A wand that fil­ters wine

Prone to wine hang­overs? Texas startup says its wand can help.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste - By TRACY M. COOK

DAVID Mead­ows tries all kinds of wines. He typ­i­cally drinks one or two glasses a day, usu­ally with his evening meal. He jokes that his wine col­lec­tion is now part of his lab sup­plies, an “R&D ex­pense” of sorts for his Grapevine startup.

Mead­ows is CEO and co-founder of PureWine, the com­pany be­hind a wand­shaped fil­ter that re­moves his­tamines and sul­fites from wine. His team says th­ese in­gre­di­ents can cause un­favourable re­ac­tions for some peo­ple, such as headaches and other hang­over-like symp­toms.

About 10 years ago, Mead­ows gave up drink­ing wine be­cause of what he called in­con­sis­tent side ef­fects – headaches, nasal con­ges­tion and some­times los­ing his voice.

“I knew it wasn’t the al­co­hol be­cause some­times it would just hap­pen with just half a glass of wine,” he said. “It wasn’t the amount. I knew it wasn’t over-con­sump­tion.”

He wasn’t alone. PureWine’s re­search says up to 75% of adult con­sumers may ex­pe­ri­ence headaches, flushed skin or nasal con­ges­tion af­ter drink­ing wine.

“I just said, ‘Man, this is not worth it.’ Feel­ing bad the next day is not worth it,” Mead­ows said.

So he gave it up. But about five years ago, he and his son Derek started think­ing about a way to re­duce or elim­i­nate the sul­fite preser­va­tives pro­duced dur­ing the fer­men­ta­tion process.

Their goal was to de­velop a sys­tem to de­liver what they called “pure wine.” And af­ter about a year of re­search, they felt they’d cracked the code.

Brita fil­ter for wine

Their first pro­to­type was a teabag-like pouch filled with resin to ab­sorb the com­pounds in a process sim­i­lar to wa­ter pu­rifi­ca­tion. They took that to Health Wild­cat­ters, a Dal­las-based health care startup ac­cel­er­a­tor, in sum­mer 2014.

By the next sum­mer, they’d raised US$400,000 (RM1.68mil) and de­vel­oped a wand con­cept that had a fil­ter to ab­sorb the chem­i­cal com­pounds when it made con­tact with them in the drink.

“We ba­si­cally are a Brita fil­ter for wine,” Mead­ows said of his com­pany. “We re­move those in­gre­di­ents that don’t need to be in that wine.”

Stir­ring and soak­ing the plas­tic wand in wine for four min­utes re­moves two-thirds of the his­tamines and sul­fites, ac­cord­ing to PureWine.

Mead­ows said he con­sid­ers PureWine a tech­nol­ogy com­pany, not a prod­uct com­pany, be­cause the plat­form crosses mul­ti­ple bev­er­ages, in­clud­ing cham­pagne and beer.

The com­pany launched sales of its wand on­line in Septem­ber, and re­tail stores started pick­ing up the prod­uct in De­cem­ber. A pack of three wands re­tails for US$9.99 (RM42), an eight-pack for US$19.99 (RM84) and a 24-pack for US$54.99 (RM230). Sell­ers in­clude To­tal Wine and More, H-E-B Gro­cery, Spec’s Liquors and var­i­ous in­de­pen­dent bou­tiques.

In March, PureWine’s wand was added to on­line gi­ant Ama­zon.com.

In May, Mead­ows filed a form with the Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion in­di­cat­ing that he and his team are look­ing to raise US$3 mil­lion (RM12.6mil).

Now they’ve de­vel­oped a plas­tic one-bot­tle-use spout that Mead­ows said will launch in Septem­ber. It fits in the bot­tle like a cork and fil­ters wine be­fore it’s poured into a glass. The fil­tra­tion process takes about 10 sec­onds from when the wine is poured to when it hits the glass.

Jeryn Laen­grich was one of PureWine’s earlystage wand testers. Her em­ployer, Car­iloop, had been part of the Health Wild­cat­ters pro­gramme the pre­vi­ous year, and her boss had met Mead­ows dur­ing a men­tor­ing ses­sion there.

She said she was ea­ger to try the prod­uct be­cause of side ef­fects she had ex­pe­ri­enced from drink­ing red wine, and she hated hav­ing to di­lute it with sparkling wa­ter.

“If I drank more than half a glass of red wine, I would get a hor­ri­ble mi­graine right over my eyes, and then I would get con­gested,” Laen­grich said. Her si­nuses would clog up, and if she lay down, it would get worse as the night went on.

She said the wand elim­i­nated those prob­lems with­out changing her drink’s flavour.

“I was able to drink two glasses of red wine and not de­velop a headache, which I hadn’t been able to do in a long time, if ever,” she said.

Skep­ti­cism

Not ev­ery­one is sold on the wand’s pow­ers. Matthew Feld­man, a pri­vate-prac­tice al­ler­gist at the Dal­las Al­lergy and Asthma Cen­ter, said more pub­lic sci­en­tific re­search would be re­quired to val­i­date the com­pany’s on­line claims, in­clud­ing that its prod­uct pre­vents “wine al­ler­gies by se­lec­tively tar­get­ing” his­tamines and sul­fites. “What they’re claim­ing is that some of the side ef­fects and in­tol­er­ances to wine may be im­proved by re­mov­ing his­tamines and sul­fites, but that’s tech­ni­cally not an al­lergy,” Feld­man said.

In al­ler­gic re­ac­tions to wine, the body’s im­mune sys­tem is re­spond­ing to lipid-trans­fer pro­teins, said Feld­man, who is cer­ti­fied by the Amer­i­can Board of Al­lergy and Im­munol­ogy. He said re­mov­ing his­tamines and sul­fites would not pre­vent an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion be­cause those com­pounds are not what cause it.

“There’s not enough data to say that what they’re claim­ing to re­move is re­lated to those symp­toms, and even if they are, there’s a lot of other stuff in wine that could cause those symp­toms,” Feld­man said. “If they think they’re im­prov­ing in­tol­er­ance symp­toms, it would be help­ful to have peer-re­viewed data.”

Mead­ows said that his prod­uct is in­tended to help peo­ple who may have an in­tol­er­ance or sen­si­tiv­ity to wine, and that his com­pany uses “al­lergy” or “pseudo-al­lergy” to com­mu­ni­cate with con­sumers.

PureWine’s test stud­ies are not pub­licly avail­able, though Mead­ows said he and his son are look­ing to have them pub­lished in a peer-re­viewed jour­nal later this year.

Mead­ows of PureWine demon­strat­ing The Wand, a prod­uct he and his team de­vel­oped that fil­ters out sul­fite preser­va­tives and his­tamines that cause headaches for wine drinkers. — Pho­tos: TNS

Dif­fer­ent phases of The Wand, de­scribed as ‘ba­si­cally a Brita fil­ter for wine’.

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