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Sulfites 101...

Q: I am allergic to sulfites in wine. What about sulfites that are added to wine and where can I buy "sulfite free" wine?
A: I found out some information for you from The Wine Bible and from wine.about.com.

  • What Are Sulfites?
    Sulfites are a naturally occurring compound that nature uses to prevent microbial growth. They are found naturally on grapes, onions, garlic, and on many other growing plants.
  • Why Add Sulfites to Wine?
    Winemakers have been adding additional sulfites to wines for millennia. The Greeks and Romans used sulfur candles to sterilize their wine barrels and amphorae. Sulfur protects damage to the wine by oxygen, and again helps prevent organisms from growing in the wine. This allows the wine to "last longer" too, which lets it age and develop all of those complex flavors we all love and enjoy so much.
  • What's the Problem with Sulfites?
    Sulfite allergies are a problem for some wine drinkers. For them, the sulfites can lead to serious headaches. White wines have more sulfites than red wines, so this can be a way to determine if sulfites might be the problem.
  • What's Different about a Wine Without Sulfites?
    A wine without added sulfites is drinkable by those allergic to sulfites. It cannot last long, however - usually 18 months is the longest a sulfite-free wine would survive. So while it is fine for "drink young" wines like Chardonnay, it would not be good for a "long aging" wine like a Zinfandel.
  • How Free is Sulfite Free?
    The TTG, the governing body for wineries, allows wineries to call a wine "sulfite free" when the levels of sulfites are under 10 parts per million (ppm). The upper limit of sulfites allowed to add to wine is 350ppm. Most contain 150ppm or less. By the way, due to the meticulous cleanliness of our tanks, filters, and barrels, most of the wine at Wilson Creek is only 40ppm. There are a few wines that are "sulfite-free" that you may find at some health food stores.
Q: What is an organic wine?
  • Organically grown grapes: Grapes used in certified organic wine, like all organic products, must be grown organically, meaning that no artificial chemical pesticides or fertilizers are used.
  • Non-organic: added sulfites. Sulfites are sulfur dioxides, compounds that occur naturally in the fermentation of wine. Many winemakers add more sulfites to their wines, as it acts as a preservative.
  • Organic: no added sulfites. To be called organic, a wine cannot have any added sulfites. Organic wines, therefore, have lower levels of sulfites than other wines. This can be especially important for consumers who have allergies to sulfites.
  • Check the label: To see if a wine is organic, check the label for a certification logo or statement. Some organic wines may not advertise the fact, but most organic winemakers are proud of the distinction and will place it on their bottles.

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