Wine Myths, Dark & Dirty Secrets of the Wine Industry, Wine Biohacks & More!

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Nutrition, Podcast

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

A few months ago, I released the article “Dark & Dirty Secrets Of The Wine Industry, Four Ways To Make Wine Healthier, and What Kind Of Wine Fit People Should Drink.” 

In it, I detailed the serious issues with arsenic, overpricing, lack of sustainability, high levels of sulfites, amines and ochratoxins, boatloads of sugars, high pH levels (that increase the possibility of contamination by unwanted organisms), a less than stellar taste, plastic polyethylenes and many other problems plaguing the modern wine industry – and causing many people (including my wife) to get headaches or poor sleep from a nightly glass of wine.

At the end of that post, I highlight that I now drink a new kind of healthy wine called “FitVineWine”, and in today’s podcast, I interview Mark Warren, co-founder of FitVineWine, a national level black belt competitor in TaeKwonDo, a Crossfitter and of course, as a wine enthusiast and father of two boys, a man after my own heart.

During our discussion, you’ll discover:

-Why there are shocking levels of additives and other fillers in most modern wines…

-How most wineries add sugar and grape concentrate to wines to adjust the pH (and why pH is so important)…

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-Why many wines are filtered through wheat and contain gluten…

-Whether you need to be concerned about mold in wine…

-How you can concentrate the amount of antioxidants like resveratrol, polyphenols and proanthocyanidins in grapes…

-What it means for a wine to be “biodynamic” or “organically” farmed…

-Why many wines are over-irrigated and why wineries should use less water, not more…

-Why wine grapes should be grown at higher, cooler elevations…

-Why people really aren’t allergic to sulfites in wine, and why it’s something else altogether…

How FitVineWine compares to other popular “healthy” or “Paleo” wines out there…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

FitVineWine.com (use 10% discount code BEN10)

California Winemakers Sued Over High Levels of Arsenic in Wines

Bad News for Those of You Who, Like Us, Drank Cheap Wine Each and Every Night of Your 20s

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for me or my guest Mark on anything we discuss in this episode? Leave your thoughts below and one of us will reply…and click here to get a bottle of red or a bottle of white at FitVineWine.com with 10% discount code BEN10 (assuming you’re 21 years of age or older).

Ask Ben a Podcast Question


17 thoughts on “Wine Myths, Dark & Dirty Secrets of the Wine Industry, Wine Biohacks & More!

  1. Jim Duane says:

    As a winemaker I wanted to comment on the recent wine-focused podcast “Wine Myths, Dark & Dirty Secrets of the Wine Industry, Wine Biohacks & More!” as it contains a number of inaccuracies regarding winemaking. I’m pleased to see that the guys producing the wines featured in the podcast are taking action to produce wines for athletes and biohackers. My intention here is not to discredit the guest and his wines, but to address a few items that fell short of the truth.

    Regarding the production of wines from GMO grapes there are no wineries in the world that use them. There do exist some GMO vines in research institutions, but none in commercial production.

    In discussion of wine pH, it was stated that malo-lactic fermentation serves to lower the pH. In ML fermentation the Malic acid (diprotic) is converted to Lactic acid (monoprotic) – a de-acidification that results in an increase, not decrease, in pH.

    There is a lot of confusion about organic wines, and the actual definitions are hard to come by. “Organic Wine” as a designation is quite rare, likely because it forbids the use of sulfites and the wines fail to oxidation and microbial spoilage. Wines “Made with Organic Grapes” are more common, and allow the addition of sulfites not to exceed 100 ppm (as Total SO2) at the time of bottling. All additives to these wines must also be organic. The guest claimed that his grapes were grown organically and thus not treated with any pesticides. It is common to conflate “organically grown” with “no use of pesticides.” All grapes on earth are sprayed for Powdery Mildew and sometimes other regional pests/mildews. Organic grapes are treated with organically approved agents such as elemental Sulfur, Copper, Stylet Oil, and Serenade. Unfortunately, vineyard crops rot without at least some chemical treatment.

    I was pleased to see that the podcast made clear that sulfites are not a common reason people have negative reactions to wine. That has been a misleading notion for decades. Histamines are likely to be more of a problem component of wine, and are mostly a product of lactic-acid bacteria such as Pediococcus, which can decarboxylate the amino Histidine into Histamine. Ironically, it is sulfites that serve to inhibit or diminish Pediococcus.

    I was honestly a bit ruffled regarding the comments about wine being filtered through wheat, thus potentially leaching gluten. There is no product or technology in winemaking that uses wheat in any form of filtration.

