For most drinkers, the scariest words on a bottle of their favourite wine are “CONTAINS SULFITES.” But what are Sulfites in Wine all about, after all?
Well, to start with, Sulfites comprise a range of sulfur compounds. These are particularly sulfur dioxide (SO2) and are a natural by-product of the fermentation process. This process works as a preservative against specific yeast and bacteria. These microorganisms work to quickly destroy the wine if they are allowed to multiply. However, the process of fermentation alone does not produce enough sulfite to preserve a wine for more than a few weeks or months in a single bottle. Hence, the winemakers add extra to keep the microbes at bay. Sulfites are not used only in wine. There are various foods, ranging from crackers to coconut, that also contain sulfites. Any ingredient that is at all processed is most likely to comprise at least some level of sulfites.
It was in the year 1986 that the FDA had identified sulfites as an allergen. This was following a rash of asthma cases reported at that time. Sulfites were eventually banned from raw fruits and vegetables. However, as part of the warning label push in the late 1980s, the feds made it necessary that sulfites be disclosed on the wine labels if they need to be detected at a level of 10 mg/L or higher. However, sulfites are an important part of winemaking around the world as a form of necessity. So, be aware that simply because your bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape does not have the warning does not imply that it does not contain sulfites.
Before that, let us know a bit more about the use of Sulfites in the wine.
As mentioned previously, Sulfites are a form of preservative added to maintain the natural flavour and color of the wine. This chemical is formed by the combination of sulfur and dioxide (SO2)and is generally added to all kinds of wine. Some users also report that the chemical leaves behind a bitter taste.
Bear in mind that even if no extra sulfites have been added, it is necessary to remember that a natural part of the fermentation process of the wine does produce some amount of sulfites. Hence, the chemical process of adding SO2 has reportedly been utilized for thousands of years. This dates back almost to the ancient Romans. They were known to use it during their winemaking process to prevent the wine from turning to vinegar.
Sulfites are not evil; as such, however, you can enjoy the wine more with less quantity of Sulphites in them.
There are various products in the market that claim to have eliminated the bitterness by filtering out the sulfites.
It has been observed that the users simply love the resulting product. Most even performed taste tests with their favorite bottle of wine. Once they compared their purified and unpurified glasses, the difference was noticeable. “You’ve spoiled me,” says one sampler. Another report that the process of skilful removal of Sulphites is “a game-changer.”
So, the next time you go for a glass of wine, consider pouring it through a purifier to enjoy the pinot to its fullest. Even if you might not be sensitive to sulfites, you can still enjoy a fresher glass.
Health Concerns and Allergies
How to get rid of sulfites in wine? Well, more on that, but first let us take a look at some of the health concerns of the presence of Sulphites in the wine:
1. Asthma and Sulfite Sensitivity
In case you are suffering from asthma, then you are considerably more likely to develop an allergic reaction to sulfurs present in wine. Research shows that Sulfite sensitivity results in asthma-like symptoms, including wheezing and troubled breathing.
2. Sulfite allergy
- Sulfites are inorganic salts that do not contain the proteins that can lead to actual food allergies. Even though you can get asthma-like symptoms, it could be due to other substances in wine or food.
- Sulfites and headaches
There have been cases where the Sulfites have been shown to trigger migraines in certain individuals. These people with a history of migraines or familial predisposition to migraines or tension headaches are advised to stay away from sulfones.
3. Sulfite-Related Deaths
- There have been certain reported deaths due to the extreme sulfite sensitivity. Anaphylaxis, which is a severe sensitivity or allergic reaction, results in the circulatory system collapsing and the neck enlarging. This is known as the cause of death from sulfite sensitivity.
- If you are known to suffer from severe sulfite sensitivity, it is advised to request injectable adrenaline from the doctor and to always keep it with you.
Methods to Remove Sulfites from Wine:
How to remove histamines and sulfites from wine? Well, let us find out more about this.
1. Addition of Hydrogen Peroxide
Adding a couple of drops of hydrogen peroxide to your wine can help reduce the sulfite levels. Generally, 1 millilitre, which is about 1/4 teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide, is sufficient to eliminate the sulfites from a standard bottle of wine with 80 mg/L sulfites.
Nevertheless, it is important to dilute the hydrogen peroxide first and then add it slowly to the wine. Be sure to taste this every couple of minutes so that you do not over-oxidize or change the flavour profile of your wine.
2. Using Wine Purifier
Wine purifiers are specially designed to eliminate the sulfites and other impurities from wine. This method works by drawing air through a filter that removes the SO2 gas and then reintroduces oxygen-rich air back into the bottle.
The method is much quicker as compared to allowing the wine to breathe naturally and leaves you with a smooth, balanced flavour minus the harsh chemical notes.
3. Using Sulfite Removing Drop
Sulfite Removing Drop is a specially formulated liquid that includes food-grade hydrogen peroxide, sunflower, and egg white lecithin that can be added to the wine to remove sulfites. One drop of this solution is sufficient to reduce the sulfite content in a typical 750 ml bottle by about 30 mg/L.
