They may only be two little words, ‘contains sulfites’ but they do cause a lot of consternation. They are blamed for headaches, allergic reactions and are sometimes thought to be added to only mass-produced wines. Since November 2005 all wine bottles produced in the EU have to state that they contain sulfites if they have more than 10 parts of sulfite to every million parts of wine! Nearly all wines contain sulfites because it acts as a preservative and the amount of sulfite is also limited to a maximum of 160 parts per million (ppm) or if you prefer 0.016% – for red wines, 210 ppm for white and 400 ppm for sweet wines. Without sulfites the wine would turn to vinegar very quickly (and we have all tasted wine like that!)
Here are some common misconceptions:-
Headaches – there is, as of yet, no direct proof of a link between sulfites in wine and headaches. (Just a thought – It could actually be the alcohol that caused the headache.)
Allergies – some asthmatics will have allergic reactions to sulfites and some people will come out in red blotches or hives or even sneeze if they imbibe too many sulfites . However there are other constituents in wine that can cause reactions. (Large quantities of sulfites are added to dried fruits so if you have no reaction to dried fruit then it may not be the sulfites in the wine that you are allergic to.)
Cheap wines use more sulfites – possibly, but expensive wines use sulfites too (if the wine maker wants his wine to reach the customer in a fit state.) Red wines have less sulfites as the tannins in the red wine act as a preservative too.
Personally I feel that if a wine contains anything other than grapes it should have a disclaimer. EU law permits a wine maker to add up to 50 ingredients to wine and not put them on the label.
Some of the things that can be added to wine:-
Sugar, gelatin, eggs, charcoal, artificial yeast, clay, acid, enzymes, nutrients and flavourings , American (or French) oak flavouring, milk protein (casein) and even fish bladder extract! Personally I believe the sulfites are the least of our worries…. What do you think?
Talk to me.