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.
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 coverts 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 of 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 wine making 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). However, because there are so many different ideas about levels of dryness it is most likely safe to assume any wine under 2% RS is going to be safe to consume as well.
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 on their labels. So, without an actual number to look at we are forced to consider many different factors when searching for SCD legal wines. The first thing to notice is the name and placement of the wine in the store. Luckily for us, most wines sold in stores are table wines (designed to be served with food and usually drier). Sweet wines are usually referred to as dessert wines and are not usually on the same shelf as table wines.
Now as far as the colors and types (names) of wines, there are dry red and dry white wines. However, there doesn’t appear to be many dry blush wines so I would stay away from this category. Wine is named after the grapes that were used to make it, and as discussed above, we know that a wine maker can stop fermentation at anytime to adjust the level of sugar (sweetness) in the wine. That leaves us with another issue; any wine type (name) such as zinfandel can be both dry or sweet depending on how it was made. Below are a couple of lists of typically dry and sweet wines. These lists below are just supposed to be a broad guide if you don’t know where to start looking because any wine type can be 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
So, now we have just enough information to be dangerous when buying wine. Since we don’t have a definite way to examine a wine the best we can do is 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. Make sure you read the labels and verify that is supposed to be served with food and finally… don’t be afraid to Ask. The employees of the store will probably have a good idea as to the level of dryness of any wine that you ask about.
Stay tuned for the last part of this series, in which I’ll dive into the world of distilled liquors. Anyone have any other wine selection recommendations?