The health and wellness industry has impacted most categories of consumer products so it’s no surprise to see wine being made & marketed in different ways than we’re used to. In addition to organic and biodynamic wine, we now have natural wine, clean wine, green wine, zero & low alcohol wine, vegan wine and now we have keto wine. I’m sure there will be others.
The keto wine thing has bothered me for a few reasons which is what this post is mostly about. But before I get into the detail, two things have become obvious to me: Firstly, these categories only exist because there is demand for them – and so as producers we must take notice, and potentially take action.
Secondly, in the case of keto-friendly wine and it’s posterkid www.ketowines.com, this business only exists because our own labelling lacks the information that these consumers need to make accurate decisions that suit their lifestyle. Australian labelling laws are arguably inadequate and without this information available to consumers, it has created a vacuum. This vacuum is the perfect place for misinformation (or selective information) to thrive. I’m not saying the info should be on the actual label but I think there is an opportunity here for producers who are publishing more detail. It’s certainly made me think more about our approach to product transparency which is why we have published the specs on our wines. .
So what does www.ketowines.com offer? They sell wines that have been independently lab tested to adhere to the following parameters, which apparently all add up to be keto-friendly.
- Organic or biodynamic & vegan.
- Less than 95 parts per million sulphur dioxide
- Less than 1.7 grams of sugar per litre
Let’s dive into this a bit more:
Organic or biodynamic & vegan
Assuming that these wines are third-party certified, I support this 100% although it has nothing to do with keto. It’s just good. Uncertified organic or biodynamic is a minefield for unsubstantiated claims, the word ‘organic’ is unregulated in Australia. The vegan thing is fine – it just means the wines were not fined using animal products. They have likely been fined using synthetic alternatives. Any claims about ‘natural’ or ‘sustainable’ are 100% unregulated and frankly, carry a high likelihood of bullshit.
Here’s where it starts to get a little weird. 95 parts per million is actually not a low amount of sulphur. It’s probably about normal for commercial quality white wine, maybe in the upper reaches for reds. When compared to ‘natural’ wines or ‘low’ SO2 wines, it is very high. So, I’m pretty shocked by this, particularly when they connect it to ‘no headaches’. It’s a nice alternative fact: the current thinking mostly points to amines as the culprit.
So what is low? Having spoken to a couple of other winemakers I feel confident in saying that 10-40ppm is low; one person said 20pp. Medium, I would say is under 100 – 120ppm ppm and above that is ‘high’. Others may disagree but the ‘low’ classification is reflected in this article by Jancis Robinson (which conveniently covers off all the main points on sulphur and its use in wine). It is worth noting that in Australia, organic certification reduces legal limits of sulphur addition generally to 120ppm (it changes a little depending on the wine & the certification body) – which is about half the legal limit for non-certified wines. And, for clarification, no wine is sulphur free – even if the winemaker doesn’t add any, around 10ppm occurs naturally in ferment anyway.
It’s not common practice to publish sulphur numbers and there is no regulation around the terms ‘low SO2’ and the like….all of which leaves this area ripe for opportunism. As an example, Vintessentials Lab recently tested some wines claiming such things and surprise, not all of them were true to label. There is no doubt that sulphur in wine is more complex than I can cover here but I do think we have a long way to go on this.
The word ‘dry’ is really confusing because in wine-drinker-land it’s a taste descriptor. But in winemaker-land, it’s a technical term that relates to the amount of sugar left over in the wine after ferment – which I should add, is fundamentally normal. ‘Dry’ wine technically is below 4g/L…but in practice, most dry wines have less. How would you know from the label? You won’t. Yikes.
But, on the ketowines website, they only sell wine with 1.7g/L sugar maximum, which of course gives less carbs per glass. Infact:
1.7g/L sugar gives .25g per 150ml glass.
4g/L sugar gives .6g per 150ml glass.
So, despite seeming like a miniscule difference, if you’re on a keto diet I can see how this would be appealing – you can essentially have double the amount of wine while being certain about the levels. But on the other hand, you could buy pretty much any dry wine and just have a bit less…? Each to their own on this one.
But there is one more important thing
If we scratch the sulphur thing, I can see the appeal in knowing your wine is very low in sugar and is also organic.
The thing is, overall, this whole website is sneaky, it actively preys on the fact that most people don’t have room in their brains for this kind of wine information and they have filled that void with a nice mix of misinformation and alternative facts. But here’s the main issue: You can’t see the actual wines before you buy them – how is this even allowed?! All you get to choose from is the grape variety. This is a massive red flag for me because it means:
a) you can’t compare price
b) you can’t see if it’s current vintage – which means producers might be running old stock through this platform
c) you can’t do any due diligence on organic or biodynamic claims
d) you can’t see the alcohol or any other additives
e) you can’t see the region or the blend
f) you can’t get any intel on whether the wine is terrible or otherwise
g) you can’t tell it’s a real producer or just rebadged bulk wine
Lil bit odd, don’t ya think? For a company who is building their proposition on product insight, to not actually show the product is asking a lot of trust from the consumer. Of course it’s obvious why they’d structure it this way but in the end, for me, the claims on sulphur are incongruent, but it’s this aspect I find most problematic.
So, where does this leave us? Most wines are made with passion and care by people who really believe in their work, but I do think we need to up our transparency game so that we own our narrative around how we create these products and what we add to them…and by doing this we might open ourselves up to new markets. I’m seeing change already but it seems like we’ve got a way to go.
Having said that, I’m not a wellness guru but I’m pretty certain wine is not a health product, it’s an alcoholic beverage – it will never be good for you. So, we end up where we always end up: drink better, maybe a bit less and support the producers who you trust and want to support.