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Part 6 Round-Up, Heavy Metals, PFAS, and Other Toxins
Beyond Grapes: The Hidden Threats in Wine
1. Glyphosate: Tracing the Origins of the Controversial Herbicide "Round-Up"
Glyphosate, a widely used herbicide known as "Round-Up", has found its way into the winemaking process via weed management in ALL conventionally farmed vineyards. It is widely used in United States agricultrue due to its unrelenting effectiveness to mitigate invasive flora in crops meant to be food for both people and our animals. When it was developed in the 1970's it was a god-send to farmers, making farming, an already logistically difficult and only marginally profitable business, a bit easier. Because of its effectiveness, its use has spread throughout the U.S. and other countries around the world. The dangers of this compound did not make itself evident for almost 50yrs. We have wondered how it could have possibly taken this long to be sure. I believe, the answer lies in how this compound disrupts a biological system. Because there is no direct cause/effect with exposure to it in a human short term its been tough to point a finger. However, because of the now-large dataset(50yrs of injury/sickness corellations & lawsuits) and science and technology has advanced at an exponential pace we can evaluate and conclude definitively that glyphosate is incredibly toxic in humans. A simple search for "glyphosate toxicity" in the National Library of Medicine reveals mountains of research all pointing to, "not super good for humans". Synne Cellars aims to bring awareness to consumers regading its use in agriculture, its potential health impacts and submit to you that it can be avoided in at least the wine we consume.
2. PFAS: Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in Winemaking
The presence of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in winemaking adds another layer of complexity to the health considerations associated with wine consumption. PFAS, known for their persistence in the environment, forever chemicals can enter the winemaking process through various channels, from water sources to packaging materials. Due to lack of resources, regulating authorities have landed on a "Nothing we can do about it now" attitude. The dangers of PFAS contamination is a relatively recent discussion, some of the data is concerning some of the data is benign. The hope is, to do the best we can to understand it and if/how we can avoid it if its dangerous. For now obvious ways to reduce the likelyhood of contamination in wine include choosing vineyards or production sites away from fire training areas, military training areas, nuclear power plants, landfills, recycle centers, and garbage transfer stations. All seem like a good idea anyways.
3. Heavy Metals: The Silent Threats Lurking in Wines (soo dramatic!!)
Heavy metals, though naturally occurring in soil, can pose health risks when present in elevated levels. Most modern agriculture has banned pesticides containing heavy metals but could still linger in some areas where it was heavily used in the past. The most common avenue for heavy metals to enter a winemaking process would be using an affected areas ground water in the viticulture and winemaking process. Testing soils and using appropriate water filtration systems would greatly reduce the potential for occurance. Understanding and implementing simple common sense protocols is crucial for both winemakers and consumers who seek wines free from potential contaminants.
Glyphosate, PFAS, and heavy metals can impact the quality and safety of wines from around the world. By examining the dangers associated with these substances, consumers gain insight into the potential risks they face when enjoying their favorite glass of wine. Our approach involves not only identifying these threats but also implementing solutions to minimize or eliminate their impact in winemaking. It involves a combination of sustainable viticultural practices, careful selection of agricultural inputs, and rigorous quality control measures. This proactive approach aims to not only address current concerns but also to set a standard for healthier winemaking practices in the future. It is an essential piece to empowering consumers to make informed choices. By understanding the potential threats posed by these compounds consumers can prioritize wines that adhere to higher safety standards. Isaac Schmid's work contributes to create a more transparent and accountable winemaking industry that values both taste and health.
Our sincere hope is to educate and not fear monger, just as you would tell a child to not touch a burner we urge the reader to understand and make healthy choices. We hope this serves as a wake-up call for wine enthusiasts and industry professionals alike, prompting a reevaluation of winemaking practices, encouraging a shift towards methods that prioritize both the rich sensory experience of wine and the health of those who savor it.
