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Additives In Wine You Never Knew Existed

BOSTON (CBS) -- Pressing grapes is only the first step in the long wine-making process.

"It's a fairly complex science, in order to make great wine," says Frank Zoll, owner of Zoll Cellars, a small one-man wine-making operation in Shrewsbury.

But most of the wine we buy is now being mass produced.

"The perception is you're drinking fermented grape juice and the reality is that's not exactly the truth," said Chris Null.

Null investigated how wine is being made for Wired Magazine and found more than 200 different compounds can be added to wine.

"When you drink a glass of wine, especially relatively inexpensive wine, you're drinking a huge array of compounds and chemicals you have no idea are present in the wine," said Null.

Sugar, water, and yeast are classic components that are added to wine. But some mass produced wines also include mega purple to enhance the color, tannins and oak extract to improve the flavor, gelatin for texture, and the eyebrow-raising additive velocorin, an additive designed to kill any kind of bacteria in the wine.

"That sounds maybe good, but it's so dangerous it has to be handled with special training," explained Null.

These ingredients are all perfectly legal, but don't need to be listed on the label. Null would like to see that changed.

"I want to know what I'm eating and I definitely want to know what I'm drinking too. Labels should be required on wine the same way they are with any food," he said.

Zoll offers plenty of reassurance to wine lovers worried about their favorite vintage.

"We are fairly well regulated to tell you the truth," he said.

Some additives, like sulfites, are needed to make sure the wine will last.

"You'll wind up with vinegar in 5 years. And you can't really sell 5-year-old vinegar the same way you can sell 5-year-old wine," Zoll says.

Some winemakers do list all of their ingredients on their websites, but this type of transparency is not required. Trying an organic wine may be the best way to reduce the number of additives.

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