Natural Wine Causes More Headaches For Wine Drinkers and Natural Wine
New research shows that one of Natural Wine’s most important claims, that it contains fewer nasty sulfites than (what do they call it? “Commercial”? “Industrial”) wines is in fact a headache-inducing circumstance. In other words, the new research shows that wines with low levels of sulfites are more likely to leave a drinker with a post-drinking headache due to the fact that these low sulfite wines have greater levels of biogenic amines, the compound likely to cause headaches.
I find this funny.
Writing for VinePair about this new research, Julia Larson didn’t find this news as funny as I did, but she does take aim at the funnybone when she wrote, “Nowadays, it’s a common practice among so-called “natural” producers to not add sulfur dioxide (SO2) during winemaking. And many have been eager to tout the health benefits of not doing so, saying that drinking natural wine reduces the chance of headaches and hangovers.”
The champions of Natural Wine have been getting it wrong for years and the new research showing that their fixation on low levels of sulfites is more headache-inducing than non-Natural wines is just one more evidence of their disassociation with reality. But the new research is unlikely to persuade the Natural Wine Brigade. Nearly a year ago, writing in Saveur, Ben Kemper investigated the claim that “conventional” wine with its higher sulfite levels caused wine headaches. To fully flesh out this claim, he spoke with the doyenne of Natural Wine, Isabelle Legeron:
“Legeron insisted that there must be a connection, even if the science hasn’t caught up yet. When she accidentally drinks higher-sulfite wine, for instance, she does get headaches. “It’s probably the combination of sulfites and alcohol that brings on headaches,” she told me over the phone. “There isn’t enough research to prove things one way or the other, because getting people drunk for science presents ethical issues.” (Biogenic amines are another possible headache factor, but that’s a tale for another time.)”
Well, there is research now.
Ms. Legeron has been making the “Natural Wine = No Headache” for a very long time. Back in 2013 I quoted her in this blog on the issue of headaches:
“Natural wines result in fewer hangovers] This is only based on anecdotal evidence and personal experience, but I certainly feel much worse if I drink conventional wine, especially pounding headaches. But again, this is hardly surprising as approximately 60 additives are allowed for use in winemaking by law, and none of them have to be included on the label.”
But in fact, getting the science wrong is the worst sin of the Natural Wine Community. The worst sin is their long-running insinuation that those “commercial” or “industrial” or “conventional” wines (read: anything other than “natural wine”) provide no authenticity, are all the same, and don’t express terroir. Again, back in 2013, I quoted Fabio Bartolomei, winemaker at Vinos Ambiz concerning Natural Wine:
““I think we’ve been living in ‘Parkerworld’ for the last few decades, and many consumers are fed up with homogenized supermarket wines, and now need a bit of singularity, uniqueness and authenticity, not to mention some real quality. So natural wines fill a need for authenticity, for a singular product that was made by a real person, and that tastes unique, and that expresses the terroir of where it came from.”
The other lie Natural Wine proponents have long been telling is that if it isn’t Natural Wine, then it’s a chemical soup. In 2016 I quoted April Kilcrease, writing in the East Bay Express, concerning a new Natural Wine bar. Like so many other champions of Natural Wine have done over the years, she implies that non-natural wine is bad for you because it always includes ugly additives:
“While many consumers assume that grapes are all that goes into a bottle of wine, a typical recipe can read more like a chemistry experiment.”
Over the years I’ve come to understand what Natural Wine marketers and champions do as nothing more than “Denigration Marketing”, that cynical form of sales and marketing that requires other wines to be disparaged in order to promote their own wines. In fact, this form of marketing Natural Wine begins with the very name, “natural”. The moniker is absurd, in every respect. Of course, it’s all unethical too. Everyone knows this. But too many have been willing to give the natural wine world a pass.
Now, what I wonder is, if given the research that Natural Wine is likely, with its fewer Sulfites, to cause more headaches, will the champions and marketers of Natural Wine refrain from claiming the stuff causes fewer headaches? Will they return to the question and retract their claims? Will they make any mention at all of the headache-inducing character of their “natural” wine?