Understanding Sulfite Sensitivity And Sulfite Allergy
Unfortunately, some very unlucky people suffer from sulfite allergies. This means that consuming sulfites can cause an allergic reaction. While this may be as minor as a rash, side effects can be incredibly serious. While some may suffer from body swelling, others get intense stomach pain. Some sulfite allergies can even be life-threatening.
However, the FDA has stated that only 1% of the U.S. population suffers from sulfite sensitivity. Furthermore, 5% of this minority are asthmatic, meaning if you suffer from asthma you may be slightly more at risk, but if you dont its unlikely you have anything to worry about.
A common myth that still floats around the wine community is that sulfites cause dreaded wine headaches . However, seeing as how uncommon sulfite sensitivity is, adverse side effects caused by drinking a nice Cabernet or Grenache are far more likely to be caused by alcohol content of wine.
In fact, red wines have less sulfites than white or rosé wines. Because red wines have higher levels of tannins, which have preservative qualities, they have less sulfites added to them during wine production.
Other wine compounds, such as histamine, tyramine, and flavonoids, may contribute to that sore head the morning after. These are naturally occurring ingredients and are unavoidable when it comes to drinking wine.
As a friendly reminder, if you have any suspicion you are allergic to sulfites, its a good idea to visit your doctor or a licensed allergist.
Avoiding Added Sulfites In Wines
While sulfites in wine are not known to be dangerous to a persons health, some individuals do have a sensitivity to sulfites.
Symptoms of this sensitivity include:
- Digestive problems including diarrhea, nausea and cramping.
- Dry and itchy skin aggravated by rashes.
- Respiratory problems including tightness in the chest, trouble breathing, coughing and wheezing.
If you suffer from these symptoms but still want to enjoy a glass of wine, you will be happy to know that wines made from USDA certified organic grapes contain much lower levels of sulfites. This is because any wine made from grapes grown without pesticides must contain zero added SO. However, it is important to remember that all wines, produced from conventional or organic grapes will still contain naturally occurring levels of sulfites.
You can also purchase red wines as these have higher levels of tannin, which is a natural anti-oxidant. Higher levels of tannin means less need for added SO. Wines grown locally are also a smart choice if you want to decrease your ingestion of sulfites. Additionally, several wineries in California are producing wines without any added sulfur. Another easy way to avoid higher levels of sulfites is to purchase dryer wines as the high sugar content of sweet wines requires more sulfur to stop a secondary fermentation process. Finally, wines with a higher acidity will have lower levels of sulfites, making them a great choice if you are sensitive to or concerned about SO.
What Are Sulfates In Wine
Sulfites can be found in every wine you drink. This is a natural process. During the fermentation process, thousands of chemicals by-products are created, and sulfites are one of them. Nevertheless, the difference here is that sometimes winemakers will add sulfites to protect and preserve the wine from yeast and bacteria invasions. For some people, they can experience stuffy sinuses and headaches after a couple of glasses of wine because of an allergy to sulfur.
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Can I Smell Sulfites In Wine
Although sulfur compounds are somewhat unrelated to sulfites, sensitive tasters have been noted to smell sulfur compounds in wine. Sulfur compounds in wine called thiols range in flavor from citrus-like smells to cooked egg-like smells.
Whats interesting is that the warmer the wine, the more molecular sulfur it releases. This is why some wines have a nasty cooked-egg aroma when you open them. You can fix this issue by decanting your wine and chilling for about 15-30 minutes.
Okay So Then What Are They
Sulfites are inorganic salts that act as antioxidant preservatives. They occur naturally in our own bodies and all fermented foodanything pickled, dried fruits, etc. They are added to wine because they are antimicrobial and antioxidant. Since they occur naturally in all things fermented, all wine, whether it has added sulfites or not, contains them.
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Do Sulfites In Wine Cause Hangovers
While the jury is still out as to what in wine actually causes hangovers, factors that can have a positive effect in producing hangover-free wines may include:
- Sulfite sensitivity is rare, but real for many. According to the FDA, 1 in 100 people have a sensitivity to sulfites. Sulfites are also commonly found in many processed foods such as dried fruits and potato chips.
- Minimal to no use of sulfites-Our wines range from 10-100ppm and most are under 30ppm.
- No chemical additives-forbidden in organic and Biodynamic production.
- Lower histamine content-red wines have more histamines than white.
- Lower Tyramines in some people, certain foods and drinks including red wine can trigger a headache or even a migraine. One well-accepted migraine trigger is tyramine that is a substance found naturally in red wine more than in white. It can cause blood pressure to rise, potentially triggering a headache.
- Lower sugar content-drinking a whole bottle of Moscato yourself is never a good idea!
- Lower Alcohol content-or simply drink less wine!
- And remember to hydrate with water-alcohol dehydrates the body and dehydration is a very likely hangover culprit.