    The alcohol content of a wine is exclusive to the starting sugar content of the grapes, and not subject to length of maceration. Maceration refers to the contact of grape skins and seeds with fermenting wine, which is standard for making red wines. The time and temperature of maceration influences that content of polyphenols (color and tannins) that will be extracted from the solid grape parts into the liquid wine. Yeast mediate the conversion of sugars to alcohol, irrespective of maceration strategies.

    Perhaps the FitVine Wine guys could clarify their grape sourcing a bit? They state that they only work with vineyards over 2,000 feet in elevation, yet the winegrowing region of Lodi is a valley 50 feet above sea level. Are they maybe getting fruit from the Sierra Foothills, instead of Lodi?

    I think these guys are on to a great niche within the winemaking world. We all can benefit from enjoying wine without having to suffer some of the negative consequences some wines bring to the table, and I’m looking forward to trying their wines.

    Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about anything I’ve discussed.

    Jim Duane

    1. Connie says:

      Jim, can you recommend a cheaper wine that is not as harmful. What about the arsenic in wine? Do certain countries regulate it more than others? We mostly drink Cabernet Sauvignon., @$16:00 a bottle that is quite expensive for two people having a glass or two 3 or 4 nights a week. Thank you.

      1. Usually a cheaper wine means cutting costs on the quality of products and the method. $16 is worth it to not drink arsenic!

  2. Ed Arias says:

    back a few years we did a study with 3 groups of mice 1) ad libitum 2) calorie restricted (60% I believe) 3) ad lib + resveratrol. The ad lib became insulin resistant, the CR become insulin sensitive and the AL+resveratrol = yup, just like the CR mice. The message was clear … eat all you want as long as you drink 27 bottle of wine/day. Now thanks to Fitvine wine that has 10x resveratrol, I only have to drink 2.7 bottles/day to get the same effects … salud :)

  3. Casey says:

    Forgive my ignorance as I do not drink alcohol, but inst sugar added for the fermentation process? Mark talks about adding sugar like its something that should never happen, but doesnt it have to be added?

    1. Sugar is not added. Sugar is naturally found in the grapes which converts to alcohol. Yeast is added in the fermentation process. There are companies that do add additional sugar and or additives to change the taste of the wine.

      1. Alice says:

        It is why wine is made from grapes-they have the highest amount of fermentable sugar of any fruit. And yes, wine is not just made these days, it is engineered to appeal to trending consumer tastes. i.e. California wine typically has more fruit favor and higher alcohol content than European (“Old world”) wines.

  4. Alex says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks so much for the podcast! I was excited to hear that there is an option to the “Primal wines” which as you mention have a much lower alcohol content and, hence, a different feel to them. I prefer a small amount, but a bit stronger wine, than the other way around.

    One question I had is how this wine compares to the organic one called Albero that you can find in Trader Joe. I have long been buying it and really like the taste. I don’t drink wine that often or that much nor do I exercise that extreme that I would notice a difference, but I am curious to know what you thought. Here a link to the winery’s website. The sulfite content is apparently less than 70 ppm and it doesn’t seem as if they add grape juice or sugar to it, although you can never know for sure I guess. (http://www.bodegasiranzo.com/web_english_version/the_winery_and_cellars/the_winery.htm)

    Thanks so much! Love your show!!!

  5. kem johnson says:

    I’ll stick to my Central Otago (NZ) Pinots. They are the best reds in existence.

    BTW terroir s pronounced, tɛrˈwɑ. All Kiwi wine lovers know this.

  6. George says:

    What Is Biohacking?

    After reading up on biohacking and listening to its proponents, I have come to the conclusion that biohacking is not a real thing. It doesn’t really exist.

    Here is how one biohacking sitedescribes what they think it is:

    Biohacking is a crazy-sounding name for something not crazy at all—the desire to be the absolute best version of ourselves.

    The main thing that separates a biohacker from the rest of the self-improvement world is a systems-thinking approach to our own biology.

    You know how coffee feels like a shot of energy to your brain?

    Pre-coffee you is sleepy….zzzzzz…

    Post-coffee you is WIDE AWAKE!!

    The only difference is the coffee in your stomach.

    The lesson is this: What you put into your body has an ENORMOUS impact on how you feel.

    See what I mean? So, drinking coffee is “biohacking?” If you look at what is considered biohacking it essentially amounts to living a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise, with the addition of the usual assortment of pseudoscientific nonsense. This is nothing but a rebranding of standard self-help quackery.

    Saying you are taking a “systems approach” is like saying you are “holistic;” it sounds nice, but does not really mean anything.

    PBS tried to answer the question of what is biohacking, and discovered another angle as well:

    He says biohacking is “a freedom to explore biology, kind of like you would explore good fiction.” As for the hacking part, “hacking is kind of like the freedom to sort of dig deep into something, just because you’re interested in it. … The whole idea of biohacking is that people feel entitled, they feel the ability to just follow their curiosity — where it should go — and really get to the bottom of something they want to understand.”

