Todd White is the founder of Dry Farm Wines, and is a leading authority on organic/natural wines. His passion is in unlocking the best way to enjoy alcohol – how to enjoy moderate consumption while avoiding its potential negative side effects. Dry Farm Wines was born from Todd’s interest in biohacking and his role as a health evangelist; the company has been endorsed by many leading US health influencers, including Mark Sisson (Primal Blueprint), Dave Asprey (Bulletproof), Chris Kresser, and Dr. Mark Hyman, among others. Dry Farm Wines is the only lab-tested, all-natural, health-quantified wine merchant in the world; Lauren discovered them thanks to former guests Becca Murray and Liz Beebe (Ep 6), who touted the fact that every wine sold is held to incredibly high standards, and safer for some of us with chronic illness to consume because they are sugar-free (< 1g/L), low in sulfites (< 75ppm), low in alcohol (< 12.5%), mycotoxin/mold-free, dry-farmed, additive-free, gluten-free, naturally or biodynamically farmed, and safe to consume for those following the Keto or Paleo diets, among others. Todd has a lot to share about the wine industry that we DON’T know – prepare to have your minds expanded! TW: alcohol consumption/addiction.
Key links mentioned in this episode:
Join us as Todd shares…
- that alcohol is a dangerous neurotoxin and drug – and therefore needs to be consumed responsibly and in moderation
- that he has always loved wine, but found it was producing negative side effects when he imbibed – and wanted to find a way to drink wine that wouldn’t produce these effects
- that he started to suspect that drinking less alcohol (alcohol percentage under 12.5%) would control some of the negative side effects
- that wine labeling is controlled by distributors and manufacturers, who have lobbied to keep facts from consumers: including up to 76 additives APPROVED by the FDA – so essentially, consumers don’t know what is – or is not – in any bottle of wine they purchase
- that Dry Farm Wines is the only merchant that independently lab-tests the contents of the wines they sell
- that the TTB (Tax & Trade Bureau) is responsible for labeling alcohol – and these labels can legally be inaccurate because of variances built into laws written in the 1940s (read: collusion between the wine industry and the US government)
- that most wine produced in the US is made by only three wine conglomerates – hiding behind of thousands of labels
- that higher amounts of alcohol combined with sugar can cause negative side effects
- that Dry Farm Wines rejects 70% of the wines that they taste and test – because they do not meet strict criteria
- the difference between drinking to check out – or to tap in
- that the difference between 11% and 15% alcohol is radical – your body is likely to react in very different ways
- that the term “natural wine” has no certification program – there’s no legal definition for it, but there’s a general understanding in the wine industry – and in the case of Dry Farm Wines, it’s dry farmed, and either organically or biodynamically farmed
- the science of wine production – and the importance of the strict criteria Dry Farm Wines uses to distinguish the wines they sell from others on the market
- why Dry Farm Wines only carries wines from Europe and South Africa – none from the US
- where you can find natural wines in stores: NYC, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, and Dallas – but harder to source elsewhere
- that the only way to change the system is to elect different people with the ideals we believe in
- that the “organic” or “biodynamic” label does not mean a wine is additive- or sugar-free – and while it’s better to drink than conventionally-farmed wine, it is still not necessarily the healthiest choice
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Lauren: All right guys, thank you so much for joining us today. I am here with Todd White. He is the founder of Dry Farm Wines. Some of you guys may recall hearing about Dry Farm Wines in a very early episode of the podcast when friends of ours recommended that people with chronic illness check out them out because some of us can drink these wines and not get sick from them! So Todd, thanks so much for joining us!
Todd: Super happy to be here!
There is a lot to share about the dark secrets of the wine industry, and how wine can be both healthy or quite unhealthy for you.
Lauren: Yes, absolutely. Well, why don’t we start from the top? Why don’t you tell us why you started Dry Farm Wines, and a bit about the science behind wine and wine consumption?
Todd: Well, those are three big topics. But anyway, so I started Dry Farm Wines because about, five years ago, I became ketogenic, following a ketogenic diet and lifestyle. I had been for many years prior to that … before biohacking was a term, which is probably seven or eight years old …
I had been biohacking and experimenting with various wellness and fitness regimens for most of my adult life.
