The earth has sulfur in it naturally, and so do many food products that come from the earth. Grapes are one of those, but so are oranges and eggs that come from chickens. Sulfites exist in our bodies naturally. It doesn’t affect anybody.
Centuries ago, people discovered that sulfur was a strong cleansing and antibacterial agent. It began to be used in cooking and storage containers. And it’s been used for a long time in winemaking as an additive to stop bacteria and oxidation. It also has the unique property of binding with oxygen molecules, so they don’t tend to oxidize the wine.
Bacteria and re-fermentation are handled technically now, but oxidation still exists as a danger to wine, particularly white. And sulfur dioxide is the most effective thing to stop it. There’s no other equivalent product that’s been found.
And if you make wine without added sulfur, it’s going to be more fragile. It will start to lose its aromas sooner, start to lose its color and eventually become muddy and cloudy. That can take years in some cases, but it can also take months. Store bought bargain basement wines – An allowable 250 parts per million (ppm) of non-organic sulfur dioxide (preservative 220) There is sometimes a mixture of grapes from different vineyards and countries especially during a bad harvesting year and therefore extremely hard to distinguish if the set guidelines are being adhered to. There is the use of non-organic fertilizers in the soil, pesticides, herbicides, added stimuli hormones and preservatives to keep the texture, color and flavor of the wine intact for longer shelf life.
If sulfur is naturally occurring, what’s the argument against it?
Because the sulfites that do any good must be added. The ones that are in the grapes naturally do nothing to help preserve the wine. They’re inconsequential. It’s sort of a coincidence that what happens to be in grapes naturally can be added to wine in a free format to prevent oxidation.
It’s definitely not a dangerous substance. It’s not a carcinogen. It’s not highly toxic. It doesn’t stay on the earth for many years, potentially poisoning people. In small quantities it goes in and out of the body and doesn’t really do any harm; unless you happen to be allergic to it. That’s the whole thing. It’s an allergy issue.
If you feel horrible after a glass or two, time to rethink what you are putting into your body. Maybe time to consider the quality of the wine you are consuming rather than the quantity.
So what’s the bottom line? How do you determine if the sulfites in wine are causing headaches? FDA estimates that one out of 100 people is sensitive to sulfur compounds. If you’ve ever gotten a reaction after eating dried fruit, which often contains sulfur as a preservative, then you may be among those who are sensitive to sulfur in varying degrees, from intolerance to allergic reactions.
But if dried fruit doesn’t bother you, and you’re still getting headaches, you might having a reaction to the chemicals that are added to the industrialized wine. Maybe time to consider the quality of the wine you are consuming rather than the quantity. The only way you’ll know for sure is to try an organic wine, or a wine made with minimal intervention — because then you’ll know what’s not in it – no added sulfur or mystery chemicals.