Are Sulfites in Wine Dangerous?
February 28, 2008
I’ve heard that sulfites in wine can be potentially dangerous, why would I want to continue drinking wine if this chemical is purposely added in? Anna - Kansas City, KS
Come on, that really can’t be your reason for not tipping back a glass, is it? What is there to do in Kansas City besides drink? I promise that you will not turn into a lush if you have a glass every now and again. So don’t be paranoid, here are the facts on sulfites in wine. Believe it or not all wines contain at least some small amount of sulfites and among other things; they are found on grapes, onions, garlic, and many other common plants and vegetables that make up our diet. No wine can ever be sulfite free, even if they have not been added during the wine fermentation process.
However, wine sulfites are a problem for some drinkers and can lead to serious headaches for those who do have sensitivity to it. For people who do have an allergy, the average level of sulfites in wine can cause heartburns or other side effects. Unpleasant reactions include burning sensations, hives, cramps, and flushing of the skin. For these people, organic wines are an especially good choice since they contain minimal amounts that will in most cases lie below their threshold level.
Makers of wine have been putting additional sulfites in wine for ages. This is because sulfur dioxide (SO2) is used to keep freshly pressed juice from spoiling. The good thing is that modern technology has allowed for the reduction in the amount of sulfur than what was used in the past but some is absolutely necessary to make a stable wine. If you didn’t add sulfites, the wine would turn into vinegar in a matter of months. Not only does sulfur dioxide prevent the growth of bacteria, but it also stops oxidation and helps to preserves the wine’s natural flavor.
Regulations in the United States require that domestic and imported wines carry warning labels if they have sulfites in wine in excess of 10 parts per million. Wines that have less than 10 parts per million are not required to carry the “Contains Sulfites” label but they still contain sulfites in some level.
Truly, sulfites in wine are going to be there regardless, but if you’ve never had an allergic reaction like the ones stated above then you really have nothing to worry about. There are a ton of misconceptions out there about this much slandered drink and this is why I am passionate about delivering the facts to wine virgins so you know exactly what you are pouring down your throat. Now get out to the bar or go pick up a bottle and drink to your health Anna. Cheers!!