    In practice what this seems to mean it doing cheap bad research to justify more health fad pseudoscience. There may be some serious researchers in there, but then they are just doing biological research.

    I could not find anything unique or original to the concept of biohacking. In the end it is just clever marketing.

    But let’s look at some of the specific “biohacks” that are being marketed to the community. Like many self-help movements, they include some basic common sense lifestyle advice, mixed in with utter nonsense.

    Part of the biohacking phenomenon is the “bulletproof” brand, such as bulletproof coffee. This is just regular coffee with lots of butter in it. This is supposed to “supercharge” your body and brain. The caffeine certainly can have a short term effect on cognitive function, because it’s a stimulant. However, with regular use of caffeine you quickly become tolerant to this stimulant effect, and then you are essentially just using coffee to treat the effects of caffeine withdrawal. It’s not a net benefit, and not a good long term strategy.

    The butter is just the branding nonsense. This is all based on the false notion of superfoods, that you can massively improve your body’s function by eating just the right fats or whatever. The simplistic logic boils down to – I did research (read on the internet somewhere) that this nutrient is used for this biological function, therefore if you eat lots of it that nutrient your biological function will be supercharged. This, of course, makes no biological sense.

    What you never see is rigorous clinical research, properly isolating variables, showing that the biohack has an actual clinical effect (which should be easy to prove given how “massive” the claimed effects are alleged to be).

    Once you get past basic diet and exercise, then the standard overhyped nutritional pseudoscience, biohacking really goes off the rails.

    We have domesticated ourselves and made it taboo to think otherwise.We are not as fit, resilient, or adaptable and much more prone to chronic disease than our ancestors. If domestication is the problem, then re-wilding is the solution.

    That’s right, we have to “rewild” ourselves. Domestication is largely a genetic process, so unless you are going to do genetic engineering, you are not going to “rewild” yourself, and why would you even want to?

    According to Daniel Vitalis, however, you can rewild yourself by following these steps, which he apparently just thought of off the top of his head because they sounded kinda wild.

    1. Eat Living, Wild Foods

    Humans, like most animals, eat living (or once-living) things for fuel—broccoli once cut from its stem, the leg of chicken amputated from its body, those mushrooms plucked from the ground, sauerkraut covered in tiny microbes.

    We need these wild foods.

    If you want to be a real wolf, go outside and forage these foods yourself.

    So, eat food. Of course, broccoli is not “wild” in any sense of the word, and neither is the vast majority of the food that we eat. I do not suggest you forage for food, unless you are very experienced. Event the, edible stuff in the wild is barely edible and marginally nutritious. We cultivated and domesticated plants and animals to optimize their nutrient value and digestibility for us.

    2. Drink Unprocessed Spring Water

    What we drink is as important as what we eat, but most of us aren’t aware that our water is as processed as the processed food we now know to avoid.

    Most water has minerals removed and chemicals added. Instead, find a natural spring and load up. You can find one near you here: http://www.findaspring.com/
    Otherwise, it’s better to drink water bottled in glass than tap water.

    Do not do this. This is dangerous. Unprocessed spring water can contain parasites, like worms and amoeba. That is why people camping or otherwise roughing it in the wild should use water purification tablets or boil any water before using it. This is just stupid.

    3. Breathe Air From Nature

    Do you think about the air you breath as nutrition?

    As you can guess, natural air is more rejuvenating than the moldy air in our homes. Go outside.

    Another tip: To absorb oxygen most effectively, fill your lungs by breathing deeply through the diaphragm.

    Sure, get some fresh air from outside. Open your windows when you can. That is hardly a massive insight. This is not “rejuvenating,” it just freshens the air. Of course, you results may vary if you have a pollen allergy or live in a smoggy city.

    The notion of taking a deep breath from the diaphram to absorb oxygen better is plain wrong. Moving air in and out of your lungs has little effect on oxygen absorption. Hemoglobin can absorb oxygen just fine, even if you take a deep breath and hold it for a long time. We move air much more to blow off CO2. When you are gasping for breath after holding it, that is because of CO2 buildup, not oxygen deprivation.

    4. Expose Yourself to SunlightSunlight is part of our natural nutrition, so expose your skin to those warm rays of sun.

    This, at least, is sensible advice, but has nothing to do with “rewilding.” Getting sunlight exposure is good for vitamin D levels, may be helpful for sleep, and even vision. Don’t overdo it, however, and watch out for direct sunlight when the sun is high in the sky. Use sunscreen as necessary. There is an optimal balance between sufficient sun exposure and avoiding skin cancer.

