Sulfites in wine are a long standing tradition. The Romans got the sulfite ball rolling a few thousand years ago. More on that story shows up a bunch of paragraphs down the page. The main purpose of sulfites in wine is to prevent oxidation and bacteria from running wild.
Many people say they have reactions to sulfites. They most often describe these reactions by saying that they get headaches from sulfites. Here’s a video we did in regard to sulfites in wine, with a focus on the headache factor.
Not too long ago, ConsciousWine received an e-mail saying the following: “I am allergic to so many foods I will not list them out, but found I also have a lot of problems with sulfites. I was directed towards organic wines and was told this was a great place to check out.”
I responded to this e-mail by writing the following:
My name is Jeff Weissler. I am a partner in ConsciousWine, and The ConsciousWine Guy. Thanks for reaching out to us. I hope we can help.
I want to be clear that I am not a doctor, although I’ve spent some time studying nutrition to go along with 30 years in the fine wine business and researching the different pieces of ConsciousWine since 2005.
Wine is an interesting and can lead to a group of different reactions in people. I believe the main culprits for someone having a reaction with a wine are sulfites, histamines, dehydration, sugar, and the “energetics” of the wine.
Sulfites in wine are used to prevent oxidation and bacteria from running wild. There is a legal maximum of 350 parts per million (ppm) allowed to be added to wine for these purposes.
Many folks believe sulfites cause headaches, although there is no scientific evidence of that. There is evidence of sulfites causing a reaction in asthmatics. It’s most commonly described as a cotton or stuck feeling in the throat. The Harvard Health Letter has had reports on a condition they describe as “Red Wine Syndrome” where research was done on this.
At ConsciousWine, a big part of our purpose is to help folks figure out what is a good choice (a healthy choice), for both them and the planet.
In regard to your specific question this is what I can say:
When an American wine says,“Organic Wine” on the label, it is a guarantee that there have been zero sulfites added during the winemaking process (that includes right before bottling which is when most wineries add a fair amount of sulfites). This sounds sulfite free, but it is not completely. Sulfites are a natural bi-product of fermentation, and there can be 6-8 ppm sulfites in a wine without adding anything. That was the good news of this little tale. The bad news is to make wine without adding sulfites at all, is incredibly difficult (although not impossible) to end up with a consistent quality product. If no sulfites are added, a single extra yeast or microbial anything can lead to a microbial universe (and flavors not so fun). FYI, sulfites (in small amounts) have been added to wine since Roman times (sulfur was in the candles they used to see when cleaning the vats; burning the sulfur created sulfites).
The most common “Organic Wine” you can find at a store (including most health food stores) is from Frey Vineyards in Mendocino County, CA. They represent outstanding farming practices, are made with tremendous love, but I also feel there is a problem with a frequency of inconsistent quality. They are the most popular and available wines in the US with no sulfites added.
In terms of labels, you should know there is another one called, “Made with Organically Grown Grapes” which does allow for sulfites added. This brings me to sharing a little more with you about ConsciousWine. ConsciousWine goes to vineyards and wineries to find those committed to making what we call wines “Vital to Both Palate and Planet.” We find those wineries and then tell their stories on our website, and offer some of those wines for sale through The Shop on ConsciousWine.com.
All wines on our site have been vetted for 4 Principles. They are:
- 100% organically grown grapes
- sustainably farmed
- creating vital, living products
- that taste great (there is a quality finished product is in the bottle!)
Here’s the link where you can click to get further descriptions of any of the Principles: The 4 Principles
The wines on our site have a maximum of 100 ppm sulfites added. Having said that, most of the wines are more in the 20-50 ppm range.
We have one winery on our site that does not add sulfites to some of their wines – AmByth Estate. Philip & Mary Hart are the owners. Their passion for natural grape growing and winemaking runs to their core. Here’s the link to their page on our website: AmByth Estate Featured Winery Page. You can watch a video or two to get a taste of their style. With the exception of several wines, their wines sell for $45 per bottle, so they are not inexpensive. For comparison, Frey starts in the $15 range. But like they say, you get what you pay for.
Wines on our site do contain minimal sulfites added (with the exception of a few Ambyth Wines and I’ve included that link here: http://consciouswine.com/shop/manufacturers.php?manufacturerid=1). Having said that, with all ConsciousWines you do get wine made with a gentle touch that keeps the “life force” from a vital soil and environment intact. I don’t know if they would cause a reaction for you or not, but if you can drink wine without having a reaction, these wines should have a high possibility of success for you.
Thank you so much for reaching out to us, and we’re here to make a difference, and help where we can. Feel free to continue the conversation.
Cheers & Best of Health,
Jeff Weissler & ConsciousWine
AmByth Estate (in Templeton, CA near Paso Robles) has been working hard at making wines without any sulfites being added. That is one of their goals, and what I love most is that they won’t force it. They have an understanding of what it takes from start to finish for a well made product to arrive in bottle at your door, and they stick to that commitment. When nature lets them create a no sulfites in wine opportunity, they jump on it, and the results speak for themselves.
ConsciousWine is excited to be offering 4 wines (2 reds, 2 whites) from AmByth Estate with no sulfites added. They’re all made in tiny amounts. 100 cases were made of the Zinfandel, which is more than the total of the other 3 wines combined. Click on the wine name to discover more about the individual wine and to buy some through our Cyber-Shop (3 bottle minimum order). Their natural winemaking style leads to a balance and diversity of flavors, alcohol levels not in the stratosphere, wines that unwind with air & love being paired with food.
When the addition of sulfites in wine has been eliminated, the first quest is to discover a stable, quality wine. When you come across one, it’s a blessing! When you discover AmByth Estate it’s amazing! Big shout out to Philip & Mary Hart!!
Trying these naturally made American wines is a delicious opportunity for yourself or anyone that loves wine expressing balance, place, purity and specifically wants to avoid sulfites in wine. They’re available in our Shop.
Cheers and Happy 2012!