Part 5: The Mold Dilemma: Navigating the Impact on Health
A Holistic Perspective on Health and Winemaking
The discussion on molds in viticulture and agricultural settings within winemaking emphasizes the need for a holistic perspective. It's not just about crafting exceptional wines but also about prioritizing the health and well-being of those who savor them. This requires a proactive stance in addressing potential health risks associated with molds. Below is an overview/outline of how we think about mold in regard to winemaking.
1. The Natural Presence of Molds in Viticulture
In the realm of viticulture and agricultural settings, molds are an intrinsic part of the ecosystem. Their presence is natural, and they play roles in various ecological processes. However, the acknowledgment of their natural existence also comes with the awareness of potential threats they pose to human health.
2. Understanding the Risks: Gut Biome, mycotoxins and allergic reactions
Molds can have far-reaching consequences on health. One significant concern is their potential to damage the gut biome. The intricate balance of microorganisms in the gut, crucial for digestion and overall well-being, can be disrupted by certain molds. If gut biome is disrupted, inflammation occurs which becomes a physiological "chink-in-the-armor" resulting in reduced capacity biologically. Additionally, some molds produce mycotoxins, which, when ingested, can have adverse effects on human health. These commonly are recognized as "allergies". Symptoms can include: Runny nose or nasal congestion, wheezing, itchy eyes and/or throat, coughing and sneezing, headaches or migraines, and skin rash. For those with chronic asthma it could trigger an attack. If you or someone you know experiences any of these as a result of drinking red wine, it is VERY likley that mold is a contributing factor. I would be remiss not to mention alcohol also disrupts gut biome to some degree. Our bodies are however pretty good at metabolizing it (that's not a hall pass to over-consume!).
On a personal note, as a business owner/winemaker, I an have increased exposure to wine and I need to function both cognitively and physically at the best level I can. I very much enjoy wine, its flavor, color, aromas and the fascinating process of grape to glass. However I have some sensitivities to the environment, so when I choose to have wine, I choose one (mine usually) I know will affect me the least.
The Call for Attention in Winemaking
This section highlights the importance of recognizing and addressing the mold-related challenges specifically in the context of winemaking. While the natural environment of vineyards can expose grapes to molds, winemakers need to navigate this aspect carefully to ensure the end product is not only delicious but also safe for consumption.
1. Mold Exposure & Mitigating Risks in Winemaking
Our exploration of the mold dilemma extends beyond mere acknowledgment of the issue. Navigating the impact of molds involves understanding the complexities associated with their exposure. Factors such as climate, vineyard management practices, and grape varieties can all influence the prevalence of molds. These intricate variables require a comprehensive approach to mold management in viticulture. For us, this means delving into strategies which potentially eliminate all molds throughout the winemaking process. These include implementing stringent quality control measures, sourcing from organic and sustainable farms that have historically reduced mold exposure, employing advanced techniques for mold prevention, and independent labratory testing for detection.
2. Balancing Quality and Safety
The biggest challenge lies in striking a balance between maintaining the quality of the wine and ensuring its safety for consumers. Our approach involves a meticulous evaluation of viticultural practices, fermentation processes(Our Roadmap), and storage conditions to minimize the presence of molds without compromising the unique characteristics of the wine.
In conclusion, this outline underscores the multifaceted nature of mold challenges in winemaking. Hopefully this will help us understand that considering biological safety when selecting a wine can make a big difference in the overall experience and the following days. Additionally, we hope it prompts other winemakers to go beyond the surface-level appreciation of their craft and consider the intricate interplay between natural elements, health considerations, and the pursuit of producing wines that stand the test of both taste and safety.
I was interviewed on Woodinvilles Own: The Tend Home Team's TLC PODCAST for our work in making ADDITIVE FREE, LOW HISTAMINE, MOLD FREE wines.. Tend Home Team is led by Woodinville native and Chamber Chair Troy Anderson. We talked briefly about reactions with wines.. specifically Red wines and what we are doing at Synne to reduce, remove and control the inflammatory compounds that elicit those annoying headachy allergic responses.
