The Reason All Wines Actually Contain Sulfites

Even if you aren't much of a wine drinker, chances are you've heard the rampant myth that the sulfites in wine cause headaches. While this isn't exactly true, it could have left you thinking that you should seek out wines that might have you believe they do not contain sulfites (via Wine Spectator). The truth of the matter is that sulfites are actually a byproduct that is naturally made during the process of producing wine. Some wines may have added sulfites to keep the wine from going bad as well as to preserve the carefully-crafted flavor of the wine (via Chow Hound).

However, you could still wonder exactly what sulfites are and where else they might occur among the foods and drinks you consume. According to Chow Hound, sulfites are actually the chemical compound sulfur dioxide. Sulfites are naturally present in other foods such as dried apricots, blue cheese, and molasses, according to Wine Spectator. Though the chemical compound is not harmful to the majority of people, a sulfite sensitivity can cause something similar to an allergic reaction in some (via Good Housekeeping). However, this typically only affects the one percent of people with a sensitivity to the substance when they breathe in powdered sulfites on preserved foods.

This is why all wine has sulfites

Deider Heekin, a La Garagist Farm and Winery winemaker, told Chow Hound that "grapes have very miniscule amounts of naturally occurring sulfites in them, so some extremely small level can always be present, but not to the degree that it would likely adversely affect the consumer." Michael Christian, another winemaker, further explained to Chow Hound that this means no wine is completely sulfite-free. However, the amount of sulfites in any wine can be different. Though sulfites in red wine are often blamed for headaches, according to Good Housekeeping, it tends to have fewer sulfites than white wines. Any sulfites that have been added will obviously increase the amount too.

The reason you might believe wines made or sold in the United States might have more sulfites is due to the warning often printed on bottles' labels. This has everything to do with label laws in different countries, according to Wine Spectator. In the United States, wines are required to have this on their label to be sold here. The same bottle sold in a European country might not have to have the warning listed on the bottle.

So, pay careful attention to the label to learn if your wine has added sulfites. Know that if it reads "no sulfites" or "sulfite-free," there will still be some present from the wine itself.