Is Red Wine Really Healthy? Shocking Additives in U.S. Wine Include Syrup and Sawdust

Here’s the secret to drinking wine without getting foggy, flabby and hungover:

“Does this wine contain syrup or sawdust?”

I never thought I’d need to ask that question.

You’ve probably heard that drinking red wine comes with many health benefits. Moderate red wine drinking (1-2 glasses a night) is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and even cancer.

But not all wine is created equal.

You see, we’re not drinking the same naturally-fermented wine as our pre-industrial ancestors.  Today, 99%+ of wines consumed in the U.S. are actually a highly-processed factory product.

If you find unadulterated wines, though, your hangover and brain fog may be a thing of the past.


“Good wine is a necessity of life for me.” - Thomas Jefferson Click To Tweet

According to archaeologists, the process of fermenting fruits for consumption dates back to the Paleolithic period.

About 9,000 years ago, the Chinese created primitive wines from honey and rice and archaeologists discovered the earliest known remains of grape wineries in the mountains of Iran dating back 7,500 years.

So, why is the wine that humans have been drinking for generations suddenly causing new side-effects, like sleeplessness and brain fog?

Large-scale commercialization of wine has transformed the healthful, ancient drink of our ancestors to a mass-marketed processed beverage packed with additives that can harm our health.


The vast majority of wines aren’t made for our health. If U.S. wine companies were actually required to list ingredients, you might see a few surprises.

Soaking wine in oak chips or sawdust is a technique used to add tannins to the wine, giving it the oak notes that normally require aging in more expensive oak barrels.

Fining agents are used to clarify the wine. Traditionally, the agent used was egg whites. Now, clays like bentonite are often used as well as milk products and fish bladders. So, if you’re vegan (or you want to avoid fish bladders in general), you must choose your wine wisely.

Mega Purple is a super-concentrated grape juice syrup made from grapes with purple flesh. Winemakers add an estimated 10,000 gallons of this stuff to about 25 million bottles of wine per year – even expensive wines.

Why? Because Mega Purple is a shortcut that adds a deep, rich color to the wine and also a hint of sweetness to standardize flavor. Winemakers use another concentrate called Ultra Red to manipulate color, taste, and perceived quality.

What’s so wrong about adding grape juice concentrates and syrups to wines? In addition to adding extra sugar, adding concentrates have these negative effects:

  • It turns your teeth purple. If your smile looks like you just ate a Smurf after you sip your Cabernet, that’s not normal. That’s Mega Purple.
  • It stains your rugs, your clothes, your coffee table, or anything it touches. Every wine drinker has done it—tipped the glass and SPLASH, a mad rush to clean red wine from the carpet or the sweater. Red wine doesn’t usually come out without a fight. Most of the time, you can blame the Mega Purple or Ultra Red for the stains, not the wine itself.
  • It adds sugar to the wine to the tune of up to 10 grams per liter. If you’re limiting sugar consumption (as I recommend), this sugar adds up quickly and makes hangovers even worse.

Mega Purple and Ultra Red are manipulations of wine processing specifically designed to sell more wine, not to improve your health. With a bit of syrup, you can transform a mediocre, weak, inconsistent red wine into a punchy, bold, consistent, high-margin product.


Many potentially harmful additives are commonly used in mass wine production. Today, wines are not required to disclose the following additives on the label:

  • Sulphur Dioxide is a preservative that most winemakers use to give their wine stability. But when a wine contains too much sulphur, it can induce asthma and cause a host of other reactions such as dermatitis, hives, flushing, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and hypotension.
  • Ammonium Sulphates (or sulphites) are another commonly used preservative that can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Oh, yes, and it’s a neurotoxin.
  • Commercial Yeasts added to help the fermentation process can lead to headaches, especially in people who are histamine sensitive. Many flavor profiles in modern wine come from commercialized yeast.
  • Sugar is added to adjust flavor and alcohol content of commercial wine. More sugar = worse hangover… and flab.
  • Due to industrial farming practices, conventional wine often contains fungicides, mycotoxins, and phthalates.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Commercial winemakers artificially manipulate flavor profiles of their wine to make their products more marketable and profitable… just like junk-food marketers.