To listen, please follow one of the the links below:
Part 4: Summary of Issues and Call to Action
Challenging Tradition: Modernizing Winemaking for Health
1. Historical Pride and Tradition
The foundation of winemaking is steeped in tradition and historical pride. The craftsmanship, passed down through generations, has created a strong connection between winemakers and the land. This connection has contributed to a steadfast adherence to traditional methods, which, while preserving the authenticity of winemaking, may inadvertently hinder the adoption of modern technologies.
2. The Dilemma of Modern Winemaking
In the pursuit of preserving tradition, there is a potential downside. Modern winemaking, often rooted in nostalgia, might not fully address contemporary health concerns. As the world becomes more conscious of the impact of food and beverages on health, there is a need to reevaluate certain practices in winemaking that may contribute to health issues.
3. A Call for Balance: Tradition and Technology
Isaac Schmid introduces a compelling proposition: the need for a balanced approach that marries tradition and technology. This is not a call to abandon time-honored practices but rather an invitation to integrate modern advancements responsibly. The objective is clear—to elevate the quality of wine to a world-class level without compromising on health standards.
4. Embracing Technology for Quality Assurance
The integration of technology in winemaking doesn't necessarily mean abandoning tradition. Instead, it involves leveraging advancements to enhance quality while addressing health concerns. This could include adopting precision viticulture techniques, employing advanced filtration methods, and incorporating tools for real-time monitoring of fermentation processes.
5. The Quest for World-Class Quality and Health
The ultimate goal is to establish a new paradigm in winemaking—one that places a premium on both tradition and health. This quest for world-class quality and health requires a nuanced understanding of the interplay between traditional wisdom and modern science. It's about harnessing the best of both worlds to create wines that not only reflect the richness of tradition but also meet the evolving expectations of a health-conscious consumer base.
6. A Forward-Thinking Approach
Isaac Schmid's approach is forward-thinking, challenging the industry to evolve in response to changing times. By embracing a more holistic perspective on winemaking, the aim is to navigate the delicate balance between heritage and health. It's a call for winemakers to be stewards of both tradition and innovation, ensuring that the wines they produce not only honor the past but also contribute positively to the well-being of those who enjoy them.
In conclusion, the section on "Challenging Tradition: Modernizing Winemaking for Health" underscores the importance of critically examining and evolving winemaking practices. Isaac Schmid's proposition is not a rejection of tradition but a thoughtful integration of technology to enhance quality and address health considerations. This balanced approach is poised to shape the future of winemaking, ensuring that the industry continues to thrive while prioritizing the well-being of consumers.
Part 3: Problems with Current Winemaking
Winemaking Introduction & Context - Historic Processes - Pride & Legacy
Welcome back to the third installment of our exploration into the world of winemaking. In this segment, we delve into the current issues plaguing the industry, from agricultural practices to winemaking techniques, as we strive to elevate our understanding of the craft and its impact on our health and the environment.
Historic Processes - Pride & Legacy
Winemaking boasts a rich history that spans approximately 7000 years, with its roots believed to be near the mountains of the Republic of Georgia. This ancient craft has undergone continuous refinement, evolving with advancements in storage vessels, yeast bacterias, refrigeration methods, sealing techniques, and various clarifying agents.
The evolution of winemaking has naturally led to the production of 'dry' wines, a result of improved storage methods, yeast resilience, and extended fermentation periods. However, the pride associated with the traditional winemaking process often poses a challenge to embracing modern technologies that could further enhance the quality of the final product.
Historically, winemakers, characterized by a blend of technical and creative inclinations, tend to favor traditional methods passed down through generations. This deep connection to the land and adherence to time-tested practices can sometimes hinder the integration of innovative technologies and processes. Striking a balance between tradition and modernity becomes a crucial aspect of achieving our mission.
Molds and Other Compounds in Viticulture and Agricultural Settings
The mention of "mold" usually invokes a negative response due to its potential health implications. While mold is a natural component of our environment, its presence in winemaking, especially in organic vineyards, poses challenges. Mold micro-organisms can adversely affect the gut biome, induce respiratory issues, and produce myco-toxins, such as afla-toxin and ochra-toxin.
