Wine Without Sulfites: What You Should Know
Regardless of your relationship with wine and how much or little you know about the beverage, we are pretty confident that you have heard about sulfites. They are the scapegoat for many things, from allergies to hangovers they are the compounds that naturally occur in the human body, some food, and most importantly, wine. Sulfites can be created synthetically and used as a preservative. Because of the latter, sulfites are the subject of an ongoing debate about whether or not these compounds are detrimental to your health.
We’re guessing the following questions are swirling around in your brain: should I stop drinking wine with sulfites? What are sulfites really? Are there wines out there that are better for my health? We get it these are the questions we also had and led us to write this blog post. Here is everything you ever wanted to know about sulfites, so next time you pick up a bottle of wine, you are making the most informed decision!
Organic Biodynamic And Natural Wine Must All Be Preservative Free Right
These are all very different terms that mean different things. Just because a winery is organic, doesnt necessarily mean the wines are preservative free.
Organic and biodynamic refers to vineyard practices. Youll find many organic wines which still add sulphur dioxide in the winery . To gain organic certification, a vineyard simply has to adhere by certain vineyard practices.
Here are my quick definitions of these key terms:
- Organic wine: Means the wine is made by the principle of organic farming, which typically means the exclusion of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and artificial chemical fertilizers in the vineyard
- Biodynamic wine: Biodynamic farming treats the vineyard as a living system. Its the ideal of ever-increasing ecological self-sufficiency and ethical-spiritual considerations. Think soil fertility, healthy plant growth and working with the rhythms of the cosmos
- Preservative free wine: Preservative free wine, means that no preservatives were added during the winemaking process. However, the term doesnt acknowledge that during the winemaking process sulphur dioxide is released which is a natural preservative. So we really should say No preservatives added instead
- Natural wine: This has different meanings to everyone and the post I did on Freehand Wines helps define what exactly the term natural wine means
Wines Without Sulfites 19 Oct ’20
Wines without sulfites or sulfite-free wines? The answer is unmistakable: they do not exist. Sulfites are one of the by-products of alcoholic fermentation. Now all wines must undergo an alcoholic fermentation, as it is during the same period that the natural sugars of the grape are transformed into alcohol. Therefore, all wines have sulfites.
Youre thinking … I could swear I’ve heard of sulfite-free wine? It’s possible. What happens is that the nomenclature “wines without sulfites” is used in a wrong way. In fact, that expression should be corrected for “wines without added sulfites”.
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Can You Remove Sulfites From Wine
If you have a bottle of wine that you love but you want to cut out the sulfite content then there is a home method that can cut down on the sulfite count in your wine. A drop of Hydrogen Peroxide. Hydrogen Peroxide works by naturally oxidizing sulfites by turning it into Hydrogen Sulfate which doesn’t cause quite the same problems that sulfites are known for.
If you don’t feel super comfortable with the idea of dropping a bathroom cabinet product into your pricey bottle of wine then you can also buy tailored products on the market that is designed to do it for you without the risk of bringing bitterness to your beautiful bottle.
Do Sulfites Cause Wine Headaches
Those who suffer headaches after drinking wine often blame the sulfites in wine, but it is unclear whether they are really to blame. A hangover headache may come after drinking too much alcohol of any kind, but those who have migraine headaches can develop a headache after as little as one glass of wine.
Those who get wine headaches often say that they get them after drinking red wine. Since white wine contains more sulfites than red, it is unlikely that sulfites are to blame. Also, sulfites are also high in certain foods, such as dried fruit, soy sauce, and pickles. If the sulfites in wine cause headaches, these foods should cause a similar reaction.
Some experts suggest that drinking low-quality wine may cause headaches. Such wines often contain compounds that can interfere with the production of serotonin, an important brain chemical. Also, low-quality wines are often highly processed, unlike wines made using more natural processes, which could be better for your health.
It’s likely that headache triggers are different for different people. If you suffer from wine headaches or other reactions to wine, talk to your doctor about whether you should avoid drinking it.
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Wines With Lower Tannins
It is believed that the tannins in red wine are one of the possible causes for wine headaches. Tannins are found in different parts of the grape like seeds, stems, and skins. Red wines typically are higher in tannins, so if youre a red wine lover, you may want to opt for one thats lower in tannins, or switch over to white.
Are Sulfites In Wine Bad
Not for most people. Sulfites arent the cause of . There are, however, some notable exceptions to this rule:
If you have asthma, there is about a 5-10% chance you have sulfite sensitivity. The United States requires labeling for sulfites in wine above 10 parts per million .
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Overall, sulfur is prevalent in processed foods and thus, is on the rise as a concern for health problems .
