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Argentina Bans Use of Hemoglobin in Winemaking

Clarifying agent is rarely used today, but country took step as a preventative measure against mad cow disease.

David Sax
Posted: May 5, 2004

Argentina's National Institute of Viticulture (INV) has forbidden the country's wine producers to use hemoglobin to clarify wines -- a practice that is no longer common. The law was published on April 15, and winemakers have 60 days to comply and remove any hemoglobin from their winemaking processes. Products that were made with hemoglobin before the decree was issued are exempt from the sanction.

INV enologist Luis Fontana said the ban is a preventative measure against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), more commonly known as mad cow disease -- a fatal, degenerative disease that affects the nervous system of adult cattle and can be transferred to humans.

Although a case of BSE has never been reported in Argentina, the INV believed the measure was necessary to bring the country's winemaking regulations in line with global standards.

Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells that gives them their characteristic red color. In past decades, it had been used in Argentinean winemaking as a means of adding color to pale table wines, and in powdered form, it had been used as an inexpensive clarifying agent.

But today, hemoglobin use is not widespread among fine wineries in Argentina, said enologist Mauricio Lorca, who has worked for Catena, Finca La Celia and others. "I've never seen it. It is possible that table wine producers used it, but never in fine wine." The most common clarifying agents used today are egg whites and gelatin, he said.

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