It’s happened to the best of us and, unfortunately, we all know the feeling: Waking up the next morning, feeling like death warmed up and swearing you’ll never drink again. But what exactly is a hangover and what in wine causes hangovers?
For those who don’t know, common features of hangovers include headaches, nausea, fatigue, dehydration and weakness, even mild depression. I must admit I didn’t realize hangovers are that complex until I started to research them. It gets a little technical, I know, but hang in there – it’s pretty interesting!
The most common cause of a wine hangover is dehydration. Alcohol causes the body to lose water through a complex pathway, resulting in the brain temporarily shrinking. This puts the membranes under strain, causing a headache. This goes hand in hand with a very dry mouth. Furthermore, alcohol causes glycogen (your medium-term energy store) to be converted into glucose and excreted along with salts and minerals, causing you to feel tired the next day. Are you ready to open the next bottle of Chenin yet?
Another major cause of hangovers is biogenic amines, specifically histamine, a chemical we usually associate with allergic reactions. Almost all alcoholic beverages contain some histamine, especially red wine, as it is made from whole grapes. Some people are more sensitive to histamine than others, which can lead to allergic reactions. Symptoms may vary from rosy cheeks to bad headaches. This has nothing to do with the vast amount of wine they knocked back the previous night, of course… There are quite a few factors that can influence the histamine content of wine, and most of them are related to the microbial health of the wine. So, it is very possible that the red wine from one producer will be fine while the same variety from another producer will give you a splitting headache.
And then there is acetaldehyde, which is a by-product of the liver breaking down alcohol. The body can break down small quantities of acetaldehyde, but it cannot metabolize large quantities acetaldehyde, which adds to your hangover. Interesting to note here is that acetaldehyde is closely related to formaldehyde, the preservative that scientists use to store dodgy organs in jars. That really makes you reach out to your wine rack, doesn’t it?
Next is a group of molecules called congeners, which is commonly found in dark-colored drinks like red wine, brandy and whiskey. Very little is known about this chemical group, but apparently it is not very good for us, hence the hangovers.
Interestingly, in my research for this article, I found no mention of sulfur – one of the most popular culprits on which hangovers are pinned. Now you know what happens on the odd occasion when you lose the plot. Having said that, I still believe that moderate wine consumption will definitely add quality to your life and health. Cheers!
Over the years, South African winemaker, Henry Kotzé, has refined his winemaking mantra to one of minimal interference and maximal expression of variety by means of selecting the best terroir possible. Experience speaks for itself and Henry was appointed winemaker at Morgenster in 2009. Previously, Henry’s oenological skills were honed during his stints at Vergelegen, Boschendal, Neil Ellis and Eikendal (all highly acclaimed South African wineries.) Henry’s focus at Morgenster is on red wine where he works with the classical Bordeaux grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot) and Italian grape varieties (Sangiovese and Nebbiolo).
The first vines on the farm were planted in 1994 and the average age of the vineyards is 15 years. The grapes are usually harvested, depending on the fickle weather of course, late February. Average yield is 5.5 tonnes per hectare and juice yield is 700 litres per tonne.
Now, let’s get started with the winemaking section of this blog. This is what Henry had to say: “As the grapes are destemmed and crushed (about 10% is whole bunch pressed), I’ll add an Enartis red wine enzyme for colour extraction. Cold soaking is done for two to four days at less than 10°C. Only one pump-over a day is needed and this is done slowly and gently, to facilitate maximum extraction.” As he says this, he glances longingly at his mud encrusted mountain bike and then back to me. I realise that he’s probably very busy and has not been getting a lot of sleep (the plight of every winemaker!), so I hurry on with my questions. As for the Bordeaux varietals, Henry elaborated about two of his favourite yeasts: “I inoculate Anchor NT 202 and Anchor WE 372 (Oenobrands) at 15°C. NT 202 has always been a stalwart and works well with the wine style that we like to embrace at Morgenster. It is also easy controllable with temperature alterations.
As for WE 372, it is a slower fermenter which really enhances the varietal character of the grapes I am working with. WE 372 makes a particularly powerful contribution towards red berry and fruity aromas when I’m working with Merlot. For my Italian varietals, I use selected Lallemand yeasts. A typical fermentation is done at 26 to 28°C for seven to ten days. I also use a lot of oxygen during fermentations for maximum colour extraction. As an activator I use Laffort Dynastart and Anchor Nutrivin (Oenobrands) and DAP during fermentation.” Henry also formed part of a group of winemakers in South Africa who tried the new Anchor NT 202 Co-Inoculant MLF starter culture (Oenobrands) in 2011.
He says: “I tried the Co-inoculant on a batch Petit Verdot this vintage and was pleasantly surprised with the results, since MLF took only 14 days to complete after AF finished. This usually takes three to five weeks. I usually inoculate all my red wines with Lallemand bacteria, but intend to use the Co-inoculant again next year and in bigger amounts.” Henry explains post-AF as follows: “Extended maceration on skins can last a few days or up to two weeks. After MLF, the wine is racked and three rackings are done during 18 months of barrel ageing. Beta-glucanase (Enartis) is used during ageing.