Research indicates that 20%-30% of individuals may experience symptoms upon contact with molds or myco-toxins, which are linked to kidney and liver damage, geno-toxicity, and decreased immune function. Despite the potential risks, molds play a role in balancing local flora and fauna. Hence, addressing mold-related challenges in winemaking involves thoughtful consideration of their impact on both health and the environment.
Glyphosate, a herbicide commonly known as Round-up, has gained notoriety for its effectiveness in farming. Developed by pharmaceutical company Monsanto/Bayer, it targets a specific enzyme, disrupting plant growth and, inadvertently, harming various other organisms in the process.
Research suggests that glyphosate is toxic to plants, animals, earthworms, and soil microbes. Its impact on humans includes disrupting mitochondrial function, signaling pathways, and inducing oxidative stress and neuronal inflammation. Despite these concerns, glyphosate continues to be extensively used in vineyards, raising questions about its long-term effects on both the environment and the wine consumer.
PFAS & Heavy Metals
Poly/Per-Floural Alkyl Substances (PFAS) and heavy metals, such as arsenic and mercury, have found their way into vineyards through various agricultural practices. PFAS, present in pesticides and herbicides, poses a challenge due to the sheer volume of products containing these substances. Meanwhile, heavy metals, once used in insecticides, have prompted lawsuits in California over potential toxic levels in wines.
Addressing these concerns requires a closer look at farming practices and the adoption of organic, sustainable, and regenerative approaches. Striking a balance between reducing harmful substances and maintaining the quality of grapes is a challenge that conscientious winemakers must navigate.
Biogenic Amines - Histamine & Others
Biogenic amines, including histamine, are neurotransmitters essential for human function. However, an imbalance of these compounds can lead to various health issues. Histamine, produced by the body and certain microorganisms, can trigger inflammatory responses, causing problems ranging from gastrointestinal issues to skin reactions.
In the context of winemaking, biogenic amines can be created by bacteria, molds, and yeasts during improper storage, highlighting the need for meticulous fermentation and storage practices to minimize the presence of these compounds in the final product.
Sulfites - Tannin
The age-old debate about sulfites and tannins in wine often leaves consumers puzzled about potential sensitivities. Sulfur, a common element on Earth, has been used for centuries in winemaking to prevent oxidation and bacterial spoilage. Despite its necessity for preserving wine quality, sulfite sensitivity is relatively rare.
Tannins, polyphenolic compounds extracted from grape skins during fermentation, contribute to the astringency and mouthfeel of wine. While some individuals claim sensitivities to sulfites or tannins, scientific studies suggest that these sensitivities are statistically unlikely for the vast majority of the population.
Filtration plays a crucial role in preserving the stability and aesthetics of wine. Traditionally, red wines undergo minimal filtration due to the natural settling of solids during barrel aging. In contrast, white wines and rosés, bottled at a younger age, require filtration to remove yeast cells and prevent spoilage.
The subject of filtration in winemaking has been met with skepticism due to the industry's deep-rooted traditions and pride. New technologies and processes are often slow to be embraced. However, filtration, when done thoughtfully and with modern techniques, can contribute to a more stable and higher-quality final product without compromising flavor and aroma.
The rise of natural, organic, low/no sulfite, and unfiltered wines reflects a growing consumer awareness of health and environmental concerns. However, the inherent flaws in some natural wines, such as higher mold occurrences and unchecked bacterial growth, emphasize the need for a more nuanced approach. While the intent behind the natural wine trend aligns with a desire for healthier options, careful consideration of potential allergens and spoilage risks is crucial.
In our quest to create the best possible wine, it's essential to acknowledge the complexities and potential pitfalls of various winemaking practices. Stay tuned for the next part of our series, where we'll explore the challenges posed by current regulations and the steps we're taking to overcome them.
