When it comes to diet, most people know what constitutes healthy eating choices, but with a lack of information and transparency around the nutritional content and ingredients in winemaking and viticulture, consumers are left in the dark when it comes to informed choices around wine consumption.
Mike Rapajic, a sommelier who has worked in top restaurants from Melbourne to Montreal and has a background in science, said people are unknowingly consuming sugar, sulphites and additives in most commercial wines without any indication of their levels.
Up to 80 additives and processing aids can be added to wine during the winemaking process, including colour and flavour enhancers, acid control agents, and tannins to mask lower quality grapes, as well as packet yeasts and yeast nutrients, stabilisers, antiseptics, and fining agents.
Rapajic likened it to comparing an artisanal cheese made from whole unpasteurised milk with processed cheese slices.
“Grapes for commercial wines are grown in large-scale industrial vineyards where almost everything is done mechanically and agrochemicals are the solution to every problem; these wineries are more akin to factories, mass-producing a processed product,” said Rapajic.
When it comes to sugar content, Rapajic said ‘hidden sugars’ in wine are rife, and that big corporate labels often mask poor-quality grapes by retaining some sugar in wines marketed as ‘dry’ to make the product taste more fruity and full-bodied.
“While in Australia, sugar cannot be added directly to ‘still’ wines, commercial wineries find ways around this by adding unfermented grape juice concentrate, stopping ferments early, or using sugar-containing additives like Mega Purple,” said Rapajic.
Then there are preservatives like sulphites (referred to as sulphur or SO2), a known allergen. While a small quantity of sulphites (5-20ppm) is naturally occurring in wine and a bi-product of fermentation, Rapajic said that the issue is not whether sulphites are present but how much is added and at which point of the wine-making process.
“Sulphur added prior to and during the fermentation process significantly increases the amount of acetaldehyde produced. Acetaldehyde is one of the compounds that is a major contributor to hangovers.” he said.
“Diagnosed sulphur sensitivities aren’t uncommon, though many more go undiagnosed, with symptoms ranging from sinus inflammation to headaches and rashes. It’s not surprising when there can be up to 250ppm of added sulphur in an average bottle shop wine.”
When Rapajic’s life collided with his now partner and naturopath Melissa, the sommelier set out on a mission to provide a healthier option for those who wanted to enjoy wine and cared about their health.
With this philosophy as its cornerstone, Feravina was born – a natural wine delivery service built around a ‘Health Conscious Sommelier’, helping fitness enthusiasts and health-minded individuals enjoy high-quality wine without compromising their lifestyles.
Adhering to a strict set of health-focused criteria, Feravina curates natural wines that are all organic or biodynamic, contain minimal sulphites (<50ppm) and no other additives, are practically sugar-free (<0.5g per glass), lower in alcohol (less than 13.5%), are vegan and are naturally made by artisanal wine-makers; drops that would be right at home in any high-end restaurant.
Rapajic explains that ‘natural wine’ is grown sustainably and that essentially, nothing is added or taken away during the fermentation of the grapes.
“All our suppliers are small-production, independent winemakers who really care for the land; grapes are hand-picked and grown using regenerative farming practices,” he said.
“Not only does Feravina guarantee that every one of our wines has practically no sugar since they’re at least 99.7% sugar-free, but we display each wine’s sugar and alcohol content on our website so our customers are well-informed.
“At most, the sugar in a glass of one of our wines is equivalent to the squeeze of lime you would put into a vodka soda, perfect if you’re on a keto diet to maintain ketosis.”
What’s more, Feravina wines commit to less than 50ppm of total sulphites, only allowing a small amount to be added just prior to bottling, if at all – a commitment that Rapajic says will contribute to reduced sensitivities and fewer hangovers.
Feravina has recently launched its national distribution, delivering high-quality wine from far-flung regions like France and Chile, as well as local Australian gems, to the doors of health-conscious Australians nation-wide.