Optimal filtering would be done with a 1.6 micron candle filter, but where VA is 0.6g/L or higher, I will use a 0.45 micron candle filter.” Henry has his wine bottled during December and January after which it is released three years later. As for the premium Morgenster wines, expect to pay US $69 and US $33 for the Lourensriver Valley range.
Bernard Mocke is a technical Consultant for Anchor Wine Yeast.
Some time ago, an inquisitive mind inquired of me as to whether being lactose intolerant could affect the sufferer’s tolerance of wine that has undergone malolactic fermentation. Fair question. “Lactose” and “lactic” are obviously related, and thinking about an intolerance to the “lactic” in wine is a sensible leap with everyone and their brother speculating over what causes wine headaches and the like (derivatory of the overarching food intolerance fad, I expect.)
The good and the bad news is that lactose intolerance has no bearing whatsoever on the ability to digest malolactically-fermented wine. Good news, as the lactose-intolerant among us can drink wine without reservation. Bad news, as the lactose-intolerant among us are equally as enlightened as everyone else as far as identifying a cause of the wily wine headache, i.e. still in the dark. Short answer: lactose intolerance is unrelated to the ability to tolerate wine that has undergone malolactic fermentation. Longer answer: Most people who react poorly to lactose suffer from an intolerance, not an allergy.
Allergies are inappropriate immune responses to specific epitopes, which can be thought of as molecular shapes. An intolerance, on the other hand, isn’t necessarily an immune response. Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency in the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose in the small intestine. Since we can only absorb lactose after it has been broken down into its component parts – glucose and galactose – a lactase deficiency means that undigested lactose builds up in the intestines to cause bloating, diarrhea, gas, and other discomforts. Unlike lactose, lactic acid can be absorbed without first being acted upon by the lactase enzyme.
Incidentally, even if lactic acid absorption was somehow related to lactose absorption, quantity would be a pertinent consideration. Milk contains 2-8% lactose, i.e. relatively a whole lot, while wine contains much less than 1% lactic acid. In conclusion, then, the lactic acid in wine should be of no concern to most people who need to avoid lactose. A glass of wine makes a far friendlier companion to a good dinner than a glass of milk, don’t you think?
Erika Szymanski is an independent contributor to this blog. She is in no way affiliated with the sponsoring company. This blog was originally posted on her blog: The Wine-o-scope.
Yes yes, it has arrived. The first commercial bacterial blend has seen the shelves so to speak. It has been commercialised by Anchor Wine Yeast and is a blend of Oenococcus and Lactobacillus. This product is also to be used in co-inoculation with the wine yeast only and not for inoculation after alcoholic fermentation. Anchor takes it even a step further and recommends it with a specific yeast only. Okay so every man and his dog already have MLF cultures. Why should one even consider this product?
The Oenoccoccus and Lactobacillus cultures are South African isolates and the research was done by the Institute for Wine Biotechnology in Stellenbosch, South Africa. They were isolated from high alcohol high pH wines that underwent successful natural MLF. Why? These are often conditions associated with new world red winemaking; therefore making this bacterial blend very suitable for conditions such as these in other parts of the world. But I’m a European / New Zealand winemaker, I don’t have high alcohol, high pH conditions so what would I bother? Well I guess for the same reason that not everyone in the USA where the speed limit is 65 miles per hour drives a Ford Ka. Some people actually do drive faster, better performing cars in slow conditions. It’s about the ride they say – so much more comfortable in a Mercedes CLK. When you ferment a must with a potential alcohol of 14% its comforting to know that the yeast you use is actually resistant to 16%. The same goes for using this bacterial culture blend.
Okay moving along to the next argument as to why it’s a good idea – Lacotobacillus has a higher pH optimum (3.5 – 4) than Oenococcus (3.2 – 3.5). That means in higher pH conditions, faster onset of MLF since the Lactobacillus will kick off first. And no – the Lactobacillus is homofermentative meaning it only converts malic acid to lactic acid and not sugar to acetic acid. By the time alcoholic fermentation is finished MLF is either completed or down to 1 g/l or less of malic acid. MLF is then completed a few days later. Meaning much faster processing and protection of the wine against Brett for instance.
Not convinced yet? The Lactobacillus also smells and taste good. Trials done comparing the Oenococcus on its own and the blend shows increased aromatic complexity in the favour of the blend. The blend also shows increased aromatic complexity when compared to other commercial MLF starter cultures.
Another differential is that the culture is inoculated with the yeast at the same time. No need to wait 24 hours as long as sulphur addition at crushing does not exceed 50 ppm. That should not be a problem for most people. Anchor also recommends the bacterial blend, known as NT 202 Co-Inoculant, with the wine yeast NT 202 seeing the this yeast is very stimulatory for MLF, amongst various other positive attributes. The whole idea is to have completely trouble free MLF’s. We will just have to wait and see – this might just end up being the Holy Grail of MLF. Exciting times!