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.
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.
Do Sulfites In Wine Give You A Headache
Unless you have a specific allergy or sensitivity to sulfites, you have more of a risk of getting a headache from wine due to overconsumption than from the presence of sulfites. However, people with sulfite allergies and certain forms of asthma should exercise caution.
Browse our full selection of sulfite-free wine online or check out our selection of highly-rated sulfite-free wine for a great new sulfite-free wine to try this week!
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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
Its Time To Enjoy A Sulfite
While it would be inaccurate to say you can find wine with absolutely no sulfites, you can still find wine with low sulfite levels that are naturally occurring not chemically created.
Sulfites have been long used to preserve wine’s freshness and enhance its color and taste, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But with so many commercial wines using dozens of other undisclosed ingredients , it’s no wonder a bottle of wine can open up a Pandora’s box of health issues. To reduce your risk of any potential side effects, be sure to research your wine and look for “no added sulfites” on the label.
Fortunately, whether you’re a wine lover whose tastes lean toward red, white, or rosé, there are a number of low-sulfite wines you can enjoy. To get started, pick a mixed pack of Usual Wines, which has plenty of the good stuff and none of the bad stuff. Because when it comes to sulfites in wine, less is more.
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Findings Of The Calpirg Education Fund Glyphosate Study
The CALPIRG Education Fund study on wine and beer turned up concerning results. Conventional beer and wine came up with higher glyphosate levels as organic as expected. Most organic brands came up with smaller detectable levels. The results are summarized below.
- 19 out of 20 samples contained glyphosate residue
- Sutter Home Wine had the highest levels of glyphosate, 51 parts per billion
- 3 out of 4 organic beers and wines contained glyphosate residue
- Samuel Smith Organic & Inkarri Estate Organic wine contained glyphosate
- Larger brands like Coors, Tsingtao, & Miller Lite contained glyphosate at levels above 25 ppb.
- Peak Organic Beer did not contain any detectable levels of glyphosate
Making Sulfite Free Wine
There is a lot of confusion out there regarding sulfites and what it means to make a sulfite free wine.In reality its nearly impossible for a wine to be sulfite free as they are a natural byproduct of the fermentation process
Beyond the fact that they are naturally produced there is the issue of stability. Sulfites are used to stabilize wine against microbial spoilage and oxidation. Without them our wines become much more vulnerable and can potentially have a shorter shelf life.
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Should We Opt For Sulfite
As weve mentioned, its impossible for wine to be completely sulfite-free. So, how can there be so many sulfite-free wines on the market?
Well, in the eyes of the FDA, some organic wines can make the sulfite-free claim if the amount of sulfites is lower than 10 ppm in a bottle.
These certified organic wines will have very low intervention during the winemaking process. This means preservatives, like sulfites, will not be added to the wine, and instead organic winemakers will depend on the naturally occurring preservatives in the grapes.
If you are curious about organic wine, we say go for it! However, there are some downsides you should be aware of. Because these bottles have lower levels of sulfites they will not keep, so theyre best drunk straight away. This means some of these wines lack the complexity that aging can give a wine. Organic wine can also have a mind of its own when it comes to appearance often these wines can become cloudy or take on an unappetising brown color.
If you are considering throwing in the towel on sulfites due to an allergy, wine is the least of your problems. To relieve yourself of these life-threatening symptoms, you will have to eat a diet with no sulfites this means removing a lot of preserved foods from your kitchen. Check out this list to know what to look out for.
Why Sulfites Are Often Necessary In Wine
There are really very few wines that are made without some use of SO2. This is because wine is perishable, prone to oxidation and the development of aldehyde off-odors. SO2, particularly for white wines, is important for freshness. Wines without any SO2 generally have a shorter shelf life about six months, and need to be kept in perfect storage conditions. Given that a winemaker has very little control over the wines storage conditions from the time the wine leaves the winery until it is consumed, it is little wonder that SO2 is so widely used to help guarantee that the bottle of wine you open will be fresh and clean, and taste as the winemaker intended.
