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Monday, November 23, 2015

Allergic to Sulfites in Wine?

Wine, along with many other foods, contains sulfur compounds. If you know you have a sulfur allergy what do you do? Sulfites occur naturally in many foods plus more can be added as a preservative. Besides wine, sulfites can be found in everything from salad bars to beer to guacamole to bakery items.

A very small percentage of the population has an adverse reaction to sulfur in their food (mainly asthmatics). BTW, there is no known relationship between headaches and sulfur though some people claim they get headaches from it. Who knows, everybody is different. If you can eat raisins or other dried fruit then you don't have a sulfur allergy as these foods are loaded with sulfur to preserve them.

If you do have a sensitivity to sulfites can you still drink wine?

Can some wines be lower in sulfur compounds?  Yes. There are regulations for the amount of sulfur found in wine. A conventionally made wine can contain up to 350 parts per million of sulfites though typically they are under 150 ppm. If it is made with organic grapes it has to have less than 150 ppm. A biodynamic wine has less than 100 ppm. An organic wine less than 20 ppm. It cannot be zero as these sulfur compounds are naturally occurring on grapes. Any wine containing over 10 ppm must be labeled with "contains sulfites."

So it appears your choice is to seek out organic wines. The definition is a wine made only with organic products; no added chemicals or sulfur. The trick is finding organic wines. When a winemaker decides not to use sulfites to protect their grapes there is a risk of spoilage so not many do this.

In Sonoma County Cotturi Winery uses organic practices and does not add sulfur. Just to the north in Mendocino County is the certified organic Frey Vineyards.

You can sometimes find organic wines from "conventional" wineries. Korbel makes an organic Brut, for instance (and it's quite good).

If you have a Whole Foods market nearby most of their stores carry a selection of organic wines.