Sulfites in Wine: What Are They?

By • February 12, 2018 0 Comments

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Author Notes: How often do you check the ingredients list on your wine? Perhaps you looked once or twice out of curiosity, or perhaps you are a connoisseur who pays attention to the fine details. Whatever the reason, you may have noticed the phrase ‘contains sulfites’ on your wine label.

What Are Sulfites?

In terms of molecular structure, ‘sulfites’ refers to sulfur dioxide, a preservative which plays an integral role in the winemaking process. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) has antioxidant and antibacterial properties that temper the oxidation reactions which cause wine to spoil. To some extent, sulfites are used as a preservative in many food-related industries. 

Are They Harmful?

Studies suggest high levels of sulfites in a person’s diet can lead to worsened morning after headaches, nasal congestion, skin ailments, upset stomachs, and low blood pressure.

Individuals who suffer from severe asthma or a rare enzyme deficiency may experience mild to life threatening symptoms from the consumption of sulfites. The FDA estimates these susceptible individuals amount to less than 1% of the population of the United States.

What Level of Sulfites Does Wine Contain?

Since sulfites are a natural byproduct of fermentation, every wine contains a small amount of sulfites. Many winemakers add more sulfites as a preservative. Sulfite levels in a bottle of wine will vary depending on vineyard and winemaking practices, and can range from 40-80 mg/liter. Any wine whose sulfite content is greater than 10 parts per million must state ‘contains sulfites’ on the label.

Can I Remove the Sulfites from My Wine?

Some people prefer to purchase wine free of sulfites either for health reasons or taste. Given the widespread use of sulfites as a preservative, this is not possible. However, it is now possible to remove the sulfites from your wine. If you want to store your wine for a while, then you will want to leave the sulfites in and remove them when you consume the wine.

So how do you remove those sulfites? It is, sadly, not a simple and straightforward process that can be attempted with everyday household items. Instead, you have to buy a specialized product like StiQit. The StiQit is made with proprietary, FDA-permitted ingredients that remove the sulfites from the glass of wine with a stir.

Do European Wines Have Sulfites?

One common misconception is that wines from countries outside of the U.S. don’t contain sulfites. The truth is that they just don’t label it. The US requires a sulfite warning label that indicates a wine bottle ‘contains sulfites.’ Wines from France, Italy, Australia and Chile still contain sulfites. Survey studies show that European wines contain an average of 80 mg/L sulfites, just like the U.S.

If you are one of the unfortunate few who are particularly susceptible to the effects of sulfites then having such a simple and portable solution to the problem is a godsend!

Have you or a loved one experience symptoms associated with sulfite sensitivity? What solutions have you tested? 
Veselina Dzhingarova

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Serves 1

  • 1 liter wine

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