Additionally, one of the reasons that you see more wines labeled made from organically grown grapes than labeled organic wine is because in the US organic wine must not have any added SO2.
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Cos Cerasuolo Di Vittoria
This certified-organic Sicilian beauty is a blend of 60 percent nero davola and 40 percent frappatothe nero providing dark fruit and spice, the frappato offering floral lift. Fermented in concrete with indigenous yeast and aged in large Slovenian oak, this is a balanced, versatile wine that coaxes considerable depth and energy from its medium body. Founded by Giusto Occhipinti and his two buddies around 40 years ago, COS long ago adopted biodynamic principlestheyve never used chemicals or synthetics in their vineyardsand Occhipinti believes in only a minimal addition of SO2 at the time of bottling.
Sulfites In Food And Beverages
Sulfite occurs naturally in some foods, and so, its an unavoidable by-product meant to ferment. Most of the beverages that contain sulfites are wine, beer, cider, black tea, and vinegar. Some foods like baked and canned goods, potato chips, and cheese, also contain sulfites. So, you may be going for sulfite-free wine, but you are not entirely free from Sulfite.
When a winemaker forswears sulfites, there is a vast risk of bacterial infection. Sulfite is used to impede oxidation, preventing the wine from spoiling. Have you ever wondered why aged wine is expensive? Well, time alters the overall flavor of the fruit in the wine and lowers tannin and acidity the reason why you enjoy a pleasing flavor in the wine. A younger wine means no SO2 and, therefore, has a shorter shelf life of about six months.
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Why Are Sulphites Added To Wine If Theyre Already Naturally Occurring
If youve ever looked at the label on a bottle of standard wine, youll have seen it bears the words contains sulphites and most likely assumed that sulphites are naturally occurring in wine, making the warning about as superfluous to requirement as contains shellfish, prominently displayed on a lobster.
And you would be right.
To answer this we need to understand what sulphites are and how they are used. Sulphites are a preservative commonly used in the food and drink industry to extend the shelf-life of consumable produce. They are added in mass to mainstream wine to preserve it as they essentially prevent oxidation from occurring.
Sulphites come in many forms and this is how you can recognise them:
- sulphur dioxide
Do Organic Wines Have Sulfites
Yes, all wines naturally contain sulfites, even organic wines. In order for wines to be labeled organic, however, they cannot have added sulfites. Note that this is only true of bottles labeled organic wine. If it just says the wine is grown from organically grown grapes, it might still have added sulfites.
If youre sensitive to sulfites, make sure that the wine is actually organic , not just made from organically grown grapes.
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Wine Without Sulphites And Eu Legislation: Limiting Sulphur Levels In Wine
As of August 2012, within the Regulation No 203/2012, wine is recognised as an organic product.
Besides laying down rules on organic winemaking, the biggest success of the new legislation, as explained in the IFOAM report, is the compromise on limiting the amount of sulphites in organic wine .
For the wine lovers, this means:
- Dry red organic wine can have up to 100 mg per litre of sulphites
- Organic white wine can have up to 150 mg per litre of sulphites
- Organic rose dry wines can have up to 150 mg per litre of sulphites
EU regulations surrounding food labelling require wine bottles to display the warning contains sulphites, if the wine has more than 10 parts of sulphite per million parts of wine .
So, a consumer could make an educated guess.
If a wine with sulphites has greater than 10ppm a wine with less than 10ppm, it is sulphite free, or at the very least, low in sulphites.
That is, the minute volume of natural sulphites that occur during the wines fermentation are natural, and harmless. This number is nothing like the volume of man-made chemicals that are pumped into mass-produced wine during all stages of the wine production process, to extend its shelf life.
