Sulfites in wine - Printable Version

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- sfitts - 02-26-1999 01:49 PM

Hello - My question is a rather simple one. Why are sulfites used in wine making? and are there any red wines made with out them? The only reason I'm asking this question is because I'm allergic to sulfites, but I love wine, and I was wondering well if there are any wines made without sulfites I will just drink try those brands.

- Thomas - 02-26-1999 03:25 PM

The reason for sulfite use is so that wine does not oxidize during winemaking and storage. Any winemaker using it for another purpose is suspect. It truly takes little sulfite additions to do the job (range of about 20 to 40 parts per million in its unbound form, depending on ph, acid, etc.) Reds usually contain less than whites.

The levels in wine are so low that allergic reactions are not common (except for dessert wines). If you find you sneeze or get clogged up or get headaches when you drink red wine, it may not be the fault of sulfites -- could be histamine build-up from other chemical reactions to red wine components or to the wood in which it was aged or even molds.

Difficult problem to determine which gives the headache, but as I said the levels of sulfites are so low you have to be super allergic for it to give you a reaction, and if you are, sorry to say you aren't going to find many wines to suit your need. Some, but ever so few, wines on the market claim to be made without sulfites, and the ones I have tasted that claim no sulfites I did not like.

- Jerry D Mead - 02-26-1999 08:49 PM

No wine is sulfite free...sulfite is a by-product of any product that involves fermentation contains some beer, bread, soy sauce, etc.

A doctor friend of mine says he never encountered in all his years of practice, someone truly allergic to the sulfites in wine. He suspects the histamines as well.

Another reason your reaction is probably not to sulfite is that you inquired about RED wine, which most people do, because that's where they get the reaction. Alas! There is generally speaking higher sulfite content in white wine than red, but few ever complain about reactions to white wine.

As pointed out, modern winemaking employs sulphur dioxide at levels measured in parts per million...the lowest in the history of winemaking, due to other technical improvements. When I started drinking wine 35 years ago, the sulphur levels were much higher and could actually be smelled in most wines.

So...there are NO sulfite-free wines, though there are wines with no sulfite added.

PS If you are truly senstive to sulfite, you should have much greater concern over restaurant and grocery store produce and salad bars, where sulfite is frequently added to preserve freshness with no way of measuring quantities...same goes for fresh seafood on display.


- Bucko - 02-27-1999 01:43 AM

new computer - ignore