What are sulphites in wine & can they harm you?

Are you in the mood to buy wine online? Before you start shopping, there are a lot of things that you must learn about wine and how it is made. One concept you must be aware of is sulphites. Sulphites give the impression of being dangerous and bad for a person’s health. But is this assumption real? Continue reading to find out.

What are sulphites?

If you love wine, you must be familiar with the term sulphites. Sulphites refer to natural or artificial chemicals like sulphur dioxide. These chemicals are used as preservatives in food, including wine. Sulphites are considered preservatives and are used to prevent the growth of yeasts, moulds and bacteria. Sulphites are also used to give the wine the desired colour and the desired amount of alcohol.

Sulphites are found in wine, fruit juices and other foods. Sulphites are also found in medications like cold medications. People who are sensitive to sulphites have symptoms like itchy red eyes, headache and even digestive problems.

What are natural sulphites?

Sulphites can be derived from natural sources. They can be produced by the yeast itself or by the bacteria that are contained in wine. These are the natural sulphites. Many wines that don't contain added sulphites will often still have to legally state they contain sulphites due to these natural occurrences. Natural sulphites are good for people who are sensitive to food with sulphites.

What are added sulphites?

If you are wondering what sulphites are in wine, added sulfites are the artificial ones. They are used to prevent the growth of bacteria, yeast, and moulds. Added sulphites have been used since the Roman Empire. In wine production, the sulphites are added to the wine at a very early stage, or they are already present in the wine when it is brought to the table.

Sulphites may be an allergen, but being allergic to sulphites is very rare

Sulphite sensitivity is very rare. With high percentages of the population, only about 1% has a severe allergy to sulphites. The allergy is called sulphite-induced anaphylaxis. Because only a small percentage of people have a strong allergy, it is not an important consideration when eating and drinking. But, people who have this allergy should avoid all food and beverages that have sulphites.

If you suspect that you have a sulphite allergy, you need to visit your doctor. To have a proper diagnosis, your doctor will do a skin test. If the result is positive, then you may have a sulphite allergy. To confirm, you will need to undergo a blood test.

Sulphites, in general, are not bad for you

Most people find it difficult to tolerate sulphites because of the negative connotations surrounding them. The food that is prepared with sulphites is usually perceived to be unhealthy. This is not the case. Food that has sulphites does not have any harmful effect on your health.

The only time when people have reported a reaction to sulphites is when they have an allergy. In this case, the reported reactions are itching skin, hives, difficulty breathing and even fainting. But, these occur only when the sulphite concentration is so high in the food or drink that the person who is sensitive takes.

Sulphites are produced naturally. This is why sulphites are found in wine, juice and even some fruits. Although sulphites are preserved with the help of added sulphites, this does not mean that it has a negative effect on the wine. 

Final thoughts: you are still free to enjoy your wine

If you are one of those who are concerned about the presence of sulphites, you can rest easy. The sulphites in wine only help preserve it. It does not have any harmful effect on the quality of the wine. The added sulphites also do not have a negative impact on the quality of the wine. So, you can still enjoy your wine without the fear of experiencing unpleasant effects.


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