Given the Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, GMO-Free, Organic, Vegan, All Natural, Non-Fat, No-High-Fructose-Corn-Syrup World that we live in today, it’s surprising that it took us 9,000 years to put wine under the microscope in order to determine which parts of it are good and which parts of it are bad, with the belief that we could make a wine that is healthier, better, more enjoyable than it has been for the last nine millennia!
It’s just too bad that we got it wrong. For the last few years, sulfites have been vilified has the culprit behind the health risks of wine. In reality, there is no definitive evidence to support the claims that sulfites in wine are a health hazard.
Below are 5 myths about sulfites and the truths behind them:
#1. You or someone you know is allergic to sulfites.
Sulfites are something that our body naturally produces at a normal rate of about 1,000mg a day. Compare that to the average 10mg per glass of wine and it’s pretty clear that if someone was allergic to sulfites, their problems would be a little more severe than a life without wine. There are, however, individuals that have high sensitivities to sulfites. We’ll get to that in a second.
#2. Sulfite levels in wine are extremely high.
False. Sulfites are a part of the winemaking process all around the world. They are added in moderation in order to preserve wines for aging. They are also added to other foods for the same reason – anything from the vegetables in a salad bar to dried fruits will contain added sulfites. Sulfites in an average glass of wine will measure 10mg, whereas a 2oz serving of those bright orange dried apricots typically has 112mg - over 10 times as much as a glass of wine. If wine contained absolutely no sulfites, it would spoil while still in the bottle in as early as six months.
# 3. Sulfites give you headaches.
THE BIGGEST MYTH OF ALL! There has been no link to sulfites and headaches in research groups – even among people with high sensitivity to sulfites. Even among the highly sensitive people, adverse reactions (mainly asthmatic) only presented themselves when subjects were given four times the normal amount of sulfites in a single glass. This is not to say that some people don’t get headaches when they drink certain types of wine or alcohol, it just shows that it’s not the sulfites that are causing them. New research is showing that headaches may be related to the type of yeast used in fermentation.
#4. There are less sulfites in white wine.
It’s probably safe to say that we all know someone that doesn’t drink red wine “because of the sulfites.” In reality, white wines have slightly more sulfites than reds.
#5. There are more sulfites used in American wines.
Surprise, things listed in bold are still NOT TRUE. Though winemaking practices differ in each country and region, the amount of sulfites used in winemaking tends to be the same among Old World and New World countries. Several studies show that sulfite levels are similar throughout Europe and the US specifically. The fact that the US has a sulfite warning label but Canada and European countries do not tends to add to this myth.
*This is not an attempt to down-play food allergies or those who have a high sensitivity to sulfites. Both are a serious matter. However, this is an attempt to properly educate those who have withheld from the enjoyment of wine out of fear of adverse consequences.