A Little Aluminium With Your Glass of Wine Sir?
Changing habits brings added problems
I enjoy a glass of wine. I have an amateur’s interest in wine. Hence my decades long subscription to Decanter magazine. I am resigned to the fact that wine is not free of contamination by aluminium. The ‘contamination’ might be natural in that it originates from the soil (the terroir as wine aficionados like to say) or adventitious through the many processes involved in making wine. I rely upon my daily dose of a silicon rich mineral water to help to protect me from such contamination.
However, I am increasingly concerned by the burgeoning trend to knowingly contaminate my favourite tipple with aluminium. I began writing my letters to the editor of Decanter (disgruntled of Stoke-on-Trent) upon the advent of screw caps many years ago. Much as the traditionalist in me despised the use of such a closure upon a bottle of fine wine the clear fact that screw caps would contaminate (further) the wine with aluminium was difficult to swallow. Yes, I explained to the editor that the plastic disc between the wine and the aluminium metal of the screw cap was not flawless technology and that in time it is inevitable that wine will contact aluminium metal and promote its dissolution (corrosion). Remarkably the editor printed my advice that wine bottles with screw caps should be stored upright. After all the reason wine is usually stored horizontally is to prevent the natural cork from drying out.
Screw caps are now ubiquitous and we have accepted their undeniable consequences for aluminium health. However, an article in the November 2022 issue of Decanter has spurred a new letter to the new editor. I am copying that letter below.
Similar to a poor wine, Decanter and the editorial team exhibit little or no balance in the recent article on wine packaging. In a table highlighting pros and cons of different packaging no reference is made to their potential health impacts. More than half of the options listed use aluminium-based packaging. For good reason since aluminium is required to reduce the ingress of oxygen (nothing to do with light as mentioned by the author) and hence allow a wine to age successfully beyond the several months that would be possible, for example, with the 'paper bottle'. The downside is that all aluminium-based packaging from screw caps to aluminium cans and long life cartons contaminate the product with aluminium. This is unequivocal and has been demonstrated and published in peer-reviewed journals over several decades now. It is not new knowledge and it has never been challenged by manufacturers of such packaging in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.
I have written to Decanter on this subject several times over the last few decades. Occasionally edited versions of my letters have been published including recently when the editor solicited further views on this subject from the readership. The latter resulted in one letter being published supporting my position. It is irrefutable that regular drinking of wine contaminated with aluminium, for example, through packaging, will add to the body burden of aluminium. For example, you will increase the aluminium content of your brain tissue. Your readership deserves to know this when Decanter is going out of its way to promote aluminium-based packaging for wine. In a recent editorial on summer drinking you were happy to say that 'Decanter loves wine in aluminium cans'. I am not sure why you have taken this stance but in doing so you are obliged to show some balance and to point out the potential health effects from drinking wine stored in such a way.
I love wine and I love my monthly copy of Decanter, I just wish that some balance would be shown in promoting these alternative forms of packaging.
My best wishes
I think I have been somewhat reserved in my comments, do you agree? No mention of Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions caused by a high body burden of aluminium. The article in Decanter is behind a paywall and as such there is little point in me providing a link herein. However, take it from me if you are not able to read it yourself. It is not journalism, it is a promotional feature and it would not surprise me to find out that it is supported by the aluminium industry. The trend towards alternative packaging formats for fine wines is sold as the wine industry’s concession to sustainability. We are expected to believe that the aluminium used in packaging such as bag-in-box, cans, pouches and long-life cartons (Tetra Pak) is better for the environment than glass. I will not debate this here but you can read more on this in a paper I wrote several years ago. Similarly, the information on how aluminium-based packaging contaminates stored product can be obtained through my recent book. Did I mention in previous substacks that I have written a book? Today I am writing about wine, something that is important to me, but you will have guessed that these forms of aluminium-based packaging are ubiquitous and a part of everyday life. I manage to avoid using product stored in such ways and I will not be buying my wine in a box or can. You may be able to do the same and if you just cannot say no to that merlot in a can then don’t forget your daily dose of a silicon-rich mineral water.