Our patients ask us all the time, “Is wine good for me? If so, what is the best type to drink?
According to Parsley Health’s San Francisco Medical Director Dr. Tiffany Lester, all wine is not created equal and it’s not just about box vs. bottle. Even expensive wine can be loaded with preservatives, additives, and pesticides. She sees patients who remove wine from their diet for a set period of time and immediately feel alert with soaring energy levels. This is likely from the toxins present in many wines that gives that awful hangover. Oftentimes they also lose a few stubborn pounds.
But wines that aren’t loaded with preservatives, additives and pesticides may actually have some health benefits for you. Research shows that an antioxidant found in red wine, may help heart health by preventing damage to blood vessels and preventing blood clots.
When it comes to wine,quality matters. And, we aren’t talking about price. We’re talking about getting rid of all the junk in wine that can make you feel terrible. We caught up with Melissa Gisler Modanlou a natural wine sommelier and founder of Rock Juice,a personal sommelier service focused on sustainably-farmed, low-intervention natural wines to get the low down on the best wines to drink and why.
Parsley Health: Where did the idea for Rock Juice come from?
Melissa Gisler Modanlou: After I sold my restaurant and retail wine shop in 2012 (and had baby #2), I started hearing about “natural” wine. I began learning how unnatural wine could be. It’s often highly processed, full of additives, chemicals and high sulfite levels. I wasn’t aware of this, even after 10 years in the wine business. I’m very careful about what I eat, choosing organic, reading labels. I realized that I now had to apply that same scrutiny to wine, to make sure I was drinking real wine and not a processed grape-flavored beverage.
I also realized that it is almost impossible for the average consumer to know anything about the integrity of the wine in their glass, because there is no ingredient labeling requirement for wine – which is crazy, since it is something we directly ingest. There is also zero conversation about how wine is made, what’s in it. Everyone assumes it is just fermented grape juice—which it should be, but sadly so much out there is no different than soda. It is too often highly processed for consistency, shelf-life and brand recognition.
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The idea for Rock Juice sort of grew organically as I started helping friends source natural wines, and they told their friends, who also wanted my help. I saw the demand not only for natural wine but also for an easy way to access it. I started Rock Juice to filter, find and bring great examples of wine made with little intervention, directly to the community.
Parsley Health: What’s something that most people don’t know about wines that are currently on the market?
Melissa Gisler Modanlou: Most large-scale wines sold in grocery stores or mass retailers are made conventionally, with grapes that have been sprayed with chemicals (and think about how wine is made, with the pressed juice macerating on those toxic skins, for hours or days or weeks – yuck). They’re made with added sugar, color, acid, commercial yeast (often GMO) from a catalog, and a host of other additives (200+ are allowed in wine). They have also added sulfites up to 360 parts per million (and that limit is on the honor system – no one is testing). There have been multiple studies where a range of California wines, ranging from low to high-end were tested, and every single one tested positive for glyphosate – a known carcinogen.
One more thing that is confusing for most people is the fact that all bottles contain the warning “contains sulfites”. Here’s the scoop: sulfites occur naturally on grape skins at a very low level (around 10ppm), and this “contains sulfites” message is mandated when there are at least 10ppm sulfites. 99.9% of all bottles, even if no SO2 was added, will contain this warning because of the naturally occurring trace amounts. But what it doesn’t tell you is how much sulfur is actually in the wine. It could be a miniscule amount, 10-20ppm, which won’t impact you unless you’re highly allergic, or could be the maximum amount of 360ppm – which you’ll definitely feel the next day.
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Parsley Health: If we are going to drink wine in moderation, which are the best ones to drink and why?
Melissa Gisler Modanlou: Most importantly, seek out wines made with organic grapes. Grapes have permeable skin and are consistently in the “dirty dozen”, so those systemic herbicides in your wine end up in your system! If you can take it one step further, look for wines made with native yeasts, no additives and low levels of added sulfites – less junk for your body to process. This is challenging, as the label almost never gives you any of this information, so find a trusted, knowledgeable retailer to guide you. Also, turn over the bottle and check out the label, which tells you who is importing the wine. There are a handful of importers who have strict standards as far as farming, additives and sulfur.
Parsley Health: What’s the most rewarding thing about creating and running Rock Juice?
Melissa Gisler Modanlou: Raising awareness and starting conversations about what’s in our glasses! Wine has been part of human culture for thousands of years, and, in my opinion, brings pleasure and is an important part of the “culture of the table.” But we have the right to know what we’re drinking, and to have access to clean options. I have several clients who are sulfite sensitive, and a few recovering from cancer or other illnesses. They tell me they can drink Rock Juice wines with no issues. And feel good the next day.
Parsley Health What are your favorite places to eat in SF?
Melissa Gisler Modanlou: It changes, often. But right now, Del Popolo for wood-fired Neopolitan style pizza, of course, but really, for all their incredible, seasonal veggie sides. And a fantastic natural wine list! I also love Liholiho Yacht Club for Hawaiian-inspired small plates – generous portions, reasonable prices and heavy on the veg options. Totally worth the wait!
Parsley Health: What’s the best thing about living in the Bay Area?
The access to so much amazing produce. I’m like a kid in the candy store at the farmer’s market! And the fact that we can leave the city and, in two hours or less, find glorious examples of nature – gorgeous beaches, mountains, lakes, hikes, etc. Three hours to the magical Yosemite! We escape a few times a month – it’s how we recharge, and keep the boys grounded.