French Wines…Pick Your Poison

During our wine seminar events, we always remind everyone that in wine, price is no guarantee of quality.  Now, we learn that price is no guarantee of purity either.  In fact, as it related to the latest news about pesticides found in French wines, the main culprits happen to be wines sold for more than $200 US a bottle.  They are three world class Bordeaux Cru Classe-sampled from Pessac-Leogan and Saint Estephe.

One Burgundy Santenay Premier Cru actually contained traces of eight different pesticides, while a Bordeaux Pomerol had six.

A recent study identified twenty four different pesticides in total. Of these, the European Union classifies five as causing cancer, leading to genetic mutation, affecting reproduction or disrupting hormones.

“The presence of pesticides in European wines is a growing problem,” said Elliott Cannell, of PAN Europe. “Many grape farmers are abandoning traditional methods of pest control in favour of using hazardous synthetic pesticides.”

While North American wines have yet to be lab tested to the same extent as the French wines, it is expected that they would fare better than their European counterparts because of the more restricted use hazardous synthetic pesticides on this continent.

Consumers can be reassured that their Ontario wine is free of all but minute – and non-hazardous – residues of pesticides, says a University of Guelph researcher.

A three-year study led by Wendy McFadden-Smith at Vineland Research Station, in collaboration with Brian Ripley of Laboratory Services at University of Guelph and Karl Kaiser of Inniskillin Wines Ltd. in Niagara-on-the-Lake, found the majority of pesticides are removed during vinification.

McFadden-Smith also determined residues on fresh grapes were within Health Canada limits.

Responsible use of pesticides

“When a chemical is registered for use on a commodity, Health Canada determines the very conservative and safe amounts of residue that will be allowed on the harvested crop,” she says. “In our research project, we followed the vinification process of both red and white wine from fresh grapes to young wine to determine the pesticide-residue pathway. We found residues on fresh grapes were well within acceptable limits, with extremely rare exceptions, indicating a responsible use of pesticides by local growers.”

A great reason to shop and drink “local”?

The enjoyement of wine is about experiencing its different characteristics which are a product of the terroir and climate in which it was born.  Knowing wines and knowing your own taste profile will guide you to make the right choice…local or otherwise.

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