The SCD Diet and Alcohol: Part II… SCD Legal Wine Guide

by Steven Wright

In Part I of this series we discussed alcohol’s effects on our digestive systems and I gave a listing of legal and Illegal alcohol types. Of the types of legal alcohols they can be broken down into wines and liquors. In this post, we will learn all about wines and how someone on the SCD diet can identify which wines to drink to minimize damage to the digestive system. For Part III go here.

About Wine

Wine is made from grapes (keeping it simple) that are crushed and then fermented using different kinds of added yeast. The yeast eats the natural sugars from the grapes and converts them to ethanol alcohol. The fermentation process can stop naturally when the yeast consumes as much of the sugar as it can or it can be stopped prematurely to allow more sugar to remain in the wine. Wine is usually classified as “Dry” or “Sweet” based on how much sugar is left in the wine. This residual sugar amount is usually measured in grams of sugar per liter of wine. There will always be some amount of sugar left in the wine as grapes contain some sugars that are unfermentable.

Classifying Sweetness of Wine

The level of dryness in wines seems to be a bit unclear. My research consistently showed that any wine with over 45 grams of sugar per liter (45 g/l) is considered sweet. That would lend one to believe that any wine under this amount is considered dry and therefore SCD legal. This is where the research and definitions of wine tends to get a bit muddy.

While the amount of sugar left in wine is measured in grams per liter it is usually expressed in a residual sugar percentage (RS %). The sweet wine level that measured 45g/l would therefore give 4.5% on the residual sugar scale. Here is a great site showing a very nice table of the ranges of residual sugar and their appropriate dryness levels. It is important to note that a dry wine, as defined by residual sugar content, can taste sweet and a sweet wine can actually taste dry. This can be a result of any number of factors during the winemaking process.

So, What Can I Drink?

From all the research I’ve done, it appears the conservative approach for SCD’ers is to drink only wine that is below 1% RS (sometimes referred to as extra dry).

So, how do I pick a wine at the store? That is a great question… I’ve found it only gets more confusing from here.

The primary problem is that wine manufactures aren’t forced to list the RS percentage (or sugar content) on their labels. Until recently, this left SCD’ers trying to make educated guesses based on names. But these lists could only work as broad guidelines, as any wine can be either sweet or dry.

Dry Red Wines: Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Bordeaux, Syrah

Dry White Wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Brut or Extra Brut Champagne

Illegal Sweet Wines: White Zinfandel, Late Harvest Wines (usually Riesling), Ice Wines, Sec or Demi-Sec or Doux Champagne, Port, Sherry

This is just enough information to be dangerous when buying wine.

My old technique was to choose a table wine that is usually drier (see table above) and then confirm with someone working in the wine section that it is indeed a dry or extra dry wine. I’d make sure I read the labels and verified that it was supposed to be served with food. While I was never afraid to ask, I found that the employees of the store rarely had a good idea as to the level of dryness of any wine that I asked about.

Sugar Isn’t The Only Issue

But it isn’t JUST sugar you need to look out for when selecting a wine – both red and white wines are potentially full of additives (that’s because the USDA allows 76 additives to be added by manufacturers to red wine to make it taste and look “better”).

These additives range from things like purple food coloring to added yeasts to aid the fermentation process and sugar to increase the alcohol content. Even SAWDUST can be added to create an “oak-y” flavor.

And because the USDA doesn’t regulate the additives, ingredient lists (they have to protect “trade secrets” after all) or even the alcohol content – spending more on an expensive bottle, buying a bottle described as “dry,” or choosing a lower listed ACV percentage does NOT guarantee a better choice.

High-sugar, high-alcohol wines leave me feeling groggy and hung-over – even just 1 or 2 glasses. We already know that sugar, artificial flavors and colors, and preservatives like sulfites in food can cause flares, achy joints, itchy skin, and brain fog – they can do the same thing when they are in wine.

How to Pick a Gut-Safe Wine

I don’t mess around in the liquor store trying to guess which wines might be safe for my gut anymore. Instead, I leave it to the experts at Dry Farm Wines.

Dry Farm Wines is a wine subscription that takes all the guesswork out of choosing the best wine for your health – meaning every wine from the company is lab-certified to be low in sugar, low in alcohol, low in sulfites, and additive, mold, and preservative free. They’re also organic or naturally farmed (without irrigation) and come from old-growth vines – meaning they taste better and are better for the planet.

Each bottle from Dry Farm is hand-selected and tested to:

  • Not exceed 12.5% alcohol (standard wine can have up to 24%!)
  • Have less than 75 PPM added sulfites (can be up to 350 ppm in standard wine)
  • Have less than 1 gram/L total sugar (not regulated in standard wines)
  • Have less than 2 PPM of the mold ochratoxin (not regulated or even tested in standard wines!)