And had begun experimenting with the ketogenic diet — but not really realizing what it was — by following the Atkins diet back in the 1980s, early 1990s. I experimented with low-carb on and off about five years ago. In the biohacking world, the ketogenic diet became pretty prominent as a neurological kind of biohack. Because while many people experiment with the ketogenic diet to lose weight, weight loss is really a side-effect. It’s not the reason to be ketogenic. In my opinion, the reason to be ketogenic is because of the neurological enhancements — enhancements to memory, enhancements to the clarity of thought and flow state, a lot of other neurological benefits, as well as some biological benefits as well. So anyway, I had pursued a ketogenic lifestyle and become very serious about it when I did. Now, “ketogenic diet” is the number one searched Google term for “diet”. Five years ago, it didn’t even rank. Now it’s become quite mainstream popular as people like the Kardashians, or one of our customers, Halle Berry, are keto. It’s become quite buzzy. But at the time I became ketogenic, I just noticed that wines were making me feel bad. And even sickly and getting terrible hangovers and brain fog, and I initially thought it was alcohol.
Because alcohol is a very dangerous neurotoxin, and a very destructive drug. And I had spent much of my adult life having somewhat of a tenuous relationship with alcohol.
So I just thought, you know, I’m drinking too much, right. So I started drinking less and diluting wine — it was in the winter — I started diluting wines. At that time, I’m still drinking commercial wine. I live in the Napa Valley. And so I’m drinking California wine, wines from all over the world. I’ve been a wine drinker since I was nine years old.
Lauren: You shouldn’t be telling us that, Todd!
Todd: I’m quite proud of it! I’ve been a lifelong wine aficionado. And also for quite some period during my adult life I also drank spirits. We’ll get to talking about alcohol and why it’s dangerous, and what’s wrong with alcohol, in a moment. But it is a serious neurotoxin. So I thought it was just alcohol. I started diluting wine, in the wintertime, with hot tea. And so I was drinking instead of two or three glasses, I maybe went down to drinking two or three ounces a night.
And I had a very favorable reaction to drinking less wine.
And at the time, this is before I knew about all the additives and the toxins that are in wine, I thought it was just the alcohol. I realized that, I think the drinking less alcohol is what’s causing me to feel better. That’s not really the case. But that’s what I think. So I asked this friend of mine who’s very knowledgeable about wine. I was, like, “Okay, how low in alcohol can you make a wine?” Because I was going to make some wine and remove the alcohol from it. There are two technical processes; the most common one is called reverse osmosis, where you separate the alcohol and the water.
Those are the two primary components of wine — ethyl alcohol and water. The rest of what makes up wine are polyphenols and anti-antioxidants and flavonoids and non-flavonoids; those are what makes up wine. But the majority of wine is water and alcohol.
That’s the component of wine. So I thought just drinking less alcohol was the trick. In having this conversation with my friend, he said, “Have you drunk any of the low-alcohol wines that are made in Europe?” And I was like, “No, I didn’t know anything about them. Never heard of low-alcohol wines.” So I go down to the local wine store in San Francisco where the kind of boutique-bought wines are sold. It’s a big store, but they don’t sell a lot of store brands; they’re kind of more curated. And I go in, I was, like, “I’m looking for low-alcohol wines.” And they look at me like I have a third eye.
Lauren: Of course!
Todd: They ask, “Why would you want that?” I didn’t need to explain to them why, but they said, “No, we don’t have any way of telling. You can just go look at the bottles.” And so I did. And we’ll get back to this in a moment. But the alcohol stated on a wine bottle by law is not required to be accurate; we’ll come back to that. But I looked at the wine bottles, and it seemed to me that 12-and-a-half percent seemed to be the demarcation between a low-alcohol wine and a high-alcohol wine. Twelve-and-a-half and below are really rare. And so I selected a case of these wines. I took them home and ended up opening them all on the same night because most of them I poured down the sink. Because they just weren’t drinkable; they didn’t taste very good. So through that process, I learned … as I began to taste and seek out more of these low-alcohol wines … I discovered a wine merchant that had quite a few low-alcohol wines. It was a tiny organic market in San Francisco that I happened upon quite by accident. I bought a case of wine from them at 12-and-a-half below. And it turns out that there’s this one importer, from Paris; his name is Josh Adler. He’s an American, but he lives in Paris, and he had this wine company called the Paris Wine Company. I noticed that all of his low-alcohol wines were also delicious. And I ended up calling him and asking him about this, and he told me, “Oh, I sell only natural wines.” And I said, “What’s a natural wine? Aren’t all wines natural?”
