Killing the Wine & Arsenic Story — Before It’s Too Late

cancer“Boy, who knew about the arsenic in wine. I’m a beer drinker.”

“Great, now there’s another way I can die…Just drink wine”

These are two comments that were directed at me this weekend. Both were unsolicited and both in response to me being asked what I do for a living and responding that I work in the wine business.


Here’s what I can guarantee: sales of wine will decline over at least the next two months, if not further, due to the report that some wines have elevated levels of arsenic in them.

It does not matter that the report is bogus.

It does not matter that those reporting it are extortionists.

It does not matter that you’d have to drink yourself dead to be harmed by the arsenic in wine.

What matters is the perception and the impression.

If you’ve ever wondered why you pay dues to your state winery association or to your regional/appellation association, the reason is for moments like this. If you state or regional trade association is not on the phone with reporters of a national or local perspective, then you better get on the phone with them and absolutely demand they start making calls, setting reporters straight, telling he real story and doing everything they can to discredit the people who are spreading the story that wine is dangerous.

So, as a winery, retailer or member of any other sector of the wine industry, what should you do?

1. Contact your regional and state-based trade association just to remind them that you hope they are addressing the arsenic controversy

2. Put a statement on your website discrediting the controversy and explaining why there is no danger of arsenic poisoning from drinking your wine

3. Create a short and sweet fact sheet about the controversy that you can send to customers or trade that ask about the issue.

4. Use social media to direct your followers and friends to the best discrediting of the report that you’ve seen. (here is a good one from the CA Wine Institute)

You’ve got to kill these kind of damaging disreputable claims in their crib and you’ve got to do it with hurricane force because if bogus claims like this are left to metastasis it can grow into a cancer on the industry that will be hard to overcome.

22 Responses

  1. Larry K - March 23, 2015

    So are you suggesting this ok? Do the consumers not have any rights to know what is in the bottle? I think they do and should demand an explanation and they should demand labeling on wine bottles. I am in the business also but I care for my health first and foremost. While the part per billions are low that are indeed present in numbers that warrant investigation. Sweeping it under the rug is not where this needs to go.

    • Steve - March 23, 2015

      Yes, we have a right to know. So from now on “every” bottle of wine should be tested so we are safe by knowing exactly what is in the wine that potentially is harmful and at what levels. Even drinking water is unsafe, it also has arsenic. Some testing also says flouride in water is unsafe. Next, we should publish what the baking industry allows by way of rat droppings in wheat that is turned into bread. Now that is also a comforting thought.
      I would like to know who tested the testing lab to verify the findings and all the wines tested. Then we can all make informed decisions. Cheers! Oh, close down Napa and Sonoma until they can prove their wine’s are safe and a testing report proves it. For the challenged, I am being sarcastic.

  2. Eric - March 23, 2015

    Someone I know suggested that this “study” was somehow initiated by a large non wine corporate beverage company…

    It will be interesting to see if this is so.

    • alec - April 9, 2015

      Two of the plaintiffs in this case make a test for arsenic in wine. This is by no means an attempt to improve wine for the public good.

  3. Randy Agness - March 23, 2015

    I understand how emotionally tied to the arsenic concern raise you are. Thousands of such inquiries are being made in response to the news release as perception of an issue grows without a formal national published statement providing prospective. I do caution you in the language in describing how quickly the trade associations should be acting. Also, being a chemist, I can appreciate the differences between organic and inorganic arsenic, but the general public does not. Additional, with stories about China’s beverage industry added melamine to baby formula and apple juice does raise concerns that the low priced wine producers where not aware of the chemist composition shows that they were either completely indifferent to checking for trace contaminates or weren’t aware of the institution availability of testing support services. Both positions are not desirable. Sometimes hearing that you have not been a steward of public trust is difficult. Attending the BEV NY Conference, no presentation discussed this issue, but I will bet you now the conferences will be talking about the subject.

  4. Tim - March 23, 2015


    I agree that this needs to be stamped hard, not just because it’s a for-profit lawsuit launched by someone whose results can’t be replicated, whose position (wine should be judged by the standards of drinking water) is incorrect, who has ignored the actual results from countries that do test (Canada, the EU) and who lied about contacting the wineries in question, but also because of misguided concern-trolls who continue to seize on this to say, ‘Yes but any amount of arsenic is bad so we should all panic roundly and start panels at conferences to discuss this because I like being important’.

    To all those trolls, if it’s so important, then why don’t you hate mussels? Legally they can have a thousand times more arsenic than wine–that’s not a typo, a _thousand_ times. If you’re not dropping wine in favour of targeting shellfish, you’re not acting according to good scientific reasoning or pure motives–you’re doing it for some other reason.

    • Steve - March 23, 2015

      Who is testing all the wines coming into America from all over the world-assuming there is a genuine hue and cry? Who is testing wine sold from “OTC” Other Than California wineries?
      I still want to know what fostered this testing, who is the testing company owners, who funded the test? If it was done for free…why? No Free Lunch is the mantra.

    • Gareth Monello - March 23, 2015

      Why defend greed? Why support the agri-chemical industry? This is not wine. It is the worst of chemical fast-foods. The arsenic is only a small portion of the poisons in these wines.

      • Steve - March 26, 2015

        What makes it greed?

