of heavy drinking. What steps can we proactively take to drink well?

Wine Related Side Effects

Asian Flush or “Asian Glow”: it is a syndrome that a person gets a “red face” after drinking alcoholic beverages. As the name of this syndrome indicates, certain Asian populations are receptive to this syndrome due to an inherited deficiency in one of the enzymes that is involved in the breakdown of alcohol: aldehyde dehydrogenase. Without this working enzyme, alcohol-induced toxins will build up in the body to the level that damage DNA. Sufferers of Asian Flush may also have higher risks of esophageal cancer. More than one in three people with East Asian heritage (Chinese, Japanese and Korean) have this syndrome.

Sulfites-induced Headache, Really?: Although added sulfites may not be a good thing through the lens of organic farming, sulfites, whether it is naturally produced during fermentation or is added, DO NOT cause headache. This wine myth has been totally busted by so many researches. The culprit of wine-induced headache lies with the tannins and other flavonoids in wines, which explains why drinking red wines seems to cause more headaches than white for some individuals.  Among reds, the highly tannic grapes like Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, some Bordeaux and Syrah from South America become tricky to people who are susceptive to this type of headache.

Remedies (Pre- During and Post- Drinking & Regular Maintenance) (Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and am not sponsored by any of the products below. I simply share my personal experience on using these supplements and their effectiveness on me! If in doubt, consult your doctor.)

What else could a wine lover do to sustain health and minimize wine related side effects? Well, I do a few things to make my wine-drinking lifestyle a bit healthier.

·       Hydrate well with the ratio of one glass of wine and one glass of water;

·       Prior to drinking, I take Pepcid AC to help deal with the physical symptoms of Asian Flush such as red face and sometimes nausea, which blocks histamines to prevent flushing brought on by alcohol consumption. However, Pepcid AC is only a cosmetic fix to reduce an embarrassing red face, by no means it can help break down the consumed alcohol.

·       So, after drinking, I turn to a supplement called DrinkWel, which is a natural multivitamin that helps replenish nutrients, support liver health and help the body process alcohol-induced toxins after drinking – in short, these pills help prevent hangovers. While not everyone will experience the claimed benefits the same way, to me, after taking this product, I do feel great the next day!

·       On a daily basis, I take Rejuvica Health's VitaLiver which is an herb-based syrup that seems to help support, cleanse and repair my liver as I feel less sluggish.

Taking so many pills for the enjoyment of a glass wine…call me crazy!

Related Links

Your Guide to Sustainable Wine Certifications 
Is Wine Vegetarian, Vegan or Neither? 
The Beginner’s Guide to Natural Wine

Let's Look At Our #WinePW Bloggers's Biodynamic Journey!


  1. I enjoyed hearing about your point of view, and I'm glad you've found a way to deal with the Asian Flush!

    1. Thank you Jeff. Can’t change what’s inherited, but just deal with it!

  2. I have never heard of Asian Flush but the first time our daughter from China had alcohol we became very concerned because of how flushed she became. Interesting to learn that it is a genetic trait.

    1. It’s a common problem for a lot of Chinese people who drink alcohol. Asian Flush is annoying! Just have to manage it.

  3. So much of interest in your post, Pinny; thanks for sharing your own experience with some of the components found in wine and how you deal with them. Also was very surprised to learn how large a contingent of bio/organic/natural wine producers were at Vinexpo!

    1. Thanks for sharing this blog! I was very surprised about the area in VinExpo designated to Bio/Organic. I would say 2/3 of the producers there were from the Old World. Producers from Chile and US too!

  4. Great post Love hearing about a winery as they’re in the process of converting methods. I’ve had many friends who’ve had to deal with Asian Flush — glad you’ve been able to find a way around it so you can still enjoy your wine!

    1. Yes, it's a feel-good story - vineyard version, when the father started out organic farming many years ago and the son, after learning all the new methods in university, converts the land to biodynamic.

  5. good overview of the biodynamic wine and the various related terms. Interesting to hear about your supplement regime too!

  6. I'm surprised I haven't read more about these topics. This is so useful, thank you Pinny!

  7. Thanks for taking the time to discuss that, I feel strongly about this and so really like getting to know more on this kind of field. Do you mind updating your blog post with additional insight? It should be really useful for all of us. chocolate recipes