When you use the phrase “natural”, consumers are very confused by that … aren’t all wines natural? One fact: they’re not. And we’ll talk about what makes a natural wine in a moment, but here’s why they’re not natural. It’s because conventional wines can contain up to 76 FDA-approved additives.
Now, why don’t consumers know about these additives? Because the wine industry has spent tens of millions of dollars and lobby money to keep contents labeling off wine. Any number of efforts have been made to get contents and nutritional information stated on a wine bottle. The wine industry has been effective at defeating that. If you had a contents labeling, if there were transparency about what was in the wine, you would see a whole bunch of names of chemicals and additives and color agents that you have no idea what they are.
Lauren: So it’s almost like, if we’re getting wine from our local supermarket and we’re not sourcing it in a sustainable organic biodynamic farming situation, it’s almost like we’re buying a Hostess cupcake version of wine, right?
Todd: The problem is, we don’t know what you’re getting.
Lauren: Right. So it’s even worse!
Todd: We don’t know what is or is not in any bottle of wine that’s purchased, right? And so the only way to know what you’re getting is to buy from a trusted merchant who knows the farmer. And second of all, to do lab testing, independent lab testing. We’re the only health quantified wine merchant in the world, the only merchant that does independent lab testing on every wine. So if you really want to know what’s in wine, you lab test it; if you want to know whether there’s sugar in wine, you test for it. If you want to know the amount of alcohol in a wine, you have to test for it.
Because as I mentioned earlier, alcohol stated on a wine bottle is not required by law to be accurate. And is generally rounded down.
The reason is because the lower the alcohol, the lower the federal excise tax the producer pays. The reason that the alcohol can be stated down and be legal … as an example, if it says 14 percent on the bottle, it can be as high under the law as 15 1/2 percent. If it were, say, 12 percent, or if it says 12 1/2 percent, it could be as high as 14 percent and still be legal. The reason for that, is in the post-Prohibition era when most of these Federal alcohol laws were written … and alcohol is very funny because it is it is governed both by the state and by the federal government … most of the regulation for all alcohol is at the state level, but there are certain laws that apply at the federal level and the most important one is the labeling laws. So the TTB, which used to be the ATF before they renamed it after Waco … the TTB, what used to be called the Firearms Tobacco and Alcohol agency, now it’s called the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. It’s a much friendlier name, but they do the same thing. So anyway, the TTB is responsible for labeling of alcohol, and that’s where the alcohol is stated. The other reason that it can be a percent-and-a-half off and still be legal, is because in the 1940s, when this law was written, alcohol testing protocols could differ from lab to lab. And so they built in this little variant to keep everybody comfortable. Well, that’s not any longer true today — and hasn’t been true for decades. Alcohol testing is very precise. There wine industry doesn’t want the law changed. So the law, while grossly misleading and completely unnecessary, remains on the books today because of that.
So it’s just another collusion between the wine industry and the US government.
Lauren: It sounds an awful lot like the collusion between the US government and the cigarette and tobacco companies.
Todd: And food companies.
So the same thing that’s happened in our food supply has happened in our wine supply as well. There’s been massive corporate consolidation, so 52 percent of all the wine manufactured in the United States is made by just three giant conglomerates.
And the top 30 companies make over 70 percent of US wines. So this is what’s happening. But this is all a secret, you see, because the secret is these three giant conglomerates, these multi-billion-dollar marketing conglomerates, hide behind tens of thousands of brands and labels. What they want you to believe is that you’re drinking from a farmhouse or a chateau, when in fact, you’re drinking from these massive wine manufacturing facilities located in central California. And that’s what’s making people feel bad. So here’s what I discovered.
Well, alcohol will make you feel bad for sure. Too high a dose of this neurotoxin, of this poison, will definitely cause you to feel bad. So you definitely want to drink lower-alcohol wines.
