Sulfites in Wine – What Are They & Are They Safe?

Almost any bottle of wine you pick up says ‘contains sulfites’. But, have you really ever learned what they are? Are they even bad for you? There does seem to be quite a bit of misconception around sulfites in wine. That is why we want to help clear some things up.

What Are Sulfites?

Let’s clear some things up. First, sulfites actually refer to the compound, sulfur dioxide. It is widely used in winemaking. However, it is a common additive in beverages, jams, picked food, etc. Sulfites have antioxidant and antibacterial properties. This is why they are used as a food preservative. Sulfites help slow discoloration and deterioration of food. Specifically, sulfites prolong the life of wine.

Secondly, they aren’t always added. They also naturally occur in some food sources. For example, black tea, peanut, eggs, and fermented foods have naturally occurring sulfites. In fact, some foods have higher levels of sulfites than most wines. Still, there are side effects people can experience due to sulfites. Which leads us to the next question.

Sulfites in Wine

Did you know red wine actually contains fewer sulfites than white wine?

Are They Safe?

Most research shows that sulfites in wine affect people very differently. Some can tolerate it well, while others may experience side effects. These can include stomach aches, headaches, and inflammation. Although, the Food and Drug Administration estimates that only 1% of the population has sensitivities to sulfites. Therefore, it’s very rare. Most likely, if you do have an allergy, it will present itself in other food consumptions first, not just with wine.

So, it is safe? Yes, generally it is harmless (unless you are allergic, of course). In addition, the amount of sulfites in wine is highly regulated around the world. And, while it had been reported to cause headaches, there is no definitive research on sulfite-induced headaches. Hint: It might just be the alcohol. If you’re still on the fence about sulfites in wine, know this: wine contains 10x fewer sulfites than most dried fruits! Actually, it has quite a few health benefits.

Solution: Buy More Wine!

Most people think sulfites in wine are much higher in the US. But in actuality, they are at very similar levels throughout the world. And, did you know that red wines contain the least sulfites? Because they have tannin, which helps to stabilize the wine, less sulfur dioxide is necessary. We hope this helps you understand a bit more about sulfites. They aren’t unnatural, and they aren’t generally harmful to most people. Still, there are plenty of sulfite-free wines you can choose from. This is great for those who are allergic. Many local wines also require fewer sulfites because they don’t have to be shipped. Consider buying a Maryland wine next time you are at Festival Wine & Spirits. Just ask for help. Cheers!