Should You Avoid Sulfites
There are wines being made that are low-sulfite. These natural wines are a great advancement for those people who have a true sulfite allergy.
For most people, however, there is no real reason to avoid sulfites. Given their presence in many other foods and drinks beyond wine, even if you chose a natural wine, youd still be exposing yourself to sulfites.
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Do Sulphites In Wine Cause Headaches
While they can cause asthmatic symptoms, they are not the known cause of headaches.
Watch out for the tannins though!!
Tannins are naturally occurring compounds that exist inside grape skins, seeds and stems. Also, make sure you drink your daily water intake, this helps a lot! People who suffer from migraines are often told to avoid sulphites as they may act as a trigger. If you think they may be the cause of your migraines, take note of what you ate and drank before your migraine started and talk to your doctor.
- Be advised that dried fruits are high in sulphite content, so putting a stop to these may be your first port of call, and try and avoid foods that say may contain or may contain traces of sulphites on the label.
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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Sulfites In Wine Often Necessary For White Wine Production
- Wines with higher sugar content tend to need added sulfur to prevent secondary fermentation of the remaining sugar.
- Red wine grapes contain additional natural preservatives-such as tannins from the grape skins-so red wine is more stable. Red wine tannins contain high levels of polyphenols, which act as natural antioxidants.
- Because the white organic wines are less stable, importing and handling requires extra care and their shelf-life is limited.
- The exception is sparkling wine as the natural CO2 in the bubbly helps to stabilize the wine. One of our most popular NSA wines is Pizzolato NSA Prosecco, a delightful Prosecco featuring stone fruit and citrus, with good acidity. The dragonfly on the label reflects the extensive eco-effort made in the vineyard, as the insects presence indicates an environment with a chemical-free water source.
Wine Sulfites And Why People Argue About Them
Used as a preservative since ancient times, sulfur has become contentious
Illustration by Dante Terzigni
All wine bottled in the United States with a sulfite level greater than 10 milligrams per liter must include the words CONTAINS SULFITES on the label, leaving buyers to wonder whether sulfites are dangerous.
Perhaps the most prominent winemaker in the United States to forego all chemical additives in his wine, including sulfites, is Tony Coturri of Coturri Winery in Sonoma County, California.
The bag that sulfur comes in says its poison, he says. I think that putting sulfites in wine takes away the terroir. Takes away the individual quality of it. While you could still have pretty good grapes, theyre going to be losing that edge that the growers been working so hard to get.
Poison? Terroir killer? Yet the use of sulfur compounds in winemaking goes back to at least the ancient Greeks. Sulfur was abundant in the volcanic Mediterranean region, possibly leading to its discovery as a preserving agent. In recent times, more than any other wine intervention, the addition of sulfites generates division, with some people seeing them as an ancient preservative thats part of wine history and culture, while a growing group of see them as just another chemical that needs to be abandoned.
How sulfites are used
The term sulfite is an industry shorthand for this SO2.
That is part of the problem, says Coturri.
Are sulfites necessary?
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The Bottom Line On Sulfites In Wine
Those little words Contains Sulfites on the bottom of a label often stir up concern. What are sulfites in wine? And, are they bad for me?
The Deal with Sulfites in Wine
The United States is one of the only countries that require bottles to label sulfite contents. So what gives? How much is there, and how do they affect you? Lets get to the bottom of sulfites in wine.
What Are Sulfites Learn If Wine Is Causing Your Headaches
McKenzie Hagan | February 16, 2021
Weve all been there. We have a lovely night out, we get dinner, we chat, we open up a bottle of wine, and then the next day we feel terrible. We do a quick google and before we know it, were inundated with articles suggesting we could have a sulfite allergy. But, what are sulfites? And why are they being blamed for our hangovers?
While you may have noticed “contains sulfites” on wine bottle labels, do we really have anything to worry about? Could these mysterious ingredients be harming our health?
In this article, we discuss the reality surrounding sulfites in wine. From what they actually are to why they are prevalent in the food industry, we’ll debunk some myths. Hint: Sulfites probably arent to blame for your red wine headaches.
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Why Are Sulfites In Wine
Very simply, sulfites help preserve wine and slow chemical reactions, which cause a wine to go bad.
The process of using sulfites in wine has been around for as far back as ancient Rome. Back in Roman times, winemakers would burn candles made of sulfur in empty wine containers to keep the wines from turning to vinegar.
Sulfur started to be used in winemaking in the early 1900s to stop bacteria and other yeasts from growing.
The Biggest Health Risk Is An Allergic Reaction
Are sulphites bad for you? While they are listed as a food allergen, a true allergic reaction in the form of anaphylaxis is, in fact, a very rare phenomenon. Some people get headaches only from red wine and some get them just from, say, a very cheap Chilean wine. It has to do with histamines and all sorts of other complex science. It really is best to start with increasing the quality of your wine, lowering the quantity just enjoy the whole experience a little more, failing that have a chat to health professionals.