But it’s not just the alcohol. It’s the additives and manipulation issues, and sugar, that are causing people to feel bad. Now, how do we know, anecdotally, that sugar and alcohol together make you feel bad? I’ll give you an example. If you were to have a shot of tequila, that’s a very different outcome than drinking a margarita. Because you put sugar and alcohol together, you get a particularly nasty hangover. Anybody who’s ever done that experiment, who’s ever had a shot of tequila versus a margarita, knows the difference.
Sugars are oftentimes hidden in wine. There’s no requirement on the label to disclose sugar and no one does.
And you can’t always taste it, not even as taste experts can we taste sugar in wine. Unless it’s super sweet. But if it contains moderate amounts of sugars … I try to live a sugar-free lifestyle, I’m ketogenic … even moderate amounts of sugar in wine, you can’t taste, because the acid levels are quite high. It has to contain a lot of sugar to actually taste it. The only way we know if it contains sugars is because it comes back positive in the lab test. So for all the wines that we taste and test — and they all have to have a certain criteria, a natural criteria for us even — only 30 percent of them will make it through our filter. We reject 70 percent of the wines that we taste and test. But anyway, that’s sort of how I got here.
And then I discovered that drinking natural wines, I no longer had these negative effects. All of us are different. So how wine is going to affect you and how additives are going to affect you or how alcohol is going to affect you, is going to be very different than how it affects me. And alcohol, just like any other drugs were there’s a neurological change … setting has a lot to do with also how alcohol affects us.
If we’re under an undue amount of stress, alcohol can affect us differently than if we’re just at a party.
Are we drinking alcohol to check out or to tap in?
We think about drinking natural wines as a way of tapping into love and into an elevated expression of creativity — and not drinking to check out. If you drink to avoid your misery in life, you’re checking out; you’re escaping reality. As opposed to tapping into an enhanced experience. So I think it’s important for people when they think about any kind of alcohol, to think about their relationship with alcohol. I would also tell you that most regular wine drinkers … which is why our product has become so popular … most recent wine drinkers think they drink too much. And they’d like to drink less. I’m talking about people who drink wine daily. Or any drinkers who drink daily. Most of them believe they drink too much and would benefit from drinking less. And in this case, we’re giving them a way to drink less without drinking less. They’re still having their wine experience without ingesting so much alcohol. The difference between 11 percent … generally the wines I drink are around 11, 11 1/2 percent … the difference between 11 percent and 15 percent is radical, in terms of how you feel.
Lauren: I would say, from my experience, it’s the 15 percent that I’ll get the hangover, and if it’s not natural, or biodynamic, or dry farmed in any way. This is the thing I’ve learned drinking your wines … when I first got sick, I found out that I couldn’t drink anymore, and I’ve always loved a nice glass of wine at the end of the day with my dinner. Or to sit with friends and share a meal and have wine with that meal. It’s part of that communal experience. Suddenly I had to remove it, because I every time I drank wine, I’m out for two days; I can’t get out of bed for two days.
Todd: It’s horrible.
Lauren: It’s absolutely horrible. And it’s not even that it’s necessarily a hangover. It’s just, these are the neurological effects and the physical effects that drinking that much sugar, that much alcohol, has on our bodies. And all of those additives if you’re not drinking a good wine, right?
Todd: Again, you can’t look at a wine bottle and know what’s in it. There’s no transparency there.
Lauren: Absolutely. And when I started drinking, it was great. I got in touch with you guys. I started drinking Dry Farm Wines at the recommendation of a fellow chronically ill person. And I was, like, oh my god, I can drink wine again! Now this is not to say that everyone should be drinking wine, because, as you say, everyone has a different relationship to alcohol and to drinking. But for me, it was an aspect of community that had been taken away, and suddenly I was allowed to have again. And that’s huge when you’re someone who’s struggling with losing parts of your community, and parts of how you identify yourself and your group of friends. We’ve got you to thank for bringing these wines to us! I was hoping you could also tell us a bit more about what these terms mean … what is dry farming, what does biodynamic mean? And organic wines versus the kinds of wines you might see in the supermarket. What distinguishes your wines, aside from the sugars and the alcohols and the lack of additives?
