By Adam Roberts
While it is not quite transforming water into wine, a Nelson business is working miracles for people suffering from sulphite allergies.
Husband and wife Miles and Christina Clifford have released a wine additive, UBfree, they say will eliminate free sulphites in wine, allowing those with an allergy to have a glass of wine without ill-effects.
The idea came two years ago, when Ms Clifford, a former teacher-aide, was diagnosed with a sulphite allergy. Sulphites are used as a preservative in wine.
“Every time I had a glass of wine I would get headaches and nasal congestion a few hours after consumption. We entertain a lot and we love our wine.”
No existing products worked, so the couple decided to team up with food scientist Grant MacDonald to create their own.
The resulting product, which has a patent pending, eliminates most of the free sulphites in wine, and introduces a mineral to help the body process those that remained.
UBfree comes in either a dropper bottle – drops from which can neutralize a glass of wine – or a sachet, which can be added to neutralize a bottle of wine.
They began selling the product about three weeks ago, and sales have been steadily increasing since then.
Mr Clifford, a business mentor, said the additive would not damage the flavour of wine.
“If anything it will enhance it,” he said.
The couple had asked an oenologist to examine the wine, and the woman was amazed, saying the additive had taken a young wine and made it seem like one that had been cellared.
“It’s taken a 2011 to 2012, rough as guts from the supermarket, you have turned it into a cellared bottle.”
Mr Clifford said while he did not have a sulphite allergy, he now used the additive when he drank red wine.
“I prefer smoother wine, I love the flavor of a cabernet sauvignon, but not the roughness that comes with it.”
The additive is processed in Canterbury, distributed from Nelson, and is sold online and in wine shops.
MacDonald said some people were allergic to sulphites and other people more sensitive as they aged.
Sulphites were used to make the wine more stable for storage, but while most were “fixed” into compounds within the wine, a portion were not absorbed, and it was these “free sulphites” that caused the allergic reactions, he said.
With age, the enzymes in the body that broke down sulphites needed particular minerals to perform as well, and these were included in the product, he said.
There has been patents for products that eliminated sulphites, but they had too much of an effect on the taste of the wine, he said.