What Wine Pairs Best with Pork? How About Arsenic?

A California lawsuit alleges that nearly a hundred wines from a dozen or more producers contain enormous amounts of arsenic much higher than the legally permissible limits.  Its tough to avoid this story that seems to be everywhere and as a self appointed amateur wine connoisseur, I have to admit to finding the story fascinating.  The Plaintiffs allege that independent testing reveals arsenic levels as high as 500x what is considered safe (kind of scary that number is not 0).  Of course, the wine institute believes the lawsuit is nonsense and that all of the listed wines are safe to drink.  To be fair, the plaintiffs were not killed as a result of drinking this wine, they are simply appalled at the results of independent testing.

It began with an independent test in Denver.  They sought to review approximately 1300 bottles of the most common wines on the marketplace.  In fact, these 1300 bottles represented 75% of all wine drank in the US.  Of course, since we are talking about commonplace and high volume wines, many of those tested were cheap and inexpensive bottled (or boxed) wine.  Shockingly, 83 of the bottles tested revealed excessive arsenic levels.  Those 83 bottles are:

  • Acronym’s GR8RW Red Blend 2011
  • Almaden’s Heritage White Zinfandel
  • Almaden’s Heritage Moscato
  • Almaden’s Heritage White Zinfandel
  • Almaden’s Heritage Chardonnay
  • Almaden’s Mountain Burgundy
  • Almaden’s Mountain Rhine
  • Almaden’s Mountain Chablis
  • Arrow Creek’s Coastal Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
  • Bandit’s Pinot Grigio
  • Bandit’s Chardonnay
  • Bandit’s Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Bay Bridge’s Chardonnay
  • Beringer’s White Merlot 2011
  • Beringer’s White Zinfandel 2011
  • Beringer’s Red Moscato
  • Beringer’s Refreshingly Sweet Moscato
  • Charles Shaw White Zinfandel 2012
  • Colores del Sol’s Malbec 2010
  • Glen Ellen by Concannon’s Glen Ellen Reserve Pinot Grigio 2012
  • Concannon’s Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir 2011
  • Glen Ellen by Concannon’s Glen Ellen Reserve Merlot 2010
  • Cook’s Spumante
  • Corbett Canyon’s Pinot Grigio
  • Corbett Canyon’s Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cupcake’s Malbec 2011
  • Fetzer’s Moscato 2010
  • Fetzer’s Pinot Grigio 2011
  • Fish Eye Pinot Grigio 2012
  • Flipflop’s Pinot Grigio 2012
  • Flipflop’s Moscato
  • Flipflop’s Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Foxhorn’s White Zinfandel
  • Franzia’s Vintner Select White Grenache
  • Franzia’s Vintner Select White Zinfandel
  • Franzia’s Vintner Select White Merlot
  • Franzia’s Vintner Select Burgundy
  • Hawkstone’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
  • HRM Rex Goliath’s Moscato
  • Korbel’s Sweet Rose Sparkling Wine
  • Korbel’s Extra Dry Sparkling Wine
  • Menage a Trois’ Pinot Grigio 2011
  • Menage a Trois’ Moscato 2010
  • Menage a Trois’ White Blend 2011
  • Menage a Trois’ Chardonnay 2011
  • Menage a Trois’ Rose 2011
  • Menage a Trois’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
  • Menage a Trois’ California Red Wine 2011
  • Mogen David’s Concord
  • Mogen David’s Blackberry Wine
  • Oak Leaf’s White Zinfandel
  • Pomelo’s Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  • R Collection by Raymond’s Chardonnay 2012
  • Richards Wild Irish Rose’s Red Wine
  • Seaglass Sauvignon Blanc 2012
  • Simply Naked’s Moscato 2011
  • Smoking Loon’s Viognier 2011
  • Sutter Home’s Sauvignon Blanc 2010
  • Sutter Home’s Gewurztraminer 2011
  • Sutter Home’s Pink Moscato
  • Sutter Home’s Pinot Grigio 2011
  • Sutter Home’s Moscato
  • Sutter Home’s Chenin Blanc 2011
  • Sutter Home’s Sweet Red 2010
  • Sutter Home’s Riesling 2011
  • Sutter Home’s White Merlot 2011
  • Sutter Home’s Merlot 2011
  • Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel 2011
  • Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel 2012
  • Sutter Home’s Zinfandel 2010
  • Trapiche’s Malbec 2012
  • Tribuno’s Sweet Vermouth
  • Vendange’s Merlot
  • Vendange’s White Zinfandel
  • Wine Cube’s Moscato
  • Wine Cube’s Pink Moscato 2011
  • Wine Cube’s Pinot Grigio 2011
  • Wine Cube’s Pinot Grigio
  • Wine Cube’s Chardonnay 2011
  • Wine Cube’s Chardonnay
  • Wine Cube’s Red Sangria
  • Wine Cube’s Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  • Wine Cube’s Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2011

As unsettling as it might be to find out there is an “acceptable amount of arsenic” is that the government does not regulate or restrict the amount of arsenic that is allowable in wine.  Long term exposure to higher than normal levels of arsenic can result in a multitude of illnesses or physical ailments.  I believe this is an example, much like with pharmaceuticals or the food industry, where the civil justice community is doing the job we hope that the FDA is doing.  Since wine is unregulated, cheap wine producers cut costs that result in higher than safe arsenic levels.  It is only plaintiffs lawyers and the civil court system which fights back against such dangers.

Stay safe everyone and I hope your favorite wine did not appear on this list.  Nevertheless, this should be an interesting case to watch unfold.