“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





08 July 2009



Expat Sethefrikens Plot End To Hangovers No More Morning Sickness Adelaide Lass Finds Dream Spirits

On the face of it, it looked like Quack Week. The titterers and tweeters buzzed afresh with the claims of Dr. Hennie van Vuuren, of the University of British Columbia's Wine Research Center, who spent sixteen years working out how to genetically modify yeast to make a wine which is less likely to cause hangovers. The trick yeast produces fewer biogenic amines. These, as Professor Sakkie Pretorius, of our brilliant Wine Research Institute explains, “can lead to headaches and other symptoms in sensitive people”.

Until now, wine yeast has been happy converting sugar to alcohol. In reds, and some whites, like chardonnay, winemakers then use specific bacteria to undertake a secondary, malolactic ferment, in which these microbes convert the harsh, metallic, but natural malic acid of grapes to the softer, creamier lactic acid of milk. Biogenic amines are sometimes a side product of this conversion.

“I know these researchers and their research quite well”, Prof Pretorius told me. “ Their science is solid: they created two genetically-modified yeast strains that have been cleared for commercial use in the USA, Canada and Moldova. This particular GM Saccharomyces cerevisiae wine yeast (ML01) contains bacterial and non-Saccharomyces genes that enable it to convert malic acid into lactic acid. By using this malolactic yeast, winemakers don’t have to rely on malolactic bacteria to conduct the malolactic fermentation.

“From a winemaker’s point of view, the fermentation process is a lot more streamlined and reliable because the alcoholic and malolactic fermentations are executed by a single organism,” he continued. “But the critics of these consumer-benefits claims argue that winemakers can achieve the same thing (i.e. avoidance of biogenic amines) by using malolactic bacterial strains that do not produce bioamines”, the Professor explained.

“The people who commercialised this yeast claim that by using it, winemakers can avoid the use of bacteria and by doing so, their wine will be less likely to cause hangover-type reactions in some sensitive wine drinkers.”

Because North American wineries are not obliged to declare the inclusion of a GM product on the wine labels, it’s difficult to discover how many winemakers there are using the new GM yeast.

“It’s a very different story in the EU and Australia,” Prof Pretorius said. “The official position of the Australian wine industry is that no GM organism be used in commercial winemaking until there is broad acceptance of such practices in the global market place. Needless to say, it is likely to take quite a while (and a bit longer!) before the majority of consumers will embrace GM foods and beverages - even if they are willing to inject themselves with GM insulin and vaccines et cetera.”

Pity our dear friends at Constellation don’t understand the advantages of such crisp intellectual clarity. These vandals who are intent on butchering their conservationist image – Banrock et al - by replacing John Reynell’s 161 year old vineyard at Old Reynella with more Tupperware Tuscany, are also in the poo with the US Federal Trade Commission. While Constellation hadn’t tried the product on Australians – alcopops are heavily fraught here lately - it had been flogging a kiddylikker, Wide Eye Schnapps, in the States, promising that “consumers who drink Wide Eye will remain alert when consuming alcohol.” This is, no doubt, because of its high caffeine content: the one schlück delivers the sort of confusing mixture of depressive alcohol and stimulating caffeine that our bottle-scarred warriors ingest when they sink a few Red Bulls with vodka.

Constellation has had to agree with the Federal Trade Commission ’s ruling that their marketing “was deceptive, unsubstantiated, and in violation of federal law ... Constellation fuelled the misperception that mixing alcohol and caffeine helps people stay alert,” said Eileen Harrington, of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The truth is that alcohol and caffeine could be a dangerous mix, and a claim like that can have very serious consequences. There is no credible scientific evidence to support the claim that consumers who drink Wide Eye will remain alert.”

After wasting a scrillion on this deception, Constellation has dumped Wide Eye and retreated hurt.

Which I can’t say for Louise Radman, under whose byline The Adelaide Magazine reports the discovery of a suite of powerful drinks that seem likely to fix everything. “High spirits” was the head. Below welled this murky nonsense:

“The Australia distillers of Vodka O have released a new range of chemical-free spirits. Their gin, tequila, white rum, dark rum and Scotch have been zapped of all the nasties that they say cause hangovers.”

So what the precious name of Bacchus is this booze made from? No substances produced by or used in a chemical process (them’s chemicals)? No H2O (that’s water)? No C2H5OH? (this powerful inflammable stuff, sometimes called ethanol, or alcohol, is a dangerous psychoactive dehydrating depressive drug which looks pretty much like a chemical to me). Jeez, Louise! Where’s Australia’s Federal Trade Commission?


cheers Louise said...

Hey Whitey,
love your blog! Just thought i'd let you know I don't write everything on the dine page, do suffer from the odd hangover though - wouldn't it be nice?

Anonymous said...


Grant said...

Another excellent piece Phillip. We need to keep the blow torch on these heritage vandals, but we also need to make sure that the "can't do council" aka Onkaparinga and the Queensland based property developers, Devine Homes, are also kept under the spotlight. Not to mention Peter Bell, a South Australian historian who says that John Reynell's role in the wine industry was exagerated. I wonder what his views are on your mentors. I guess it depends on who is commissioning his services.

Rupert's Baby Boy said...

Louise, if they're printing crap like that with your name on it, you should be livid!