Part 2: My Story / Wine Journey - Isaac Schmid
Meet Isaac Schmid: A Winemaker's Odyssey
Isaac Schmid, the visionary behind Synne Cellars, embarked on his winemaking journey in 2009. From intense studies with mentors to producing small batches of wine, Isaac's dedication led to receiving a producer's license from the State of Washington in 2016. However, a personal quest for better health and cognitive function unveiled a crucial question: why do some wines cause adverse reactions? Isaac's journey to answer this question became the foundational lens for winemaking at Synne Cellars.
Part 1: Mission Statement
Mission Statement: Redefining Winemaking for Healthier Enjoyment
Welcome to Synne Cellars, where our mission is clear and intentional: to create award-winning, premium wines that are not only delicious but also crafted with a commitment to health. Our wines are naturally produced, additive-free, and designed to be physiologically less inflammatory and reactive in humans compared to the trending wines in the market. The lab results are in, and we're proud to introduce you to a new era of winemaking.
In our pursuit of crafting exceptional wines, we've developed the most comprehensive and thoughtful approach to purifying winemaking processes. Join us on a journey where quality meets conscious craftsmanship.
Welcome to the first chapter of our deep dive into the intricate world of winemaking. In this installment, we explore the fundamental aspects that make winemaking a unique blend of artistry and science. From the cultivation of the vineyards to the careful crafting of the final product, each step contributes to the sensory delight that is a well-crafted bottle of wine.
The Age-Old Craft
Winemaking is a practice that predates recorded history, with its origins lost in the mists of time. Archaeological evidence places the first known winemaking activities in the region of the South Caucasus, in what is now the Republic of Georgia, around 6000 BC. From these humble beginnings, the art of winemaking has spread across the globe, adapting to diverse climates, terrains, and cultures.
The essence of winemaking lies in its connection to the land, the vineyards, and the people who tend to them. The careful cultivation of grapevines, the timing of harvest, and the precise handling of the fruit all contribute to the unique terroir — the combination of soil, climate, and grape variety that imparts a distinct character to each wine.
Intersection of Art and Science
At its core, winemaking is a harmonious marriage of art and science. The artistic aspect is evident in the intuition, creativity, and craftsmanship of the winemaker. Decisions about when to harvest, how long to ferment, which barrels to use for aging, and the final blending process are all deeply influenced by the winemaker's palate, experience, and individual style.
On the other hand, the scientific facet of winemaking involves an understanding of microbiology, chemistry, and the intricacies of fermentation. Yeast, a microscopic organism, plays a pivotal role in transforming grape juice into wine by converting sugars into alcohol. The delicate dance of yeast, enzymes, and various compounds during fermentation is a process that demands precision and knowledge.
Grapes: The Heart of the Matter
The choice of grape varieties significantly influences the flavor, aroma, and structure of the final wine. Different grapes bring their unique characteristics to the winemaking process. For instance, Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its bold tannins and deep color, while Chardonnay contributes to the creation of rich, buttery whites. The cultivation of specific grape varieties requires careful attention to climate, soil, and vineyard management.
Understanding the lifecycle of the grapevine, from bud break to veraison (the onset of ripening), is essential for optimal harvest timing. The decision to pick the grapes at the right moment is a critical factor in determining the balance of sugars, acidity, and phenolic compounds, all of which influence the final wine's quality.
Fermentation: Alchemy in Action
Fermentation is the magical transformation of grape juice into wine, and yeast is the wizard behind this alchemy. As yeast consumes sugars, it produces alcohol and carbon dioxide, releasing a myriad of aromatic compounds that contribute to the wine's bouquet.
Winemakers can choose between wild or ambient yeast, naturally present in the vineyard and winery, and cultured yeast strains to initiate fermentation. The decision between these methods adds another layer to the artistry of winemaking. Wild yeast can provide a unique sense of place, while cultured yeast allows for more predictable outcomes.
Barrel Aging: Where Flavor Meets Oak
The aging process, often conducted in oak barrels, is a key phase that shapes a wine's texture and imparts additional flavors. Oak barrels contribute not only tannins but also aromas such as vanilla, cedar, and spice. The choice between French and American oak, the level of toasting applied to the barrels, and the duration of aging are all variables that demand the discerning touch of the winemaker.