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'Very High Levels of Arsenic' Found in California Wines Sparks Lawsuit

The cheaper the wine, the more arsenic it contained

Photo by ceasol.
Photo by ceasol.
By Ben Tufft
Californian winemakers are facing a lawsuit after “very high levels of arsenic” were found in hundreds of bottles of well-known wines.

More than 1,300 bottles were independently tested and almost a quarter had higher levels of arsenic than would be permitted in water, the only liquid covered by US regulations.

Some were five times higher than the limit.

Arsenic is found naturally in the air, water and soil, but is highly toxic and, even in small quantities, can be deadly over time.

  • Almaden, Heritage White Zinfandel, Heritage Moscato, Heritage Chardonnay, Mountain Burgundy, Mountain Rhine & Mountain Chablis
  • Arrow Creek: Coastal Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Bandit: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay & Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Bay Bridge: Chardonnay
  • Beringer: White Merlot, White Zinfandel, Red Moscato & Refreshingly Sweet Moscato
  • Charles Shaw: White Zinfandel
  • Colores Del Sol: Malbec
  • Glen Ellen by Concannon: Glen Ellen Reserve Pinot Grigio & Glen Ellen Reserve Merlot
  • Concannon: Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir
  • Cook's: Spumante
  • Corbett Canyon: Pinot Grigio & Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cupcake: Malbec
  • Fetzer: Moscato & Pinot Grigio
  • Fisheye: Pinot Grigio
  • FlipFlop: Pinot Grigio, Moscato & Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Foxhorn: White Zinfandel
  • Franzia: Vintner Select White Grenache, Vintner Select White Zinfandel, Vintner Select White Merlot & Vintner Select Burgundy
  • Hawkstone: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Hrm Rex Goliath: Moscato
  • Korbel: Sweet Rose Sparkling Wine & Extra Dry Sparkling Wine
  • Menage a Trois:  Pinot Grigio, Moscato, White Blend, Chardonnay, Rose, Cabernet Sauvignon & California Red Wine
  • Mogen David: Concord & Blackberry Wine
  • Oak Leaf: White Zinfandel
  • Pomelo: Sauvignon Blanc
  • R Collection by Raymond: Chardonnay
  • Richards Wild Irish Rose: Red Wine
  • Seaglass: Sauvignon Blanc
  • Simply Naked: Moscato
  • Smoking Loon: Viognier
  • Sutter Home: Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pink Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Chenin Blanc, Sweet Red, Riesling, White Merlot, Merlot, White Zinfandel & Zinfandel
  • Trapiche: Malbec
  • Tribuno: Sweet Vermouth
  • Vendange: Merlot & White Zinfandel
  • Wine Cube: Moscato, Pink Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Red Sangria, Sauvignon Blanc & Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz

Kevin Hicks, who established a Denver laboratory that analyses wine, said he found “some very, very high levels of arsenic” in the bottles he tested.

He also discovered there was a relationship between the price of the wine and the levels of arsenic.

“The lower the price of wine on a per-litre basis, the higher the amount of arsenic,” he told CBS News.

The lawsuit is being brought against 28 wineries in California and the wines named are mainly White Zinfandel, Moscato, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.

Popular brands affected include Beringer, Sutter Home and Treasury Wine Estates.

The vast majority of the wines concerned retail for $10 or less and more expensive wines are not thought to be affected.

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