4. Using the Wine Filter Sulfite Remover
The wine filter sulfite remover is a special type of filter that removes sulfites from wine. The use of this method is very simple and easy. One is only required to attach the filter, comprised of small pores, to the tip of your wine bottle. Now, when you pour your wine through it into a glass, the sulfur atoms are removed along with it. This method can be more effective as compared to the other techniques as no additional ingredients or chemicals are required to be added along.
5. The Use of Wine Aerator
A wine aerator is a special tool that assists in oxygenating a bottle of wine, which can help reduce the number of sulfites in it. Once the air passes through the aerator and mixes with the wine, oxidation occurs, and some sulfur atoms are converted into harmless compounds like sulfates.
The Use of Wine Aerator and Filter
A wine aerator and filter is a special tool that is used to reduce sulfites and other impurities in wine. This device comprises two parts: an aerator that allows the oxygen into the bottle of wine and a filter that helps remove sulfites and other particles. For this to work, you need to Attach the filter to the tip of your wine bottle. This will filter what is poured from the bottle.
Best Practices for Reducing Sulfite Exposure
How do you remove sulfites from wine? Now, it is time to take a look at some of the best ways to remove sulfites from wine. Now it is time to take a look at some of the best methods to eliminate the Sulfite exposure:
1. Improved Vineyard Management
One method for reducing SO2 additions begins in the vineyard. This can be easily done by adopting sustainable and organic farming practices where the winemakers can minimize the requirement for SO2 in the winemaking process. Healthy and disease-resistant vines result in cleaner fruit that comprises a lower microbial load, hence minimizing the risk of spoilage. The Well-managed vineyards also allow for optimal ripeness, thus making sure that grapes comprise the required natural antioxidants to protect the wine during the process of fermentation and aging.
2. Enhanced Sanitation Practices
Maintaining a hygienic and sanitary winery environment is important for the reduction of the risk of microbial contamination. Complete cleaning and sanitization of winemaking tools, like tanks, barrels, and bottling lines, can help eliminate the requirement for excessive SO2 additions. Thus, the application of regular microbial testing and quality control protocols can also help identify potential sources of contamination and ensure that the winemakers can address them effectively.
3. Selective Yeast Strains
Selecting the right yeast strain for the process of fermentation can greatly affect the production of quality wine while ensuring reduced SO2 additions. Certain yeast strains have been found to produce lower levels of sulfur compounds during the process of fermentation. Thus minimizing the requirement for the additional SO2. By carefully choosing the yeast strains that comprise low sulfur production and aromatic qualities, the winemakers can acquire a balanced and expressive wine that minimizes the use of sulfur-based additives.
4. Oxygen Management during Winemaking
The careful management of oxygen exposure during the process of wine production and aging processes is important for reducing the requirement for post-fermentation SO2 additions. This is because too much oxygen exposure can lead to the formation of volatile sulfur compounds and, hence, the loss of desirable aromas and flavors. Applying controlled winemaking techniques, like inert gas flushing and the use of oxygen-impermeable closures, can assist in preserving the wine quality and minimize the process of oxidation. This also decreases the reliance on SO2 for antioxidant protection.
How to Remove Sulfites from Wine?: Conclusion
How to filter sulfites out of wine? Well, Sulfites are perhaps among the most common additives utilized in wines and are generally present in small portions. Nevertheless, for those users who suffer from allergies or sensitivities to sulfites, it can be quite helpful to know how to remove Sulfites from the wine they wish to consume.
One can use methods like air aeration; however, the more complex method includes the use of fining agents like bentonite clay. Lastly, whatever method you might select for removing sulfites from your wines, it should be done with care and attention to make sure that you do not inadvertently spoil or alter the flavor of your favorite wine. What has been your experience with the process of the removal of Sulfites from the wine? Do let us know, and we would love to hear from you.
How to Remove Sulfites from Wine?: FAQ's
Question 1. What are sulfites, and why are they in wine?
Answer: Sulfites are generally a chemical compound that is used to improve the appearance, taste, and shelf life of wine and other products.
Question 2. Can’t I just let my wine breathe to remove sulfites?
Answer: Yes, it is possible to reduce sulfites easily by aerating the wine. This can be done either by swirling it in a glass or around in a decanter.
Question 3. Are sulfites harmful to everyone?
Answer: No, not to everyone.
Question 4. How do I know if I’m sensitive to sulfites?
Answer: There are cases when sulfites might have caused anaphylaxis. This is the most extreme type of allergic reaction. The Symptoms include fast heartbeat, flushing, wheezing, dizziness, hives, stomach upset, collapse, tingling or difficulty swallowing, and diarrhea.
Question 5. Are there any side effects to removing sulfites from wine?
Answer: The wine will not be able to ‘age’ as expected.
Question 5. What are some natural alternatives to removing sulfites?
Answer: Bio-protection is one of the alternatives recommended in the wine sector.
Question 7. Are there specific wines that are naturally low in sulfites?
Answer: Yes, the Red WINE.