30 January 2011

Avoid Headaches, Drink Pinotage ?

Scotland’s Perthshire Advertiser is recommending readers to drink Pinotage at New Year celebrations to avoid getting a hangover.

“Each vineyard has its own method of fermenting their harvest, with producers introducing sulphates to the wine mix as a preservative. But sometimes levels can be too high, causing the dreaded hangover.

Welgegund Pinotage from South Africa as an example of a wine that can help maintain a guilt-free diet, citing far fewer toxins in its content to pollute the human body than are contained in more commonly found brands.”

According to Russell Wallace of Excel Wines who markets Welgegund Pinotage, “mass producers need to add so much sulphate to their yield is because they use machinery to pick the fruit, and often rotten fruits slip through the quality control process. Additionally, sulphates rid the harvest of bacteria left behind from pests including wasps, lizards and birds.

“Smaller producers do all their harvesting by hand, so have a much better quality control procedure when it comes to picking only the best fruits, and do not require excessive amounts of sulphates to cleanse what’s going into the wine.”

I am all for people drinking Pinotage and I’m sure Welgegund make an excellent one, (which I have not yet encountered).

But the claims in the article are nonsense.

Most South Africa wines are made from handpicked grapes — especially Pinotage. There is an embarrassment of unemployed labour ready, able and willing to harvest grapes and many Pinotage vineyards are planted as bush-vines which can not be machine harvested.

There is no reason grapes that have been machine harvested to be inferior to hand harvested. In both cases it is the quality check on grapes arriving at the winery that matters. Increasingly farms are using sorting tables to hand select berries that go forward for wine making. A machine may pick rotten grapes, but then so may workers who are paid by the weight of the grapes they pick.

Good looking bunches of grapes are just as liable to have bacteria from insects lizards and birds.

But the real nonsense is equating sulphites with headaches. Many years of medical research has failed to find any link between the two.

The article alleges that large producers use more sulphites. However sulphite levels in wine are limited by law and few wines come close to them. The European Union limit for red wine is 160 mg/L. The largest producer of Pinotage is Beyerskloof who publish the scientific analysis of their wines on their website. Their standard, large volume Pinotage 2009 has just 41 mg/L Free SO2 and 87 mg/L Total SO2.

What gets you drunk and gives you a hangover is alcohol. Please enjoy Pinotage at New Year and anytime and avoid hangovers by drinking in moderation.

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