Like beer, commercial wines are the junk food of the alcohol world. Click To Tweet

Surprising Facts about the Modern Wine Industry:

  • There are 76 chemical additives approved in the U.S. by the TTB and FDA for use in making wine, including copper and ammonia.
  • Many U.S. Wines are made with genetically modified commercial yeasts
  • 99%+ of U.S. vineyards are irrigated and fed synthetic fertilizers
  • Monsanto’s Round-Up is the most common herbicide used in U.S. vineyards today
  • Top-selling U.S. approved additives used by the Wine Industry include “Mega Purple”, a coloring agent (that also causes purple teeth)
  • Residual sugars (fructose and glucose) are commonly present in commercial wines to appeal to the U.S. consumer’s sweet palate. Sugar in wine can be as high as 300 grams per liter.


Here’s the secret to drinking wine without getting foggy, flabby and hungover:

When training as a runner, I decided to try a little experiment. I wanted to see if drinking 1-2 glasses of wine the night before would have any effect on my running performance.

The results were worse than I expected.

I tracked and measured my running speed. Most nights, I abstained from drinking. My perceived level of effort on my run the next day was normal and relatively predictable (at a 40-minute 10k pace).

But after drinking 1-2 glasses of dry red wine the night before, something happened. Without fail, I’d run at a mile pace 10-20 seconds slower than normal. (If you compete in races, you know that 10-20 seconds a mile is an eternity).

Worse, I struggled throughout the post-booze workouts. Even though I didn’t feel “hungover,” I felt gassed-out on my runs, constantly surprised by how terrible wine made me feel the next day.

Headache, poor sleep, and bouts of nausea… That doesn’t seem like a health tonic to me.

Every once in awhile, I’d find a tasty biodynamic or organic wine that didn’t seem to cause these negative health effects. Not often enough.

So I just about gave up drinking wine.

But 6 months ago, I met a fellow biohacker named Todd who literally lab-tests every wine he drinks. He sent me a half dozen of “biohacked” natural wines to try while I was filming for My Diet Is Better Than Yours. I was skeptical at first, but he had me at the first sip. These wines are something special.


Does this happen to you when you drink wine?

  • Headache
  • Brain Fog
  • Fatigue
  • Poor Sleep
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Burning sensation in the stomach
  • Hangover

Not anymore.

Many these symptoms are the result of the excessive alcohol, sugar, and additive load in commercial wines. Aside from one ridiculous night when I polished off nearly 2 bottles (which I paid for with a surprisingly mild headache the next morning), I’ve yet to notice obvious negative side-effects from enjoying low-alcohol, natural wines.

Here’s the good news: natural, organic, biodynamic, and native-wild-yeast wines are exploding in popularity. In a recent article from NPR, Senior Wine Buyer Stephen Meuse says that “This is the most interesting thing happening in wine right now.”

If you want to know exactly what you’re drinking (like I do), lab-testing wine sounds terrific… and ridiculously impractical.

Fortunately, Todd started a wine club for biohackers, health nuts, and nerds like us. He’s strictly ketogenic and has worked for years to find and test wines that meet incredibly high standards.

His wine club makes a commitment to curating natural wines that are:

  • Low Sugar: Less than 1 gram per liter
  • Low Sulfites: Less than 75 ppm
  • Low Alcohol: Less than 12.5%
  • Mycotoxin & Mold Free
  • No added coloring (That means no Mega Purple or Ultra Red)

Dry Farm Wines are non-irrigated and grown organically on small family farms. They contain no chemical additives and are fermented with native wild yeast. And if you want to support your farmer, natural wines are where it’s at.


As wine drinkers, our hope is suddenly renewed.

