LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — There could be more in your wine than you may realize.
For over 20 years, Philip Cavanaugh has been in the wine business, the past three at Rosenthal Estate Wines in Malibu.
CBS2/KCAL9’s Jeff Vaughn reports that now more than ever, Cavanaugh says little vineyards are battling big production.
Cavanaugh says the push for cheaper wine is what’s leading larger producers to use more additives in wine, additives like the ones exposed by Christopher Null of Wired Magazine.
“The perception is that you are drinking fermented grape juice, and that isn’t the truth,” said Null.
Null calls it the industrialization of wine, and says the push to get wine under $10 a bottle is behind the changes.
“When you drink a glass of wine, especially a relatively inexpensive glass of wine, you are drinking a huge array of compounds and chemicals that you have no idea are present in the wine,” he said.
Additives like “Mega Purple” to correct color issues, gelatin for texture, and the most troubling of all, Velcorin, which is used to kill living organisms.
It’s dangerous in large quantities – “so dangerous that has to be handled by special training,” according to Null – but legal in a bottle of wine.
And the oldest additive of all, sulfur dioxide, has been used in wine-making since the 15th century.
Sulfur is an antimicrobial agent and also has antioxidant properties, so it basically keeps the wine free from yeast strains that could start fermentation in the bottle.
“And it is going to protect it from oxygen, browning the wine,” Null said.
Back at Rosenthal Estate Wines, Cavanaugh says additives in wines are nothing new.
“We are adding the same stuff now that we were adding 25 years ago,” he said.
But he does say there is a clear difference between small wineries and mass-produced wine.
“There are small operations like ours that do about 4,500 cases of wine, and if you compare that to some of the big boys, they are doing million-gallon blades,” said Cavanaugh. “What they are trying to do is mimic us to a large extent. They are trying to get wines that taste like you are doing small batches on a large scale.”
He says consumers can find out what is under the cork by asking questions whenever visiting a winery, and when buying online, check the ingredients list.
And as for a long-term fix? Cavanaugh says he supports industrywide labels on wine.
“Personally, I think that we should label everything that goes into it,” he said. “It looks like as the industry as a whole, the big boys have spent a lot of time and effort making sure that we don’t.
“It’s unfortunate,” he added.