Todd: The term “natural wine”, which as I said can be confusing to consumers … the term “natural wine” has no certification. Dry Farm Wines has its own certification program. There’s no certification for natural wine, and there’s no legal definition for it in the United States or anywhere in the world. However, that being said, there is a generally understood definition of what a natural wine is. And for us, that means dry farmed. Irrigation is the first intervention into Mother Nature’s logic in farming. There’s no need to irrigate a grapevine, and there’s a whole lot of reasons why you shouldn’t do it. We can talk about that more later. So in our case, it’s dry farmed. It is either organic or biodynamically farmed.
Biodynamic farming is a prescriptive, advanced form of organic farming. It takes organic farming and prescribes additional practices and treatments that are all natural to the vines, including farming by lunar cycles.
So, farming by tide and by the moon. Certain practices like harvest during certain moon cycles, pruning during certain moon cycles. That is biodynamic farming. And then in addition to that, the third most important benchmark for a natural wine is that the juice is fermented with wild native yeast that is on the skin of every grape in the world.
Every wine grape has native indigenous yeast; they’re collected in the vineyard where the grape is grown. Commercial wines are not fermented with wild native yeast. That wild native yeast is killed by the winemaker, and then it is inoculated with genetically modified, commercially lab-grown yeast.
Now, there are three reasons why these commercial yeasts are used instead of the wild yeast. The wild yeast is quite temperamental. It requires a lot of coddling; you can’t make it in very high volumes. You can’t make a lot of wine using native yeast; it’s just too difficult. So these lab grown yeasts have been modified primarily in three different ways. They’ve been modified to withstand a high alcohol environment. Native yeast will not live in a high alcohol environment. And I’m going to come back to alcohol in a moment, about why that’s important. Number two, you can make high volumes of wine. This genetically modified lab grown yeast is very stable. So you can make wine in high volumes and easily; it’s very stable and easy to work with. And the third reason is that these yeasts can be modified to have certain flavor characteristics. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you grow a very terrible grape in Central California. And you have this industrially farmed, irrigated, very low-quality grape in a very low quality region. But you want it to taste like it’s an Italian wine from the Mediterranean? They have a yeast for that. So yeast can be modified to to present flavor profiles. But let me get back to the alcohol — before we go on any further. When you irrigate a grapevine, it might not surprise you … irrigation leads to higher sugars at the time of picking. Here’s why: When you dilute the flavor of a grape by filling it with water … why do you do this? Water causes the fruit to weigh more. Fruit is sold by the ton.
Irrigation is about greed and money. In the United States, 99.9 percent of all vineyards are irrigated. It’s the most irrigated place in the world for grape farming. In most of Europe, it’s against the law to irrigate a grapevine.
Lauren: Which is why so many people go to Europe and drink wine and have an okay time!
Todd: Exactly. We don’t use US wine. These are grown on very small family farms across Europe, and we have four growers in South Africa. Here’s the thing … when you fill a grape berry with water, it weighs more and it has a higher yield. So it’s worth more. But the problem is, it also dilutes the character and dilutes the flavor of the grape. Therefore, in order to develop proper flavor for harvest, the sugar levels have to rise. So the fruit has to get riper. The higher the sugar at the time of picking, the higher the corresponding alcohol will be in fermentation.
Because how wines are made is, the grape juice — which is teeming with sugar — is inoculated with yeast … in commercial wine, it’s inoculated with a lab-grown yeast … That yeast eats the sugar, and the byproduct of that is carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol. That’s how wine’s made.
Lauren: And that’s important for people to understand, because I’m sure people are hearing the word ‘yeast’, and are going: “Oh no, is there gluten in my wine?”
Todd: No, no, no! When the yeast eats the sugar, or is killed by the winemaker in the case of commercial wines — and because our wines are sugar-free, the yeast eats all of the available sugar; it is fully fermented and therefore it will be sugar-free. What happens with commercial winemakers very often is that they dump sulfur dioxide into the fermentation process, killing the yeast prematurely, leaving residual sugar behind. So that’s how sugar gets into wine. But back to the winemaking process for a moment … when I was talking about yeast eating the sugar, another thing that’s notable to know about winemaking is that if you squeeze the juice from a white wine grape and the juice from a red wine grape, the juice is clear from both. How red wine gets its color and its additional polyphenols and antioxidants is from contact with the skin and the seeds. That’s how red wine gets its color. White wine typically doesn’t have any skin contact; that’s the reason it’s clear, or basically clear. The color in red wine and also where it gets most of its polyphenols are from contact with the skin. So white wine … when we talk about the health aspects of polyphenols and flavonoids, ant-flavonoids and antioxidants … white wine has about 200 polyphenols, red wine over 800. So those are the additional ones, which is why you always hear that red wine is the healthier one. But red wine is also the wine that most women have the most amount of difficulty with. So there’s a lot of women you know that will say, “I can’t drink red wine, but I drink white wine.”