Health Benefits Of Moderate Consumption Of Wine
First and foremost, the studies that state that wine has health benefits are talking about moderate wine consumption. Unlike some of the industries we investigate, moderate consumption is easily measured and is as follows and is considered to be per day:
- 12 ounces of beer OR
- 5 ounces of wine OR
- 1.5 ounces of hard liquor
So is wine better for you than say, beer or hard liquor?
Oddly enough, studies over time havent been able to confirm whether wine, hard liquor, or beer is better at reducing the risks of heart disease some observational studies even suggest that the health benefits are linked to any type of alcoholic drinks .
Drinking patterns are what play the biggest role. In other words, going out on Friday and having 7 drinks isnt the same thing as having one drink per day.
There are at least 100 studies in the works that show an inverse reaction between light to moderate drinking to the risk of heart conditions including, myocardial infarction, peripheral vascular disease, ischemic stroke, and death from all other cardiovascular events. This potentially indicates that the more you engage in light to moderate drinking, the lower your risk for dying of cardiovascular events and this effect appears that it may be consistent light-to-moderate drinking may possibly lead to a the reduction of cardiovascular-related death by 25-49% risk.
Awesome news, eh? Hang on, slow your roll before you reach for that bottle.
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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.
Wines With No Added Sulfites
Sulfur is an antioxidant and antimicrobial that at very low levels is used as a preservative in wine. It serves to keep bacterial activity in check , preserves color , and keeps wine from oxidizing prematurely.
Its use in wine goes back to Roman times. Wines sold in the U.S. must list contains sulfites on the label, when sulfur is used in winemaking. Although no such rule applies to other foods including cheeses, dried fruits, or processed french fries, all of which contain far higher levels of sulfites than wine .
While sulfites in wine may be a problem for a tiny minority of people with allergies or asthma, for most of us sulfites are not an issue. The relationship between sulfites and wine-related headaches has been debunked.
For winemakers, making no sulfites added wines is a difficult and risky proposition. When making NSA wine, the winemaking equipment must be sterile, and NSA winemaking techniques often involve the additional use of specialized yeasts, pasteurization, and sterile filtering. In other words, making NSA wines is not exactly non-intervention winemaking.
However, many winemakers have accepted the challenge of making NSA wines , and there is a market for these wines. And, while many NSA wines still seem sterile and stripped of flavor, we are seeing a vast improvement in the quality of these wines in general.
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Fda Regulations On Sulfites
While shopping, did you pay attention to wine labels that say contains sulfite? At least in the U.S., since 1987, wine containing sulfites at levels of 10parts per million to 350ppm has to be labelled as contains sulfite. This is mandatory according to their legislation. Naturally, a glass of wine with an occurring level of SO2, without additives would weigh around 10 to 20 ppm. With most averaging wines at 125 ppm, the legal maximum sulfite level allowed for the U.S. is 350ppm.
How To Get Wine Without Sulfites
Most winemakers today are making organic wines with less or zero sulfites. Generally these wines comprise dry red wines as their natural tannins preserve the beverage naturally. Nevertheless, they need to take a high obsessive level of hygiene. Their ultimate goal should be total purity.
Best ways that you can have your wine without worry of sulfites addition are:
- The good news is, the mandatory labeling of Wine with Sulfite will clearly show on the bottle of wine. Please dont forget to read the label.
- Choose certified Organic Wines and not wine made from organic grapes.
- Ask for help from the sales associate if you are shopping in a wine shop or local vineyard. They will take you to the sulfite-free wines section where they have a short shelf life.
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Final Thoughts On Sulfite Free Wines
Aside from these precautions the wine making process is otherwise identical. The fermentation and clearing processes are the same. You just need to be vigilant with sanitation and limiting your wines exposure to the outside world.
Lastly, I would consider using a synthetic closure that does not allow for micro-oxygenation. Because your sulfite free wine will be extra sensitive to oxygen limiting all exposure seems like a wise thing to do. This may not make much of a difference except if you were to age the wine for a considerable amount of time in the bottle.