Being low in sugar and alcohol, and being mold, mycotoxin and sulfite free means – most importantly – that you won’t feel tired, groggy, puffy or “hungover” the next day if you enjoy a glass.

Jordan and I are loving our monthly delivery of Dry Farm Wines – and we know you will too. If you want to give it a try, or serve it at your next dinner party, you can get a bottle for just a penny when you sign up for a monthly or bi-monthly membership! Check it out here ? dryfarmwines.com/scdlifestyle

Check out the last part of this series, as I dive into the world of distilled liquors. Anyone have any other wine selection recommendations?

-Steve

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About the author

Steven Wright Steve Wright is a health engineer and author. In 2009, he reached a breaking point when IBS took over his life and the doctors didn't know how to help. Since then, he has transformed his health and started SCDLifestyle.com to help others naturally heal stomach problems. You can check out his story here and find him on Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet Works

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Terry February 17, 2010 at 11:15 pm

I have had good luck with Malbec too.

Reply

Steven Wright February 18, 2010 at 1:21 pm

@ Terry – Great point I forgot about Malbec wines, personally I usually enjoy Malbecs more than Merlots.

Reply

Margaret Stone April 8, 2011 at 8:32 am

Hi,
I’m on week one of doing it right, with great results. This morning I had a regular poop with a little forse necessary.
Just reading this very useful articel on wines. At what point is it safe to add dry wines?

Reply

Steven Wright April 16, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Hi Margaret,

Great question – I think it is best to wait until you really see some healing, or have a week or so of good poops. Listen to this podcast where I go more indepth on this very issue http://scdlifestyle.com/2011/04/the-scd-lifestyle-podcast-19-conquer-scd-like-a-mad-scientist/

Reply

Sandy May 11, 2011 at 6:03 pm

This is fabulous info. I made a half-hearted attempt to Google this type of info and didn’t get very far. I’m happy to see that Reisling is on the list!

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Jordan Reasoner May 13, 2011 at 8:27 am

Thanks Sandy!

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Joyce September 2, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Can you explain why we have to avoid a higher level of residual sugar? If no other sweeteners have been added, then aren’t we just getting natural sugar from grapes? Wouldn’t that be a monosaccharide?

Reply

Lisa September 19, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Interesting! I would have assumed that all Rieslings are too sweet to be legal. The “Late Harvest” Rieslings are called Spatlese and Auslese. They are very sweet.

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Hans Schuman December 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Hi – isn’t the sugar from grapes fructose which is SCD legal?

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Steven Wright December 30, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Hi Hans – the very small amounts of sugars contained in fruits and honey are SCD legal. Its the man-made and processed stuff that is bad news.

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Brian July 2, 2013 at 10:41 am

Someone just told me that any wine that is 12% ABV or more is considered dry. Would this be an appropriate guide when looking to an SCD legal wine?

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Steven Wright July 5, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I’ve never seen anything that would suggest ABV could tell the amount of dryness of a wine.

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cathi Gross November 12, 2013 at 5:47 pm

I know one place you can actually find out how many carbohydrates are in at least 5 ounces of wine the Company is Yellow tail. They have several brands that would fall under the safe category and the neat thing is that one can go to there website and they list the nutritional facts for each bottle they create. My favorite wine of there is Big Bold Red and it has on only 2 carbohydrates per 5 ounce glass of wine. Here is there website http://www.discoveryellowtail.com/wine/big-bold-red.php

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Toby November 24, 2013 at 11:27 am

Hi.
I live in Sweden. So on out Wines it probably say. Grams/liter. Instead of
Rs%. Am i ok if the sugar per gram is less Than 45g/l. Or whats the limit? /Toby

Reply

Sedary June 18, 2014 at 9:54 pm

The official BreakingtheViciousCycle.info site states that wine bottlers are allowed to add cane sugar to their wines before bottling. THIS is why some wines are illegal. IF they contained only sugars from grapes, they would ALL be legal. You will just have to contact each company about their bottling practices. It is possible to get away with cheating on the diet after awhile but the true reason for the diet is not only to repair damage but to kill off the offending pathogens. Therefore, do NOT drink any wine to which cane sugar has been added.

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Amy January 25, 2016 at 8:15 pm

Thank you for writing these! Really helpful, really appreciated

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Mary November 19, 2016 at 9:02 pm

So with sulfite free wines…. I know it’s better because it’s organic and less preservatives etc… BUT Is there a risk that it contains more yeast or bacteria, especially over time (say if the bottled date is a few years ago)?? I obviously know nothing about wine — please help! Thanks!!

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Lori Jo Berg November 21, 2016 at 9:44 am

HI Mary – this isn’t our experience nor what the research tells us. The fermentation process helps to naturally preserve the wine and some prefer the taste of a wine that is aged a bit longer:)

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