If you have ever looked closely at a wine label, there is a good chance you have seen this phrase on there. What exactly does it mean though?
The general public tends to get slightly concerned when it comes to sulfites in wine, and for some people, there is a reason to be aware. If you educate yourself on sulfites though, you should have no problem consuming wine worry-free.
What Are Sulfites?
The word sulfites is actually a slang term for the compound sulfur dioxide, or SO2. This chemical is a very common preservative that you will find in wines and even in other food making industries. This is a very popular choice due to its antioxidant qualities by keeping the wine fresher, longer.
These sulfites actually date back centuries in the wine making industry as even the Romans would utilize them in their wine making. At the turn of the 20th century, sulfur was used more commonly as a preservative in the wine barrels as winemakers attempted to prevent a buildup of yeast and other harmful bacteria.
How Much Sulfur is In Your Wine?
One thing that many wine enthusiasts are concerned about is not knowing how much sulfur is actually in their wine and if it is very harmful to them in different doses.
The amount of sulfur in wine will strictly depend on the method in which it was made and the level of acidity it has. Many wines will range anywhere from no added sulfur, about 10-40 PPM, and all the way up to 350 PPM.
When dealing with sulfur, the acidity of the wine will play a big role to determine the amount you will find in each bottle. If a wine has a lower acidity, it will need more sulfur. The kind of grapes used are also a big factor in sulfur levels. Red wines will need less additional sulfur added to them, while white wines will need far more. If a wine is very sweet, it will also need more sulfur added to it in order to avoid the dreaded second fermentation process with the sugar.
Am I allergic to Sulfites?
Many people think they are allergic to sulfites due to headaches or other symptoms that occur when consuming wine; typically red wine. One of the best ways you can tell if you have some sort of allergy to sulfites is to eat some dried fruit and compare your body’s reactions.
There are far more amounts of sulfites found in dried fruit today than there are in wine, ruling out the allergy possibility if you already know you can consume dry fruit without any problems.
In the end, sulfites are just a commonly misunderstood element of wine that likely won’t affect you in a harmful way.