Sulfites in Wine – Myth, Truth and Opinion.

Posted by on October 24, 2012

I’ve heard all these:

This is a piece of raw sulfur. Pretty isn’t it.

  • “I can’t drink red wine because the sulfites give me a headache.  White is ok though.”
  • “I can only drink good quality red wines because the sulfites give me a headache.”
  • “The red wines last night gave me a headache, tonight I’ll have a gin instead.”
  • “I’m allergic to sulfites.”
  • “I drink only organic wine because I’m allergic to sulfites.”

Myth:

  1. Sulfites are bad for you.
  2. Sulfites are unnatural.
  3. Red Wine causes headaches because of the sulfites.
  4. I’m a dumb ass and don’t want to learn the truth.  (No you are not!  You like learning the truth and knowledge is power!)

Truth:

  1. If you eat commercially produced bread (like Roman Meal, Wheat Berry,Wonder Bread etc.) you are eating sulfites.
  2. If you eat anything on this list:
    • Baked goods
    • Beer (Alcoholic or non-alcoholic)
    • Candy
    • Canned fruits and vegetables
    • Cereal
    • Cheese
    • Chocolate bars
    • Cider (Alcoholic or non-alcoholic)
    • Coconut (dried or dehydrated)
    • Cornmeal
    • Cornstarch
    • Crackers
    • Deli meat
    • Dried fruit
    • Fish
    • Frozen fruits and vegetables
    • Fruit bars
    • Fruit filling
    • Fruit juice
    • Fruit syrup
    • Gelatin
    • Glazed fruits
    • Grape juice (regular or sparkling)
    • Grapes (fresh)
    • Grapes (glazed)
    • Herbs (dried)
    • Hot Dogs
    • Jams
    • Jellies
    • Ketchup
    • Lemon juice/concentrate
    • Lime juice/concentrate
    • Maraschino cherries
    • Marmalade
    • Mincemeat (dried or dedydrated)
    • Molasses
    • Muesli
    • Mushrooms (canned or frozen)
    • Mustard
    • Olives (canned)
    • Onions (pickled)
    • Pectin
    • Pickled foods
    • Pickles
    • Potato chips
    • Potato starch
    • Potatoes (dehydrated, frozen french fries, dehydrated, mashed, peeled, pre-cut)
    • Raisins (dried or dedydrated)
    • Relish
    • Rice mixes
    • Sauerkraut
    • Sausages
    • Shellfish
    • Shrimp (fresh/frozen)
    • Soft drinks
    • Soy products
    • Spices
    • Starches
    • Sugar beet starch
    • Tea
    • Tomatoes (dried, sun dried, dedydrated, canned, frozen or paste/pulp/puree)
    • Tortilla chips
    • Trail mix
    • Vegetable juices
    • Vinegar, wine vinegar
    • Waffles
    • Water (bottled)
    • White grape juice
    • Wine (Alcoholic or non-alcoholic) – you are eating sulfites.
  3. American law requires wine producers to note on the label “Contains Sulfites” if the wine contains 10ppm of sulfites or more.  During the fermentation process the wine will produce at least 10ppm.  Therefore even if the winemaker didn’t add any additional sulfites during production the bottle label will still note “Contains Sulfites”.
  4. The human body produces 1 gram of sulfites everyday.  The average glass of wine contains 10 milligrams of sulfites.

Opinion:

  1. If drinking alcohol gives you a headache then you should watch how much you drink.  Stop blaming the sulfites for your excess. Time for a little personal responsibility…
  2. Dessert wines and white wines contain more sulfites than red wines.  (Oops, that’s a fact, how’d that sneak into the opinion section?)
  3. More expensive wines are made out of better quality products and more carefully harvest grapes and use higher quality production standards.  They should and often do taste better.  Buy them and drink them because you appreciate quality rather than quantity.
  4. Sulfites are not hurting you.  They are natural and have been used for centuries – this isn’t something new, the Romans used sulfites to stabilize their wines. But good for you for being concerned about your food.  You should think about where all your food comes from.  Now reward yourself with a headache free glass of wine.

For further reading, might I suggest:

Common Myth about sulfites in Wine

The Gray Report

Allergy and Diabetic Health.com

The Kitchen

Wine and Vines 

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