(CBS) — People have been drinking wine for thousands of years, and today more than 25 percent of us regularly consume wine. That’s almost as much as beer.
What’s really in that next glass of wine you drink might surprise you. CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey uncorks the truth about what’s in your wine.
“The perception is that you’re drinking fermented grape juice. And the reality is, that’s not exactly the truth,” Christopher Null of Wired Magazine says.
Null studied the contents of modestly priced wines and found a lot more than just grapes.
“When you drink a glass of wine, especially a relatively inexpensive wine, you’re drinking a huge array of compounds and chemicals that you have no idea are present in the wine,” he adds.
There can be more than 200 potential additives in wine. These include sulfites for preservation, mega purple for coloring, gelatin for texture and a chemical called Velcorin that kills any living organisms in the wine.
“That sounds maybe good, but it’s so dangerous that it has to be handled with special training,” Null says.
Velcorin is dangerous in large, industrial quantities, but the amount used in a bottle of wine is legal and safe for consumption like all the other additives.
Industry experts say inconsistent grape harvests force wine makers to use additives to make sure each bottle of wine tastes the same.
“It’s increasingly a challenge to produce a $10 bottle of wine,” says Prof. Clara Orban, DePaul University professor and local wine expert.
Orban says wine has additives just like any other processed food item.
“I don’t think additives in wine are something to worry about right now. We have very good and very strict food regulations in the United States,” she says.
If a person doesn’t want any additives in their wine, there are some alternatives.
“Organic producers,” suggests Doug Jeffirs, director of wine sales at Binny’s Beverage Depot. “Opt for the smaller producers — those that have sustainable agriculture that are giving back to the land, that are not just a massive agricultural product.”
Those wines are labeled “organic” or “natural” and contain few or no additives.
“When you’re talking about the smaller production, there’s a lot more natural wine-making, you don’t have to do tricks,” Jeffirs says.
For Null though, it comes down to an issue of disclosure.
“I want to know what I’m eating, and I definitely want to know what I’m drinking, too,” Null says. “Labels should be required on wine just the way they are with any food stuff.”
Current regulations only require wine makers to disclose if sulfites — a preservative — are present. Sulfites can make people with severe asthma or certain allergies sick. A spokesperson for the wine industry trade group WineAmerica says the current labeling standards for wine are adequate.