Arsenic and the Wine Case

Elevated levels of arsenic in my wine?

You may have heard that a lawsuit has been filed in California against some 28 vintners involving around 83 of their wines.  Because the wines named are primarily inexpensive wines, this issue is of considerable importance to people – like me – who buy the lower-priced labels.

The first question is, of course, whether the reportedly elevated levels of arsenic are truly a problem.  The Wine Institute has called the lawsuit “irresponsible,”  but the Institute is an industry group.  Folks know that industry groups represent the industry first and consumers second inasmuch as said consumers want the industry’s product.  So I’d say that at face value the Institute’s position doesn’t give me full assurance.  I’d like additional info.

According to the AP, the lawsuit alleges that tests by three independent labs found some wines had arsenic levels 500 percent higher than considered safe in drinking water.  That sounds pretty bad!  Is, however, that the right measure to use – a drinking water comparison?  I imagine all wine contains any number of chemicals, minerals and compounds above the levels permitted in drinking water … alcohol is an obvious one.  While the U.S. hasn’t set permitted arsenic levels for wines, other countries have.  Maybe we should be looking at those and the medical/scientific justifications for them?

I  am not going to stop drinking inexpensive wine (under $10 a bottle) just yet.  On the other hand, I will be watching this issue and looking for more facts about the health risks.  If the idea of consuming some extra arsenic in your vino causes you a great deal of agitation, perhaps you’ll want to read the list of wines named in the lawsuit at this link – NYDailyNews Article.

On a personal level, it looks as though my own exposure to the allegedly offending selections has been limited to these wines over the past couple of years.

Flip Flop Pinot Grigio
HRM Rex-Goliath Moscato
Ménage à Trois White Blend
Sutter Home Moscato
Sutter Home White Merlot

8 thoughts on “Arsenic and the Wine Case

  1. The most important question for me is what would cause higher levels of arsenic on the cheaper wines. Is that the pesticides used in the grape growing? all the grapes coming from the same vineyards? Some commonalities in the methods/ways of storing and/or fermenting? There are lots of questions here…

  2. Yes – I agree there is more to understand about this. Maybe it will propel people to try something different and explore new wines!

  3. Well done post – balanced POV – I think what is most important is knowing what is an acceptable level of naturally occurring arsenic and what are the health risks. There are many things we consume that can eventually pose health risks in one way or another, but we as consumers should be aware so we can have a choice. Cheers!

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