Lauren: I’m the opposite! It throws me off.
Todd: Oh, really? I’m the opposite, too. Conventional white wines very often contain sugar, which causes me to feel bad.
Sugar, in our estimation, is the most addictive, widely abused drug on the planet.
Todd: So we just try and stay clear of it. But conventional white wines are usually much higher in sugar than conventional red wines. Anyway, when you talk about polyphenols, the most famous one is resveratrol, which has been shown in mice to extend lifespan by about 30 percent. However, there’s never been any human evidence that this works for humans at all. The wine industry picked up on resveratrol, and made a marketing boon out of it. The fact of the matter is, it’s a bit of a red herring. The amount of resveratrol fed to these mice was such a high volume — that showed this life extension benefit which has never been proven in humans, and no way to prove it in humans because you can’t have a control group study for a human’s lifespan, drinking red wine or resveratrol. It’d be unethical. So we’re only taking it from the mice study, but the mice study … the concentration of resveratrol fed to these mice, you’d have to drink a swimming pool of red wine a week, in order to get this kind of concentration.
The fact that we’ve made a lot of ballyhoo over resveratrol … we don’t even know if it works in humans in the first place.
Second of all, you wouldn’t be able to drink enough red wine to get a high enough concentration as was shown in the mice. So when I tell people resveratrol may not work, you couldn’t drink enough wine to get the benefit from it in the first place … and I tell you that alcohol is a neurotoxin … people say, “I thought you were selling wine.” But you tell me all these things are not true. It’s like, “Well, I’m not trying to sell you wine. I’m trying to educate you. If you’re going to drink wine, or if you’re going to drink alcohol, you should think about your relationship with alcohol. You think about the amount of alcohol that you’re drinking, and then you should think about the type of wines you’re drinking, if wine is your choice.”
Lauren: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more.
Todd: So that’s what I want you to think about. Not that I’m trying to sell you wine or to tell you that alcohol is a great thing. Alcohol in moderate doses has been shown to improve the life of people. And we also know that alcohol, no matter its form, moderate doses of alcohol had been beneficial to both cardiovascular and neurological health. And moderate drinkers have been shown to live longer. These are all facts. But that’s moderate. In the keto and the Paleo movement — which I’m both active in, and we’re known as the keto wine and the Paleo wine all over the United States, and we’re endorsed by virtually every Paleo and keto authority, and thousands of doctors and health authorities — the choice that’s often recommended, particularly in the Paleo movement, is tequila. Because it comes from a plant, it’s clean and distilled — both of those things I agree with. It’s probably organically farmed. I agree with that. The problem is, it’s 45 percent alcohol.
Lauren: Yeah. I can’t drink tequila. I get sick drinking it.
Todd: Right. So that’s where the train comes off the track for me.
Alcohol is a very destructive drug. There’s a couple of problems with alcohol. In addition to its neurotoxicity, and its potential contribution to neurological degeneration like Alzheimer’s or dementia. We know that people who abuse alcohol … very common in dementia or Alzheimer’s; we don’t know that’s the cause of Alzheimer’s, but we believe that this neurological damage is a slippery slope to contribute to neurological degeneration.
So that being said, alcohol in wines has been steadily increasing over the last 30 years, because the wine industry loves alcohol. They love alcohol, because alcohol is addictive.
Let’s be perfectly clear. It’s an addictive drug.
The other reason that they love it, is it’s what I call a domino drug. What that means is, the more alcohol you drink, the more likely you are to drink more. And so it’s a domino drug in this way. The higher the alcohol … the more you’re likely to drink, the more they’re likely to sell wine.
Lauren: And that’s all they’re concerned about: how much they’re selling, and the profits.