Tucker Max, perhaps the biggest wine geek I know, raved about these wines during our party at SXSW. The exacting health nut, Mark Sisson, “gave up wine” until he tried these. Even Dave Asprey recommends Dry Farm Wines… and he barely drinks!

I’ve been drinking several bottles of these natural wines a week for the past 6 months. I am a fan.

These wines are light, relatively low in alcohol, and provide an energetic, uplifting buzz – the opposite of how I usually feel when I drink wine. Some natural wines are reminiscent of kombucha (in a good way).

More importantly, I wake up the next day rested and refreshed. No hangover, brain fog, or fuzziness from these wines… as long as you’re hydrating and dosing appropriately.

You’re welcome, liver.

Here’s another weird factoid: I spilled a whole glass of one of these red wines on our carpet… 3 days after we moved into our new place in Austin. Classic klutz move.

I freaked out.

But after about 2 minutes of dabbing the carpet with water and a paper towel, the stain completely disappeared. No trace of wine in the rug at all! Or purple teeth, which can make even the most dignified drinker transform into a hobo.

That’s because there’s no Mega Purple, Ultra Red, or other concentrated coloring agent in these wines. Pretty neat.


Natural wines currently make up roughly 1% of the market in the U.S., and that’s expanding quickly. You may even be able to find some at high-end wine shops (although we haven’t had much luck when we’ve tried).

Dry Farm Wines is the first and only club in the world to lab-test and curate low-sugar wines. The bottles cost around $25 each. This is relatively inexpensive for a quality wine… especially when you consider the fact that it’s lab tested.

Because these wines are naturally lower in alcohol and statistically sugar/carb free, they are friendly to The Wild Diet, Paleo, Low/Slow Carb, Sugar Free, and even ketogenic nutritional plans. (Todd found no impact from these wines on blood sugar and no compression impact to ketone (BHB) production.)

Dry Farm Wines just opened for new members, and you can get natural, lab-tested wines shipped straight to your front door. (Full disclosure: your purchase helps support this blog and we appreciate it!)

Plus, as a gift to our readers, you can try your first bottle of wine for just one penny! You’ll get a full-size bottle of wine for a cent with any club order and free shipping for all of our readers and listeners!

Click here to get a bottle of wine for just a penny with your first order.

Here’s the secret to drinking wine without getting foggy, flabby and hungover:

Have you tried natural wines yet? What wines make you feel the best? Comment below to let us know what you think!

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    • U.S. wines tend to be worse than European since standards of quality are higher across the pond. Imported wines still may have additives and/or high sugar, but they’re a better bet.

  1. You know I”m not too sure this wine is even good to drink either? I just read this article that there is Monsanto’s Glyphosate found in California wines. I emailed the company to ask them if they test for this chemical but they never responded. Thanks to Monsanto we are being poisoned by this chemical every day!
    Here is the article that I read:

  2. Rick Nielson says:

    Too bad, I Hate to hear wine is just like all the other processed crap they offer up. Big Ag, Big Food, Big Pharma, Big Med. Now, Big Wine. I’d like to try these wines, are they pricey?

    • Hi Rick, Todd’s wine club works out to about $18-25/bottle, which is quite reasonable for a great tasting, high-quality wine. I’ve found a few natural wines in stores for about the same price, but it takes work to find them.

      You can also find “grown with organic grape” wines for $10-15 a bottle, although those often come with higher sugar and may have additives. The good news is that natural wines are getting a lot more popular, so hopefully prices will become even more reasonable over time. 🙂

  3. Hello there – I loved hearing from Todd on the podcast. I walked into whole foods and found a California wine called ‘Our Daily Red’ for $8.99 that is organic, 12.5% alcohol, and ‘no preservatives added’. Not sure if this would meet all of Todd’s strict standards, but is quite affordable, and no doubt a step in the right direction. I will test the hangover implications this weekend… Thanks for the awesome work Abel!

  4. The info on their sight is a little thin. Is the only way to purchase is via wine club where there is no choice of varienty other than red/white.? Please let me know how to access a full menu. thanks. dianne

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