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Why Drink Wine Without Sulfites
While sulfites in wine aren’t really anything to worry about and certainly aren’t a concern for your health and wellbeing, those with a sulfite allergy or sulfite sensitivity may want to try and shop for low sulfite wines instead.
It’s kind of impossible to find a wine that is completely sulfite free as they are a naturally occurring part of the process. Still, that doesn’t mean that you can’t shop around for wines that come without any extra sulfites added.
Finding a wine that solely has sulphites caused by the naturally occurring process can make your wine-binging experience less of a headache.
For those who have a sulfite sensitivity, you may experience asthma-like symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, skin inflammation, and gastro upsets.
Even beyond the sensitivity of the human body, some winegrowers who are keen to reduce the level of sulfites in their wines are choosing to do so because they believe sulfites can impact the delicate taste and aroma of the wine. Some winegrowers believe that when there’s an aim for the sulfites to be reduced, the natural taste and aroma of the wine has a chance to shine through. The end result is a wine that is carefully crafted to express the bounty of the vineyard, region, and country from which it comes.
So whether for a more pleasing palate or for sensitivity sake, win that comes with only natural sulfites can be a beautifully beneficial thing indeed.
Does Organic Wine Have Low Sulfite
Despite having zero sulfites added into organic wine, these wines may still have 10 to 40 parts-per-million naturally occurring sulfites. Some classic organic wines carry the words contains sulfites, but not all occurred naturally.
Remember, sulfites are a preservative used widely in the food and drink industry to prolong the shelf-life of commodities that we consume. Theyre added into wines for preservation because they halt oxidation.
In essence, sulfites are used to maintain the wines freshness. However, they can be irritant to you if you are sensitive to sulfites. In general, sulfites are harmless unless you are allergic to them and your body lacks the correct enzymes to break them down.
If you have an allergy, you will also notice that your body reacts to foods and fruits with high sulfur content. However, if you only react to wine, your problem isnt the sulfur it could be something else.
Please consider that an allergy to sulfur may develop over time, and you could, after some years , start reacting sulfur.
The reason why red wine makes you suffer headaches after consumption isnt because it has a lot of sulfites. White wine has more sulfites than red, but what makes you experience the headaches are the tannins in the red wine.
Tannins are included in wines because theyre a stabilizing agent. When added, fewer amounts of sulfur are needed to protect wines when theyre being made and left to mature.
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What Is Preservative 220 In Wine
Sulphur Dioxide is the main preservative used throughout the stages of making a wine. On a wine label, it can be sometimes be labelled as preservative 220 added and Ive also seen it labelled as antioxidant 220 added which makes it sound like a healthy vitamin to me . Go and check a few wine bottles in your house and I am sure youll see some sort of mention on the back label.
The maximum amount of sulphur that can be added to a wine in Australia is 300 mg/l as stipulated by Wine Australia. However, youll find most wines have a lot less than this and typically stick to 150mg/l and under.
Its also important to understand that yes sulphur dioxide can be added to wine, but it can also be produced naturally by the yeast during fermentation. Therefore when winemakers do label their wines as preservative free it more so means that they havent physically added in sulphur dioxide into the wine. Therefore perhaps on labels, it would be more accurate to write no preservatives added instead.
Is Organic Wine Sulphite
Sadly, the short answer is no. Sulphite free wine doesnt exist because sulphites are naturally present due to all wines fermentation process. But what makes the difference is the levels of sulphur in wine.
Hold on, dont jump to any conclusions just yet. Stay with us, were getting to the bottom of this organic wine story.
First things first.
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Whats Your Opinion About Sulfites
Personally I like balanced wines in sulfites. In my opinion, winemakers can produce an excellent wine independently of sulfites.
The most important thing is not overdo drinking, but follow the suggested quantity of wine. Remind that we are wine lovers!
Let me know with a comment whats your opinion about sulfites in wine.
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Sulphur With Your Wine No Thanks
For those who are sensitive to sulphites, low-sulphur wines can open up your options
Im sometimes surprised that there isnt more interest in no- and low-sulphur wines. After all, there is a significant minority who are quite badly affected by sulphites, yet theres not nearly as much discussion about that as there is about, say, gluten intolerance.
Sulphites feature in most wines whites more than reds, and sweet wines significantly more than both. They prevent oxidation , they keep wines stable and they preserve their bright, fresh fruit flavours. The downside is that higher levels can, in some people, provoke headaches and breathing difficulties, though headache can of course also be triggered by the amount you drink.
Even if a wine has no added sulphur , it may well contain some naturally occurring or free sulphur as a result of the fermentation process. Its really the total level you need to be concerned about, which, under EU regulations, can be up to 400mg per litre in the case of sweet wines . Natural wine bars will generally stock wines that are a good deal lower than that in the case of Plateau in Brighton, for example, they aim for 30mg per litre.
