ADVERTISING: Advertorial — GEORGE BALLING: Bad wine gadgets and other questions

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The market for wine gadgets good and bad sometimes appears to overwhelm the market for really good wine. This is an unfortunate trend. I have always felt that finding a good bottle of wine is far easier and more important than finding a gadget that will somehow magically take a bad wine and make it taste better.

Enter a string of gadgets that claim to remove the sulfites from wine. At the risk of burying the rest of the column, here is the bottom line. None of them work. I have not found a single winemaker, wine professional, or wine writer that has found a single shred of evidence that suggests the sulfite content of wine is lowered by these tools. The most common question we hear from wine consumers is in relation to wine allergies. For those of us that suffer from wine allergies, they can come from a number of sources in wine. Sulfites and tannin are the two most common, but also histamines in the grapes, the alcohol itself or in mass produced wines any number of additives can be the culprit or culprits. Wine allergies can also span from minor to utterly debilitating.

Enter any number of purveyors of wands, filters, or additives that claim to remove the sulfites in wine. It is nearly impossible to run a winery without the use of some sulfur-based chemicals. From preserving color, to acting as a preservative in general to stopping fermentation to cleaning, sulfur use is necessary and valuable in the production of wine. The simply stated reason these “gizmos” on the market today don’t work to eliminate sulfites is the sulfites are fully integrated into the finished product. No treatment with any tool that you pour through or wave through your glass for a few seconds, let alone minutes or hours is going to remove them. In short none of the gadgets out there that range from $11, up to $100+ work. Don’t buy them!

Here is a more reliable recommendation. Once you have determined that sulfites are indeed what is bothering you, find a wine with a lower sulfite load, and secondly, keep track of the wines that treat you more gently, where they come from and who produces them. Start with wines from Europe, where winemakers generally use less sulphur, then start to keep track of the wines you don’t react to. Save your money on this silly gadget craze and spend a bit more on your bottle of wine to ensure you are getting the ones that agree with you, and you will be far better off.

There was an article in the Sunday Coeur d’Alene Press regarding the wine grape harvest in Italy being underway. In addition to statistics projecting the size of the 2018 wine grape harvest, it also talked about quality growers are seeing this year. We will have an update on the 2018 crop next week.

We did receive some questions, though, on why the harvest in Italy was starting so early. The article in the press was talking strictly about the harvest in Franciacorta. This growing area in Italy is known for producing world class sparkling wine. In addition, the wines from here are produced the same way Champagne is, with secondary fermentation, that which creates the bubbles, is completed in the bottle. This is a different and far more expensive process than that which is used to make Prosecco, which involves tank fermentation to get the effervescence. Grapes used in the production of Champagne and other sparkling wines made in the same way are generally harvested earlier with lower sugar and higher acid levels to keep the wines light, refreshing and sparkly. Franciacorta is a lovely wine that, sadly, is very difficult to find, just not very much is exported. Around the globe, it is likely that harvest has started for grapes to be used in Champagne; the norm is for it to start in mid to late August.

As we mentioned, we will have a full update on the 2018 growing year next week. Keep your wine questions and even your wine gadget questions coming, and we will answer them as they come.

If there is a topic you would like to read about or questions on wine you can email George@thedinnerpartyshop.com or make suggestions by contacting the Healthy Community section at the Coeur d’Alene Press.

• • •

George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.

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