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What Do Sulfites In Wine Do
Not only are sulfites naturally occurring in wine, they are actually pretty important. Sulfites help preserve wine against some yeast and bacteria. Without them, wine can quickly turn into vinegar.
Winemaking requires a lot of balancing acts, and the sulfite levels are another important element in all of this. In order for grape juice to turn into wine, Saccharomyces yeast must eat the sugar and turn it into alcohol. However, there is also bacteria that likes to feed on the same sugar. These bacteria can cause wine to smell like vinegar or acetone. The yeast naturally produces sulfites, and the sulfites fight the bacteria. Sometimes the winemaker must intervene by adding some sulfur dioxide to give the yeast a helping hand against the bacteria.
We Are Committed To Using The Lowest Possible Amounts Of Sulfites In Wines
As Rachel Signer expressed in her article on VinePairthe thing about sulfur is that it can prevent wine from showing its nuances. Sulfur-laden wine is predictablewhich can be a good thing. But when you try low-sulfur wine, or sulfur-free wine, the juice is surprisingly alive. A study out of UCLA concludes that organic wines do taste better, as measured in the scores of leading wine critics.
At Natural Merchants, we work to import wines that use the least amount of sulfites and other interventions in the winemaking process as possible. The resulting wines are the true essence of the winerys terroir, and the purest expression of the grape.
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What Are Sulfites And Why Does Wine Contain Them
Sulfites, also known as sulfur dioxide, are naturally occurring and an added preservative found in wine and many other foods and beverages.
Naturally occurring sulfites are antimicrobial agents produced as a byproduct of yeast metabolism during fermentation.
Sulfites added by vintners during the winemaking process preserve freshness and keep the wine from oxidizing or growing funky bacteria and yeast you definitely do not want to swirl around in your glass.
Whats more, sulfites keep wine from turning brown, a rather unpalatable image when you think about pouring yourself a sulfite-free glass of brown Rose´.
The inclusion of sulfites in wine is strictly regulated. In fact, any wine that contains more than 10 parts per million must display the words contains sulfites on the bottles label.
Most wines average about 80 PPM of sulfite. For perspective, dried fruits typically contain 1000 PPM of sulfite while French fries tip the scales at 1900 PPM. Many of the foods you enjoy are chock full of way more sulfites than wine, including baked goods, soup mixes, jams, canned vegetables, potato chips, soft drinks, and juices.
What Are Sulfites And Why Are They In Wine
Sulfites are another way to refer to sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide is a preservative, widely used in many food industries and especially in winemaking. Its antioxidant and antibacterial, which means it kills bacteria that can make a young wine spoil and keeps the wine from browning.
Without sulfites, the majority of wines would only be good for about six months. With them, however, wine can keep indefinitely. Your favorite wine will taste fresh and delicious for years, perhaps even decades.
Many people believe sulfites are unnatural and thus should be avoided. But while many winemakers add extra sulfites to their wine, all wines have a certain amount of sulfites that naturally occur. This means that even if youre trying to find a sulfite-free wine, you cant. You can only find wines without added sulfites.
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Sulfites In Wine Are Sulfites Bad For You
RayLen Vineyards takes great pride in the wines we produce. We follow in the footsteps of the great winemakers who came before us, including the use of sulfites in our wines. But we also understand that some customers may have questions about that use.
Its understandable that you might wonder about what sulfites are, why we use them, and whether theyre safe. If youve ever suffered a red wine headache, you may also wonder if the sulfites are responsible. Lets take a few minutes to clarify sulfites and whether you should be worried.
How Long Have They Been Used In Wine
During the Roman Empire, viticulture has undergone considerable development. The daily consumption of wine increases and leads to an increasing demand for this precious nectar, the peak of which was estimated at the end of 10 to 20 minimum age. Transport and prolonged aging raise the question of their conservation very early on.
For Pliny the Elder, wines that can be stored without adding anything to the must are the best, which is almost impossible when you know the propensity of grape must to want to turn into vinegar … Man has tried everything to prevent wine from becoming sour : we added raw resin, we also tried the pitch , or must reduced by boiling as well as aromatics, sometimes even seawater … But none of these methods were miraculous.
The use of sulfur is not recent. In his treatise De Re Rustica, Caton explains the need to take care of the casks and recommends closing the slits with lut, a coating that consists of a pound of wax, a pound of resin, and half the sulfur. He also mentions a “way to save the vine from the ravages of the naughty worm, by spraying a mixture containing, among others, “A third of bitumen, and a quarter of sulfur “. On the other hand, certainly misunderstanding the principles of fermentation, sulfur was not yet used during winemaking.
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