Todd: Right. Again, I’m not here to sell wine. I’m here to help people think about their relationship with alcohol. If they think about that, then that’s the most beneficial thing I could do. Now, if they want to drink wines, they should drink our wines! That’s going to be the healthiest, cleanest choice that they can get — lab tested, quantified; we’re biohackers and, as you can see, we’re fanatics!
Lauren: But in a good way!
Todd: Yeah. So if you’re going to choose to drink wine, we believe you should drink our wine because it’s the healthiest. But I’m not here selling wine; I’m here selling education. Make your choices about what you want to do. Second of all, if you decide that you don’t want to buy wine from us, which is fine, then you should at least drink natural wines. And as we were talking about before the show started … as you know, in key markets … not many places in the US, and we have customers all over the United States from places like Wichita, Kansas, or North Dakota or Iowa, where natural wines are simply not available. They’re just not available. There are only a few places in the United States where you can find a decent amount of natural wine. Because natural wine is a very small category. So, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Dallas. If you’re in a large metropolitan marketplace, you’re likely to find from a good selection of natural wine outlets to a scattered selection. New York is the biggest natural wine market in the United States. That’s followed by San Francisco and Los Angeles, which are probably about tied. There’s a Smartphone app called Raisin; it’s a free app that identifies natural wine retailers, restaurants, and bars. In your neighborhood, Gjelina or MTN; in Venice, on Abbot Kinney. They have a large natural wine selection on their list. Now what you’re not getting when you’re buying just natural wine … you’re not getting lab-tested quantification; not all natural wines are sugar-free, not all natural wines are low on alcohol. So when you buy wine from us, then you’re getting lab tested, you’re getting these quantifications; we don’t sell any wines over 12-and-a-half percent and as low as 6 percent. So, just buying a natural wine gets you free of all the additives and the manipulations and the sulfur dioxide, but it doesn’t get you free of higher alcohol, or necessarily sugar, and no lab testing. We just take natural wine and move the bar up.
Lauren: Absolutely. And you create these rolling subscriptions so that people can make sure that they’re keeping their wine stocked regularly, which is very convenient. I was actually wondering … one thing we didn’t talk about was, you mentioned that you were on the Atkins diet in the ‘80s and obviously you’re ketogenic now. Was there a health reason? Aside from the neurological benefits and general physical benefits, was there another health reason behind those changes in lifestyle for you?
Todd: No, I’ve been blessed with great health my entire life. I’m an athlete and I’ve just been very lucky in that regard. But in the ‘80s and ‘90s, it was vanity! I was just trying to stay in shape — not for particular health reasons, but probably just more vanity issues. Now, because I’m much older — I’m almost 60 — I’ve taken a very proactive approach to longevity and wellness, and particularly health span.
I’m not as concerned with life span as I am with health spam. And so, even for people who are challenged with health issues, I think they should be focused on mediating their health span.
I don’t think a lot about longevity, per se; I use that word because I expect to live a long life. But I don’t think as much about longevity as I think about health span, and how to extend and improve my wellness. And so that’s kind of how I think about that.
Lauren: Which is how so many of us in the chronic illness community, we suddenly get plugged into our illness. But it takes getting sick to do it. If we can improve our access to wellness, then we’ll do a lot of things, including drinking natural wines! So we talked a lot about how the FDA and the TTB are not helping consumers. Are there any ways in which these boards are helping consumers at all, when it comes to the wine market?
Todd: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think they’re of any assistance at all. I don’t see them of great assistance. You talk about the FDA … we could have a whole show on the FDA! All of these agencies are under the thumb of politicians, who are under the thumb of lobbyists, and special interest and corporate spending.
Lauren: So how do we change it?
Todd: Well, we can start voting, first of all. The fact of the matter is, nice people often don’t vote; they just don’t want to be bothered with the whole process. So clearly, we can change anything and everything by electing different people who will change laws that keep this nepotism and this relationship that politicians have with lobbyists and with Washington and special interests …
So, voting is the only way we can make a change. The system is so ingrained now that the only way to change is to simply elect different people with the ideals that reflect what we believe in.
But if we don’t go out and vote, and most people don’t, then the same people are going to keep making the same elected decisions, which is what’s happening now. When you think about the FDA, the FDA causes as much harm as good in this respect. They do nothing good for wine. But the approval of medical devices and processes, many of these things are held up for years. And these patents on existing pharmaceuticals and so on. The list goes on and on and on to enrich the cause of special interest. They certainly don’t do anything positive for wine at all!