    • JC - March 26, 2015

      So glad I just heard about this whole thing after the fact here in New Zealand as I was sipping my Sauvignon blanc and eating mussels 🙂

      • Steve - March 26, 2015

        I feel a mesothelemo cae settleing into this event.. I say ban all arsenic from the earth…OK, I just removed my tongue from my cheek. We need a betting line established in London and Las Vegas. Those poor lawyers, how will they make a living? 10 ppb to 100ppb and 200ppb, so confusing. I need to start a worldwide testing company with Ralph Nader and Al Gore. Put Two Buck Chuck and Franzia out of business and Rex Goliath. OR!!!! Send the wine to ISIS. Lawyers rule. God Bless wine. Protect us from ourselves.

  5. Larry K - March 23, 2015

    Why is everybody defending these companies who knowingly sell tainted wine. One of the companies in question voluntarily recalled thousands of cases of cheap wine last year because the arsenic levels were through the roof. It is one thing to be pre-business but being anti-consumer is loosing sight of the big picture. Regardless of any sort of conspiracy of who ordered these tests, isn’t it a good thing it was exposed? Burying ones head in the sand wont make it go away. Good talking points for your customer is don’t buy it.

    • Steve - March 23, 2015

      I agree, so don’t drink water. Arsenic at any level is bad.
      No one is supporting arsenic in wine. Just give me the facts relevent facts:
      1. Is arsenic levels high in ALL the wines sold from every country and winery?
      2. Arsenic is the story so: Are arsenic levels in other products I should be aware of?
      3. But yes, I do want the “background” story also.
      4. What do other testing companies and scientist say about the story?
      Facts will tell us what to do. But I say water is bad also, even if it is a little less of a killer than Two Buck Chuck. Now I wonder if Costco has independent testing of their “Kirkland” negociant purchased juice?
      Better safe than sorry.

  6. Gareth Monello - March 23, 2015

    Arsenic — just the tip of the iceberg. What about all of the out and out poisons and toxic chemicals dumped in wine routinely? With no oversight. No reporting. No mention on any label! There are hundreds of them. Do you all not that when you compound such chemicals they can become terribly toxic and carcinogenic? And the alcohol spikes the chemicals to the outer limits! The expensive wines are the biggest culprits. How does any society allow this? No accounting … at a winery you can dump in whatever you feel like. Is there one person out there that likes to drinking poison chemicals in their wine? Is there just one madman that can explain? So when you “Contact your regional and state-based trade association just to remind them that you hope they are addressing the arsenic controversy” bring up the poisons in our wine that any neurologist will tell you is contributing to the epidemic in this country of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

    • alec - April 9, 2015

      was this supposed to be coherent?

  7. April - March 24, 2015

    How do you know the report is bogus?

  8. Fred - March 24, 2015


    The one thing that seems to be glossed over the most in this story is BeverageGrades unwillingness to publish their data or methodology. They are in the business of selling these “services” to the wine industry but have not come forth so that their “findings” can be independently verified. It should be of concern to all of us in the wine business but until this is independently verified I am at best skeptical.

    • Steve - March 24, 2015

      Does anybody know anything about the research company and the acedemic accomplishments of the owners/employees? Are they proposing ALL wines be tested (I assume by them) just to make sure consumers are confident in the industry’s ethics? I am confident there are no ulterior motives in the report so I hope the company puts out the details of what percipitated the research, who dictated the regimen for the research and why these specific wines were tested and who paid for the research.
      There are people who have made money from a cause (right or wrongly)-Ralph Nader, Al Gore even Thomas Edison.
      Open up to some other research firms to validate the research; for the good of worldwide wine and future legislation.

  9. Steve - March 26, 2015

    I say shut the CA wine industry down untill all wineries are certified by a government employee as processing NON-arsenic grapes and no arsenic in the soil of their vineyard suppliers. And no wine having more than 10 PPbillion. We cannot risk toxic damage to anyone drinking 8- 8 oz. glasses of wine a day. No one should be exposed to even the EU or Canadian very risky standards. The risk is just to great! What is one life worth?

  10. Finch Hub » Killing the Wine & Arsenic Story Before It’s Too Late – Fermentation - March 27, 2015


  11. Neil S Howe - March 30, 2015

    A move to less trace poisons is good. Just don’t be hyprocritical and not call out Monsanto or ADM all the way to McDonalds, Kraft etc. I exclude most farmers because the lobbying laws are already mandating use of crap practices. That being said, this level of arsenic is not harmful. The intake math combined with large Asian case studies of arsenic consumption and it’s effects make this lawsuit a bunch of Horse sh*!. Just saying. Have a problem? Buy organic, fine. Stop eating until you eliminate arsenic as an element from the universe.

  12. Steve - April 9, 2015

    Obviously there is money for the lawyers and those in the public who can make a claim if the case is won. The real winner is the law firm. But, people wanting to get in on the settlement years from now better save their receipts for the wines in question and/or emply bottles of two buck chuck.
    This reminds me of global warming discussion. Experts line up to my left if you believe Canadian and EU are intentionally killing their citizens with higher approved arsenic levels. Experts, Line up on my right if you think we breath and drink water and eat food with arsenic.
    Now place a bet if you think this discussion has a profit motive.

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