Are Natural Wines "Hangover Free"?
This wine has me hook, line, and sinker. I opened a bottle of Domaine de Sulauze Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence 'Les Amis' Rouge 2016 for my family to enjoy and it was met with rave reviews. My husband has labeled it as a top contender for his Natural Wine Bottle Challenge. Before I tell you more about this wine, I should first explain the bottle challenge:
I've heard from a number of sources that natural wines do not cause a hangover. Now, I'm about to tell you something about wine that you won't be able to forget. Are you ready?
Wines that are made using conventional methods (i.e. most mass produced wines, and many others) are riddled with pesticides, fungicides, and a number of chemical treatments that are used to influence the taste of the wine. They also contain loads of sulfites which are used as a preservative to keep the wine fresh, which is rubbish because good natural wines are often just as, if not more, fresh than conventional wines of the same age. Anyhow....the nausea and headache that you experience after treating yourself to that extra glass or three? Apparently that's from all of the actual poisons that you just consumed. Natural wines have none of those nasties! A teensy amount of sulfites are naturally occurring within grapes and natural winemakers add very little or no sulfites, so the levels are far, far less than in conventional wines. For example, the maximum level of sulfites permitted in wines sold in the US is 350mg per liter. Natural wines that do not have any added sulfites will contain around 10mg per liter and if sulfites are added, they usually hover near 20-30mg per liter. Pretty drastic difference, right? I recently learned the science behind why you can wake up the next morning feeling pretty dang good after a bottle and it's all about the sulfites!
Short version: sulfites prevent the liver from properly processing alcohol
Nerdy version: According to Natural Wine by Isabelle Legeron, the liver uses enzymes to process alcohol for excretion. One of these enzymes converts the alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is more toxic than the alcohol itself, and another enzyme turns this acetaldehyde into acetate with the help of a compound called glutathione. Acetate is expelled from the body, easy peasy. However, the more drinks you have, the less glutathione there will be in your body to assist in processing the acetaldehyde into acetate. In the presence of sulfites, glutathione jumps on the struggle bus and that acetaldehyde will stick around for a while, giving you that pounding headache the next day. So, in theory, the alcohol in natural wines is processed by the liver quickly. Happy day!
My husband has agreed to sacrifice his potential comfort for testing this theory himself and once I obtain more bottles of this wine, he will embark upon this brave journey. I shall report back!
Now that I've preached natural wines at you, let's bring it back to the wine that I've selected for this post. The Domaine de Sulauze 'Les Amis' is a blend of 85% Syrah and 15% Grenache and is made by a husband and wife team in Provence. Karina and Guillaume Lefevre, she from Brazil and he from Marseille, purchased the vineyard in 2004 and immediately began converting to organic farming. They've since become certified organic and are now practicing biodynamic farming methods. On the property they also grow olive trees, barley for their homemade beer, and wheat for bread. Snacks. for. days.
Not only is the wine unfiltered and free of added sulfites, it's also entirely delicious! It's bright and juicy with such a pure expression of fruit. It tastes like cranberry, raspberry, and blackberry, along with floral notes (perhaps rose?), and a surprising flash of meatiness. It has a great acidic backbone, fine tannins, and a long balanced finish. It's such a good value at $17 too! I've been teaching my son about the difference between "want" and "need" and I've gotta say that I completely empathize with his dilemma now - I NEED more bottles of this wine. Only 415 cases were produced from this vintage, so if you can find it, buy it all! You will not regret it, I promise.