The bad news for those who are looking for NAS wines is that they are not that widely available, theyre generally quite expensive and, if youre used to the bright fruit flavours of conventionally made wines, you may even not like them .
Three Common Myths About Sulfites And Wine
Myth: Organic Wine contains added sulfites.Fact: Under the USDA National Organic Program, wines labeled as Organic Wine can have no added sulfites.
Myth: Sulfites added to wine are a natural ingredient.Fact: Added sulfites are a synthetically produced, industrial ingredient.
Myth: Sulfited wines keep better than non-sulfited wines.Fact: Organic red and white non-sulfited wines can last as long as sulfited wines if properly made. We recommend storing them at the same temperature as all wines are stored, room temperature or below. We also recommend that our red wines be consumed within 7 years of vintage, and our white wines within 3 years. Please visit our FAQ’s page for more.
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What Does May Contain Sulfites Mean
If you have read the back of a few wine labels in your time, then you may have seen the phrase may contain sulfites on the back of the label. The French Rose bottle I currently have in front of me says contient des sulfites despite failing French at school, I have a feeling this means the same thing.
SO2, HSO3 and H2SO3 are collectively called sulfites. The interesting thing is that wine producers never actually ever disclosed exactly how much mg/l of sulfites are in the wine. If you have anything over 10mg/l of sulfites in the wine, then by law winemakers have to pop this fairly general term on the label.
Compared to the olden days of winemaking, a lot fewer preservatives are added to wine as winemakers aim to produce the best quality fruit . There are many wines out there which are very low in sulfites however from the label its hard to tell so some extra research is needed whether thats doing a few Google searchers and checking out the winerys website or perhaps reaching out to the winery on social media.
Choose Wine Without Sulfites
Natural wine, organic wine, and biodynamic wines are made using the least amount of intervention and chemicals as possible. Research suggests that these types of wine can offer greater health benefits and fewer side effects than those that are commercially produced.
It’s also a smart idea to opt for low-sugar wines that don’t need extra sulfites. Case in point: Usual Wines, which are made the Old-World way, in small batches from sustainably farmed grapes without additives or added sugar.
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The Truth About Sulfites On Wine Labels
If all wines contain sulfites, why do only some labels say they contain this chemical compound? Contains Sulfites might be a little bit deceiving. A more accurate descriptor would be Contains at Least 10 mg/L of Sulfites. While that option is wordier, it reflects the truth about sulfites in wine labels.
In the late 1980s, a spike in asthma cases led the Food and Drug Administration to declare sulfites as an allergen. This led to the labeling requirement that wine labels must disclose if a level of 10 mg/L of sulfites or higher can be detected in the wine. To obtain the label of sulfite-free in the wine world, the level of sulfites must be lower and you have to apply for a special exemption.
The Truth About Sulfites And Your Health
While sulfites are Generally Recognized as Safe by the FDA, there are many people who say these compounds can have disastrous effects, including headaches, hangovers, and hives.
The red wine headache is a common complaint attributed to sulfites. While there is some recent research that shows sulfite concentration in wine can induce headaches, there are other studies that indicate histamine is more likely the cause. As it turns out, red wine has significantly more histamine than white wine.
Another side effect usually attributed to sulfites is the dreaded hangover, that painful combination of throbbing headache, body aches, fatigue, nausea, and thirst. However, rather than blaming sulfites alone, don’t forget to pay close attention to the alcohol levels of your wine since this could be the more probable cause.
While the jury is out on the effects of sulfites in headaches and other wine-drinking side effects, sulfites seem to play a significant role in triggering asthma. Some research shows a link between wine consumption and asthma, with 3-10% of asthmatic adults exhibiting adverse reactions to sulfites, including potentially life-threatening reactions.
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Benziger Organic Reserve Chardonnay
While this white is made with organic grapes, it does contain a small amount of added sulfitesbut don’t let that stop you unless you have a serious sensitivity. Creamy, luxurious and lively, it was aged 10 months on French oak. Savor notes of apple, lemon zest and spiced pear between bites of chicken or shrimp.
Is It Better To Drink Organic Wine
Just like organic foods, it stands to reason that organic wine is a better choice. Organic wine grapes tend to be richer with antioxidants and free from any chemicals, additives, and pesticides that can have a knock-on effect, not only on the taste but on the body too. Not only is organic wine better for your person, but it is also better for the environment as organic grapes take less water and don’t cause any harmful toxins to run into the landscape or local ecosystem as part of the irrigation process. In short, organic wine is a win win.
What are your thoughts on sulfite free wines? Share your story and your favorite bottles with us in the comments and we will be sure to load up our order cart.
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