[Organic to Vegan] Is Sulphites in wines bad?
Terminology: sulphur, sulphur dioxide, sulphites and sulphides
It is easy to confuse the numerous similar-sounding, but chemically distinct terms relating to sulphur in wine.
Sulphur is sprayed on vines as a fungicide to prevent powdery mildew. In the past, it was also burnt in winery buildings and casks to destroy unhelpful bacteria and yeasts, a practice that seems to be on the rise again.
Sulphur dioxide (SO2) or sulphites – in liquid, gas or powder form – may be added to grapes or wine during winemaking, from harvesting to fermentation and bottling; yeasts also produce natural SO2 during fermentation.
Sulphide / Sulfide is an inorganic anion of sulfur with the chemical formula S²⁻ or a compound containing one or more S²⁻ ions.
Sulphites / Sulphites are present, to a greater or lesser degree, in all wine. Sulphides are volatile sulphur compounds (hydrogen sulphide, mercaptans and disulphides) that, when present at high levels in wine, are associated with wine faults such as reduction and rotten egg or rotten vegetable smells.
Labels are asked to have sulphites warning
SO2 definitely has a bad rap when it comes to popular opinion. This line has been printed on all bottles of wine sold in the US since 1988, and within the EU since 2005.
Only those with less than 10 parts per million (PPM) are exempted, and here’s the rub – without any added SO2, meaning that even many "no added sulphites" wines must display the offending words on the label.
Why adding s to wines?
Does ss in wine are harmful?
Probably not, at least not in the minuscule amounts found in modern wines – typically 20-200 PPM. Compare that to a handful of dried fruit, which will have been dosed with anywhere from 500-3,000 PPM. While this amount could theoretically cause an adverse reaction in an asthmatic, it’s extremely rare: sulphites intolerance reportedly affects less than 1% of the population.
Sulphites cause "wine headache"?
Andrew Waterhouse, professor of enology at UC Davis, asserts: ‘There is no medical research data showing that sulphites cause headaches.
Given the apparent lack of health risks, many winemakers insist on reducing their sulphites usage to a bare minimum, or even to zero as they believe SO2 also mutes the delicate nuances that express vintage or vineyard character, despite its usefulness in slowing oxidation and knocking out harmful bacteria.
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