    There is much more, but it is all equally nonsensical

    Conclusion

    Biohacking is not really a thing. It is nothing more than a rebranding of the usual self-help pseudoscience.

    Self-help products typically package a little bit of basic common sense with massively overhyped claims for some nutritional tweak, and a generous helping of pure pseudoscience or mysticism, justified with some handwaving (and heavily branded) ideology.

    Often self-help brands are marketed with claims that they are based in science, but the science is always terrible – either it is preclinical, irrelevant, or poorly designed in house studies that will show whatever you want. Sometimes it just looking stuff up on the internet.

    There is an endless sequence of such self-help brands. That people still fall for it is a testament to the overall scientific illiteracy in our society, and the triumph of marketing over reason.

  7. Jack says:

    I don’t drink $16 bottles of wine very often. I would have liked to hear some useful info like for wines in the $7-10 range what is less harmful and most flavorful.

    And why can’t they give a little discount for buying a case? A case is pretty much 12 botles X $16. That doesn’t compute in my world.

    Plus him not knowing the answers to some of your questions sounded pretty lame to me.

    I like you idea of drinking just after a work out too.

    Please continue to hack wine for us, Ben. I would like more clarity about the role of sulfites in making wine, the filtration processes he mentioned, difference between sugar content and carb content of wine, what specific molds, funguses etc could one expect to encounter in cheaper or even expensive wines.

    I started drinking some “Mission” beer from Trader joe’s which stocks it under a “gluten free” sign. How do they achieve that and is it really gluten free? Doubts seem unavoidable when they print on the bottle “The gluten content of this product cannot be verified and this product may contain gluten.”

    1. Jack,

      With the 10% with code, the price is reduced from $15.99 per bottle to $14.39 a bottle on a case and shipping is free. Sulfites are used to stabilize the wine for longevity of shelf life. Wines without sulfites don't have a long shelf life and have to be drank within a certain period of time.

      There are no residual sugars in the wine, just what's left from the alcohol sugars and that's where the carbs come in.

      Wine is a living organism, like foods, the molds and or fungus's that can be found can range from where the wine is coming from, how it's being made, how it's being filtered etc. Every bottle from every different country and region would have to be tested to compile a database of all the possibilities of what could be found in wine.

      Some countries have different laws about what can and can't be added to wine and what their processes are. Standards are different throughout the world.

      As for the gluten free beer question – call it into the podcast at speakpipe.com/bengreenfield and we'll cover it on there.

      Hope that helps.

  8. Christopher Kelly says:

    No way. Your timing is impeccable, I’d all but given up on wine because I was sure it was interacting with ketosis in some deleterious way. Recently, one small glass of wine has been giving me a hangover before I even get home! Then this weekend I had two glasses at a wedding with no ill effect. Looking forward to this.

  9. Rob says:

    Hi Ben, a question from last podcast. You were saying about getting the 23&me testing once in a life time. Does this mean the test tests for your genetic (which will stay the same no matter the epigenetic)? And if so, how can you know which genes are being activated and which are being muted. Thanks Ben!

    1. It doesn't tell you which genes are being activated or muted, just the gene mutations you have. Whether your genes are activated or muted is the epigenetics part. You might want to look into ph360.me

  10. sean obrien says:

    hangovers are caused by toxins. Tannins and sulfites are toxins, but not the only toxins in wine. Your body metabolizes the different toxins by different pathways, so if one of the pathways is saturated with a toxin, you can end up with a hangover. Also, obviously alcohol is a toxin and diuretic, so dehydration can lead to headaches which compound any hangover and slow down some of the metabolization pathways of the other toxins. If you want to learn about how the toxins are made and consumed by and during the fermentation process, I highly recommend the book “Yeast”.target=”_blank”>http://www.amazon.com/Yeast-Practical-Fermentatio…

    1. sean obrien says:

      some potential headache makers – excessive diacetyl (butterscotch or popcorn off-flavor in high quantities), fusel alcohols (over 40, but in wine specifically, isoamyl alcohol can account for more than 50% of fusel alcohols, adding hot, harsh or solvent flavors), can come from hot fermentation and poor yeast health during fermentation. DMS is a common toxin that is commonly minimized in the brewing process, dimethyl sulfide, and the other common fermentation biproduct in some of our favorite beverages is acetaldehyde. Granted, some of these things that cause hangovers can be desirable such as low-moderate quantities of diacetyl in a scotch ale for flavor. In my opinion, all alcohols are more bad for you than good, so if you are trying to optimize health, avoid. However, I love beer and moreso tasty beer, so learning about what makes great beer greater and what gives you a hangover helps me optimize my homebrews (beer, cider, mead, root beer, kombucha, wine) for best flavor and minimal hangovers.

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