I was in Costco a couple of weeks ago and an older gentleman was standing behind me in the checkout line. He noticed two bottles of wine in my cart and he told me that he stopped drinking wine cold turkey because he said if I knew the additives in wine, I wouldn’t drink it. He also added, he is a retired doctor.
So, of course, I researched this information online. The only thing I knew about wine was it did contain sulfites and not good for pregnanat women to drink it. Ironically, my Primary Care doctor advised me to drink a glass of red wine every day as it is good for your heart. Those exact words are what my own father told me when I was young. Well, here is what I found out:
Those little words “Contains Sulfites” on the bottom of a label often stir up concern. What’s even more confusing is that the US is one of the only countries (along with Australia) that require bottles be labeled. So what gives? How much sulfites are in wine and how do they affect you?
Time to get to the bottom of sulfites in wine and how they’re not as bad as you might think.
Sulfites are Not bad for most people. Sulfites aren’t the cause of red wine headaches which I have experienced now and then. There are some notable exceptions to this rule.
Depending on the production method, style and the color of the wine, sulfites in wine range from no-added sulphur (10-40 PPM) to about 350 PPM. If you compare wine to other foods, it’s placed far lower on the spectrum. For example, many dry red wines have around 50 PPM.
Sulfites are a preservative to wine, which is a volatile food product (ever open a wine and it’s bad by the next day?). Wineries have been using sulfur around wine for a long time, as far back as the Roman times. Back in Roman times, winemakers would burn candles made of sulfur in empty wine containers (called Amphora) to keep the wines from turning to vinegar. Sulfur started to be used in winemaking (instead of just cleaning wine barrels) in the early 1900′s to stop bacteria and other yeasts from growing. It also helps in the extraction of pigments in wine, making red wines "redder".
Very sensitive tasters have been noted to smell sulfites in wine at around 50 PPM. What’s interesting is that the warmer the wine, the more molecular sulfur it releases. This is why some wines have a nasty cooked-egg aroma when you open them. You can fix this issue by decanting your wine and chilling for about 15-30 minutes. Chilling the red wine helps a lot even though I was always told to drink it at room temperature. It actually made the red wine taste better.
Living in a hot climate like Florida and since most wines are made in cold cellars, it makes sense to chill red wine. It takes a lot to time to transport wine to various states, so sitting in a hot truck for weeks at a time does not help either. Then sitting on the shelves of stores that the room temperature is not exactly what it should be for wine is another culprit. And we all know that stores like Costco do not have air conditioning like your Wine Stores!
If you have sensitivity to foods, you should absolutely try to eliminate sulfites from your diet. Eliminating wine could be necessary. Perhaps start your sulfur witch hunt with the obvious culprits (like processed foods) before you write-off wine!
My Father and my brother-in-law’s homemade wine was the best! Yes, it was strong but good. No sulfites needed and was made in cold cellars!