Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Can you recommend a wine without arsenic?
—Violeta, Midway City, Calif.
A couple of years ago a lawsuit was brought against a handful of producers alleging dangerous arsenic levels in their wines. That lawsuit was dismissed, but unfortunately, a lot of confusion and fear about wine was left in its wake. I imagine this is where your question comes from.
Arsenic naturally occurs in the water we drink and in some of the foods and beverages we consume, including rice, shellfish and fruit juice. If you measured arsenic in wines you might find tiny levels, described in parts per billion. This doesn’t mean that the wine was poisoned, but rather that the arsenic naturally occurring in the soil, water and grapevines ended up in the wine.
Isn’t arsenic dangerous? Sure, too much arsenic is toxic, and there are regulations in place dictating how much trace arsenic is safe and permissible in food and beverages. The aforementioned lawsuit was dismissed because there was no evidence that the trace levels of arsenic posed a health risk.