Lauren: No, it’s very interesting, and I think it comes up a lot in the discussions that we have on the show because all of these regulations that exist for food and drink affect the medical industry, particularly through pharmaceuticals. As you’re saying, the way to change it is to start participating in politics and trying to oust these special interest groups and people who will continue to feed their wallets. So it’s great that there’s a company out there like yours that’s independent of these interests, where we can access these products that are more helpful for us, in moderation. If someone is chronically ill, drinking wines that Dry Farm Wines selects may make wine drinking a little more possible for us. Do you have any tips for people who are looking at these different lifestyle changes, and how to sustain these changes — particularly with regard to wine and selecting the right kinds of wines?
Todd: I can’t really offer a lot because, unfortunately, there’s not much transparency. But generally, selecting lower alcohol wines. And if you live in a place like you do in Los Angeles, in the Venice area, you can get access to legitimate natural wine retailers. There’s probably five in the Los Angeles area that sell lucidly natural wines. At that point, it’s fairly safe if you deal with a natural wine retailer, if that’s all they do … there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to be drinking legitimate natural wines. Now, let me talk about organic wine for a moment, because I get asked this question: What about organic wines I see in Whole Foods?
Just because a wine is “organic” does not mean that it’s natural. It does not mean that it’s additive-free.
Or even a wine that is biodynamic does not mean that it’s natural, or that it’s additive-free; it just means how it was farmed. Now, is that better than drinking traditional conventionally farmed? Sure. Is it natural, additive-free, sugar-free? Not necessarily; very often not. Particularly a wine that you might see in a place like Whole Foods. There’s a biodynamic winery that’s quite well known in California that does a lot of national advertising. They advertise that they’re biodynamic, and they’re sold in Whole Foods. Well, here’s the thing with that …
… if you make enough wine to supply Whole Foods, or you make enough wine to run a national ad campaign, I assure you: you are not additive-free, and you are certainly not natural. Because you can’t make wine in those quantities without the use of these additives and manipulations. Be very careful about that. Just because it’s organic or biodynamic does not mean it’s natural.
Lauren: That’s really good advice. I think it’s really that we need to be looking for all of the standards to which you hold your wine producers, which are that you’re independently lab testing them. Do you want to tell us all of the different things … it’s sugar-free, low alcohol, keto friendly, Paleo friendly, gluten-free, the list goes on and on. But it’s just fantastic to be able to reclaim this part of of community for those of us who have been away from it for so long!
Todd: This is a big topic. The way commercial wines are produced and their maceration periods … this is why red wine is very commonly not friendly to me and to many people, particularly women, as is white wine – because maceration is the process … that’s what it’s called when you soak the skins and the juice. Conventional winemakers have very long maceration periods for two reasons. It creates more in the wine, and it also makes the wine darker.
Americans believe the darker a red wine is, the higher the quality. Now, there’s no truth to that; that is a commonly held myth.
That being said, these maceration periods lead to really elevated levels of biogenetic amines, like tyramine and histamine. And this is another thing that causes people to feel bad; it’s very common for women to feel bad from tyramine and histamine. These levels are also elevated in commercial wines. You don’t see this in natural wines, because the maceration periods are much shorter. Because there’s no objective to make the wine darker or bolder. In fact, the objective is to make the wine natural and elegant and clean and simple. To make it darker, richer, bigger, bolder is the commercial winemaker’s objective. So you do have these biogenetic amines at much lower levels in natural wine, as well.
Lauren: That’s really good to know, as well. And if anyone wants to find Dry Farm Wines, to find out more about wine education and perhaps order some bottles from you, where would they find you, Todd?
Todd: Just DryFarmWines.com. We’re @DryFarmWines on all social media.
Lauren: Fantastic. Well, Todd, it has been an absolute pleasure to chat with you today. I’m so excited to introduce Dry Farm Wines to so many of our compatriots here in the chronic illness community, and it’s just been a pleasure to meet you — and thank you for giving us wine we can drink!
Todd: Nice! Thanks for having me here today.
Lauren: It’s been an absolute pleasure.