What's the deal with Sulfites?
Sulfites are a big subject of discussion in the wine world. While they're essential to winemaking and give wine its shelf life, they're demonized for wine related headaches to rashes, shortness of breath and a range of other ailments.
It's commonly thought that sulfites are the primary cause of headaches when drinking wine. This may be true for a tiny percentage of people but it's been largely disproven. Tannins, Alcohol, Latent Histamine and even the placebo effect are all more likely culprits.
The truth is that the jury is still out on the total health effects of sulfites. They're used in a variety of foods from lunch meat to dried fruit and they're not going anywhere fast. If you think you're sensitive or, like us, you'd like to limit the amount of preservation going on inside your body there's a few things you can do to limit your exposure.
Organic wines are legally bound to contain less than 100ppm of sulfite while conventional wines are allowed up to 350ppm. The recent trend by organic winemakers has been to reach a minimum sulfite level, just to balance the wine. Modern advances in winemaking have allowed for significantly less bacteria exposure in the cantina, and thus, less need for preservatives.
Know Your Basic Wine Styles
Sweet desert wines will often contain the highest level of sulfites While incredibly delicious, their sugar content makes them susceptible to bacteria growth so winemakers add extra SO2 to give them shelf life. On the other hand, red wines contain Tannins from grape skin which act as a natural preservative. Acidity is another important factor in preserving wine and is prevalent in many white and red wines.
The (Non-Scientific) Sulfite Hierarchy
As a rule you'll find the lowest sulfites in dry Biodynamic and Organic wines from smaller producers with modern winemaking equipment. While most labels won't have sulfite information, when you see an organic certification like the ones below you'll know there's a sulfite limit of 100ppm rather than 350ppm.
3 Wines With Ridiculously Low Sulfites
Tenuta San Pietro - Gavi DOCG - $16.00
A biodynamic masterpiece. This wine is made with the utmost commitment to biodynamic agriculture and every grape was hand picked by a small team under the watchful eye of Claudio Icardi. Sterilization and careful handling in the winemaking process allow Tenuta San Pietro to confidently use some of the lowest sulfite concentrations found in any modern wine. This wine is also incredibly delicious and reflects every aspect of it's vivacious flower dotted vineyard.