Sulfites have a bad reputation for causing headaches and being generally “bad” for you, but the truth is that they are naturally present in many things we consume, including wine. In wine, sulfites are simply a natural byproduct of fermentation. Some winemakers do choose to add additional sulfites to wine for protection against oxidation and bacterial spoilage, and in many cases, this is a good thing, especially if you’ve ever been anywhere near an opened bottle of spoiled wine.
Only about 1% of the general population is sulfite-sensitive and approximately 5% of asthma sufferers are sulfite-sensitive. But don’t blame sulfites for any headaches or hangovers. Being sulfite-sensitive means having sulfite reactions that are like bad asthma attacks or that might result in hives – not headaches or hangovers.
If you’re looking to avoid sulfites, for yourself or for wine gifts, stick with organically made wines which won’t have any added sulfites, though they will still have trace amounts of sulfites from the winemaking process. Currently we offer a lovely Organic Duo from Bonterra Vineyards in Mendocino that you could sample to see if the decrease in sulfites has any noticeable effect on you.
About differnet countries and sulfite laws: in the United States, labeling laws require the mention of sulfites in wine. Wines from all over the world contain sulfites, but if you drink them outside the U.S., they won’t mention it on the label. It’s a confusing way to approach the sulfite issue, and it leads people to believe that there’s a different set of wines sold abroad that contain absolutely no sulfites. But now hopefully you are a little bit wiser….