Pinot Noir vine CobbThis article ran in The Daily Beast last August and is required reading for anyone shopping in the “2 for $10” bins.  Most of us can occasionally indulge in a hot dog and conveniently compartmentalize the knowledge that they are made of all sorts of mystery meats and fillers long enough to enjoy a few bites.  Well, you may also be able to do that quaffing the cheap wines, but somewhere in your brain, you should have the facts on what’s really going down the hatch…

Do you know what you were really drinking last night?

The dirty secret about wine is that it frequently contains wood chips, chemicals, and something called Mega Purple…

Most wine bought in the United States cost less than $10 a bottle. Of that price, the winery makes less than $2. A large chunk of that goes to pay for the glass, the labels, and the corks. Another chunk goes to paying for the winery staff, another goes toward taxes… you get the idea. To make any sort of profit, the winemaker has to buy low-quality grapes in bulk and mass-produce the stuff.

Sign at Cobb Vineyards re winemaking--could also refer to wine drinking

Sign at Cobb Vineyards re winemaking--could also refer to wine drinking

Beware what’s in your glass…

If you don’t have time to read the whole article by writer Keith Wallace, founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia,  the moral of the story is this:  If you want to stay away from overly manipulated wine, you may have to change your buying habits.

First, keep your hands out of the bargain bins: Those bottles are there for a reason.

Second, start buying more European wines. Despite the few horror stories, Europeans have much stricter regulations on wine additives than the U.S. or Australia.

food242Ironically, some of the best retail wine bargains are from France and Italy.  The standards of agriculture, quality of viticulture and generations of experience often yield a superior product at a given price point than their international counterparts.  Not insignificantly, many old producers farm organically and biodynamically.  Do you want mystery meat or a grass-fed all-beef frank?  Do you want a $10 bottle of organic Pecorino or a $5 wood-chip flavored chardonnay?  You decide.