What are sulfites (sulphites) in wine?


Sulfites in wine are naturally occurring anti-microbial chemical compounds (sulfur dioxide) in all types of wine.

Many types of food products use sulfites as a natural preservative. Even our bodies naturally produce sulfites.

Sulfites break down unwanted bacteria in wild yeast during the oxidization of the winemaking process.

The ancient cultures of Greece, Rome, and Egypt used sulfites to sterilize their containers of wine.

Typically, sweet, white wines are higher in sulfites, while dry, red wines are lower in sulfites.

Since the governments have required wine labels to state ‘Contains Sulfites,’ consumers worry that sulfites might be dangerous to their health.

The truth is that sulfites naturally occur in all wines, generated between 6 to 40 parts per million (ppm) and free from chemical additives in many other foods.

The most significant health risk involving sulfites could be an allergic reaction, a rare phenomenon compared to frequent occurrences notable in shellfish, peanuts, and egg allergies.

A typical scenario with wine sulfites could be mild food sensitivity with symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, or rashes. No scientific evidence suggests that sulfites cause headaches.

Generally speaking, if you are of drinking age and don’t know if you have an allergy to sulfites, then you probably don’t. Nowadays, those with a specific allergy to an ingredient are made aware of this fact early on in life.

So while those with a severe sulfite allergy should remain vigilant in monitoring their food and beverage intake, the vast majority can freely enjoy the health benefits of drinking quality wine without any concerns.