Sulfites in Wine: Are Sulfites Bad for You?

The question of the decade is: are sulfites bad for you?

In this video I’m going to share with you why sulfites in wine are not necessarily a bad thing.

Myths about sulfites

“I’m allergic to sulfites.” “Sulfites give me a headache.” … Sulfites are this. Sulfites are that… blah, blah, blah. Okay, let’s break it down. You are not allergic to sulfites and you got a headache because you DRANK TOO MUCH!

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 food–anything 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.

History of Sulfites

sulfites in red wine

Sulfur dioxide has been used as a wine preservative as far back as the ancient Greeks. They lined their vessels with tar to prevent leaks and eventually noticed that the wine transported in tar-laden ships was much better preserved. Eventually, they fumigated their amphorae before adding the wine as a way to stabilize it before shipping it across the sea.

The ancient Romans burned sulfur candles in wine barrels and cleaned their wine-making equipment with SO2.

It is worth remembering that wine is a human product. We are the ones who transform sugary grape juice into wine, and we are also the ones who can prevent bacteria and yeast from fermenting it into vinegar.

What is the sulfite content of wine?

In America, wines have between 10 milligrams per liter and 350 milligrams per liter. In Europe, the upper limit is 210.

Red wines need the least amount of sulfites because they contain tannins which work to stabilize the wine. Rosés and whites need more, because they don’t have tannins. Sweet wines need the most, because they are the most appealing wines to yeast, which feeds off the leftover sugars that that yeast REALLY wants to pickle. This is why ageing wine can sometimes be problematic.

Mass produced wines that get shipped all over the world have a much higher sulfite content than smaller production wines that have simpler distribution channels simply because they have to last a lot longer

Any decent wine maker uses sulfites sparingly. Ideally, they use just enough to stabilize the wine as it is being made.

Wine Sulfite Allergies

You probably are NOT allergic to sulfites. Less than 1% of people are actually allergic to them. If you can eat dried fruit or sauerkraut without your throat closing, you’re not allergic to sulfites.

Sulfites also don’t cause headaches. Most people complain about getting headaches from red wine, and as we know, red wines contain the least amount of sulfites. Also, it’s worth noting that allergies tend to represent themselves as hives, or swelling, etc., so if you have a headache, it’s because you drank too much.

Is there any bad stuff in wine?

Unfortunately, yes. There is a ton of poison in a lot of wine. Please stay tuned, as I am going to talk about this in another post.

Make sure to like this video and subscribe to my weekly videos so you don’t miss hearing about additives in wine that are a legitimate problem. But for now, try to find smaller production wines and don’t worry so much about sulfites.

Curious about aging wine? Check this out

sulfites in white wines
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