These two words probably induce a mini-stress-reaction in anyone that is concerned about clean and healthy living.
Ok, what’s the big deal?
“Sulfites” is an inclusive term for sulfur dioxide (SO2). These are inorganic salts that act as a preservative. It’s antioxidant and antibacterial properties make it good for winemaking. It prolongs the shelf-life.
The Claim: Sulfites in Wine Cause Headaches + Digestive Problems
Medical research is not definitive on the relationship between sulfites and headaches. There are many other compounds in wine such as histamines and tannins that are more likely connected to the headache effect (not to mention the alcohol itself).
Truth: Some wines have more sulfites than others
In the European Union, the maximum levels of sulfur dioxide that a wine can contain are
- 210 ppm for white wine
- 400 ppm for sweet wines
- 160 ppm for red wine
Similar levels apply in the U.S., Australia, and around the world. Any wine containing more than 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur dioxide must affix to the label ‘contains sulfites’ (in the US since 1988, the EU since 2005).
Why do red wines have less sulfites? They contain tannin, which is a stabilizing agent, and almost all red wines go through malolactic fermentation. Therefore, less sulfur dioxide is needed to protect the wine during winemaking and maturation.
Claim: Sulfites Are an Unnatural Additive
Yes and No. Many people seeking to live clean and healthy are against unnatural additives. And though sulfites are added, sulfites are also a natural by-product of the yeast metabolism during fermentation. So even if you do not add any additional SO2, your wine will still contain lower levels of sulfites.
What can be done to reduce the use of Sulfites in Wine?
- Increased understanding of how sulfur dioxide breaks down and binds during winemaking
- Better winery sanitation
- Monitored viticultural practices to ensure healthy grapes (i.e no rot)
have all greatly helped to reduce the need for SO2 additions during winemaking. Today, there are many winemakers who refrain from adding any SO2 until after the fermentation is complete.
Should I be worried?
Consumption of sulfites is generally harmless, unless you suffer from severe asthma or do not have the particular enzymes necessary to break down sulfites in your body. The FDA estimates that less than 1% of the U.S. population is sulfite-sensitive. The odds are, you’re fine consuming sulfites.
I was surprised to see that products like dried fruit have around 3500 PPM.
That’s a lot compared to wine, which averages around 80 PPM and by law cannot exceed 350 PPM.
Yep, Our kids’ fruit leather has more sulfites than wine.
French fries have approximately 1900 PPM. Everything from pickles to pizza crust to painkillers contain sulfites.
The general consensus is that you’ve probably been consuming sulfites without a problem for a while.
So Dude, just live your life and drink responsibly. If you’re concerned about added chemicals in your wine, you’ve got 99 problems and sulfur is just one.
But actually, there are 80+ additives permitted in mainstream wines like: sugars, yeasts, gelatin, and worse that no one is required to label/ tell you about.
Want more? Here is a study from the Univ. of Florida
So how was the Sulfite-Free Wine?
This all got started when I was walking the wine isles in France and I kept seeing “Sans Sulfites,” meaning “Without Sulfites.” I’m ALL ABOUT getting rid of nasty chemicals in my day-to-day life so I had to figure out what this was all about.
I picked up this sulfite-free wine, which happened to be organic (or “bio,” “biologique”)
Esprit Nature 2016 Syrah
SO HOW DID IT TASTE?
Two “Sommeliers”: not professional training but One French and One Napa Woman that love wine.
Sight: High Clarity, Bright, & Violet Tones. (It’s prob been filtered). But she has legs!
Taste: YOUNG. (But it makes sense right? They the wine won’t keep without the added SO2.)
Red fruits- especially crushed strawberries. It’s FRESH.
I recommend you serve it at 15°C or 59°F. Definitely a Light-Bodied Syrah.
Pricepoint: A little more than we normally pay, but nothing expensive.
Will we buy it again?
PROB NOT. I agree with my boyfriend, he said it lacked character.
The taste-test was first, then I did some more research. I had to share what I found.
What do you guys think? Did I miss anything?