Sulfites in Wine

Monday, May 7th, 2018
tips for enjoying heart of the desert wine

We keep hearing about sulfites. What are they and what’s their connection to wine? Why do some people avoid wine because of sulfites? Let’s find out.

What are sulfites?

The term sulfites is a term for sulfur dioxide (SO2), a preservative that’s widely used in winemaking (and most food industries) for its antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Sulfites prevent browning or discoloration in food like baked goods, condiments, packaged potatoes and shrimp. These chemicals are particularly prevalent in dried fruit like apricots, to preserve the light coloring after drying. Winemakers also use sulfites to maintain freshness and prevent oxidation. The fermentation process of wine also produces sulfur dioxide naturally.

How much Sulpher is in Wine?

It depends upon the production method, style, and the color of the wine.

  • Wines with lower acidity need more sulfur than higher acidity wines.
  • Red wines need less sulfur than white wines.
  • Wines with higher sugar content tend to need more sulfur to prevent secondary fermentation of the remaining sugar.
  • Wines that are warmer in temperature can release free sulfur compounds and that nasty rotten egg smell. It can be “fixed” simply through decanting and chilling the wine.

Sulfite Allergies

Some people can develop a sensitivity to sulfites. It’s not considered a true allergy because the immune system is not involved, but it is some form of intolerance. Typically, only people with asthma are subject to this sensitivity and even then, only about 10% experience a sulfite intolerance.

Most reactions occur after inhaling the sulfites powdered on foods while eating them. This can then lead to difficulty breathing or wheezing, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that less than 1% of the population in the United States experiences this sensitivity.

In summary, sulfites are basically preservatives that are used in lots of food items including wine. Generally speaking, they are fairly harmless unless you are an asthma sufferer that happens to have an intolerance to them. If you experience a headache after drinking wine, the culprit is more likely tannins or over indulgence.

Cheers to that!

Heart of the Desert is a working pistachio ranch and vineyard with four retail establishments in New Mexico. They are best known for their farm fresh pistachios and Award-Winning New Mexico wines. Each store offers wine and pistachio tastings. They offer worldwide shipping and produce attractive gourmet baskets that make great corporate and family gifts. The main store, on the ranch in Alamogordo, offers farm tours that showcases how pistachios are grown and processed as well as a stunning Tuscany themed patio that overlooks the groves and is available for weddings, private parties or enjoying a relaxing glass of wine.