When Wine Can Kill You... Literally.

There are a few things in life that make me shudder: sharks (never seen one in person, hope never to), any kind of bug in proximity to my bed (the rest of the house -- no big deal), and Velcorin.

For those who don't know what Velcorin is, it's Dimethyldicarbonate, which is a chemical that's added to some wines and many of the fruit juices out there on the market. It sterilizes wines and you can still label them as unfiltered. Even though it's very dangerous in its original form, it breaks down into Co2 and methanol within about 24 hours.

There have been several articles about this substance in the wine world. After all, it's been approved here since 1988. However, today's announcement that Velcorin can now be deployed at all stages of wine production in all wines in the European Union just reminded me of how creepy I find this product.

1. Velcorin is dosed into wines by men wearing hazmat suits and an array of other safety equipment.
2. It can be very dangerous in its original form and absorbed through skin, eyes AND fumes, causing everything from irritation to collapse, coma and death. Yes, death. (See the MSDS for more info.)
3. It's colorless and "The odor of Velcorin is not strong enough or immediately irritating enough to act as a warning that one is being exposed." Makes you all warm and fuzzy, right?
4. If you drink a wine within 24 hours of when it was dosed with Velcorin, it can kill you. This is the safety warning from one service provider: "Velcorin is a potentially dangerous chemical which can be moderately toxic if ingested within 24 hours after application. Do not ingest wine or juice products during this time

It is expensive, and I'm sure that there are other winemakers like me that find it downright frightening, no matter what it breaks up into, so don't assume every wine is dosed with it. However, the idea that my favorite fruit juice or unfiltered wine had this added to it still gives me the heebie-jeebies. And because of that, you can be sure we'll never use it at Foursight. We just keep a clean cellar with clean wines, then opt not to filter them.

I keep trying to come up with other situations where you can drink a wine (albeit in a limited time frame), and it can kill you, but I can't. If you know of one, please let me know. I'll add it to my heebie-jeebies list. :)


Tim Kearns said…
I completely agree with the comments re velcorin, in Europe it is used on a massive scale in the soft drink & juice industry with many products not declaring it's use and a blind eye turned by many people in responsible positions.

I hope & would like to help see the situation and public awareness increase.
Dan said…
Unfortunately, so can wine without a good preservative among most things in life.
Todd Anderson said…
Water can kill you also if not used properly. Maybe a little more investigation into the chemicals breakdown is in order.
To address Dan's comment: wine goes to vinegar, and typically nothing more dangerous than that. It would certainly suck to drink it and you'd have a great tummyache, but it wouldn't be lethal.

For Todd: I direct your attention to the MSDS (material safety data sheet) link in my post. I have done the research and I do know that Velcorin breaks down into harmless compounds after a certain amount of time. However, until it does, it can be lethal. Just scroll to the second page of the MSDS and you'll see "collapse, coma, and possibly death" stated right there.

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