Contains Sulfites

Contains Sulfites (February 2024)

Who hasn’t surmised that the red wine headache comes from sulfites because the bottle of the wines say, “Contains Sulfites,” so that has to be it, right?

This little discussion will be about why bottles of wines say, “Contains Sulfites” and why, if you believe that is the cause of the pervasive headaches, how that came to be, why sulfites are in wines, and what our bodies do with sulfites and if there are any additional foods with sulfites and anything else I can come up with about the subject of sulfites.

Our best cleaning solution in the winery, how we sanitize equipment and hoses is a natural solution which I create. And that natural solution, if I do it right, causes me to instantly lose my breath. Hint, it “contains sulfites!”

We take super-hot water, add citric acid and potassium metabisulfite, which creates free sulfur dioxide. If I, you, or anyone else breathes the vapors from that solution, we immediately cease breathing. And this happens to me every single week!

And I feel fine.

Ever breathe into a glass of wine and you lose your breath? Never.

Ever smell peaches, grapes, oranges, green peppers, tomatoes, apples, broccoli, asparagus, kale, green beans, (what other fruit or vegetable can I type?) watermelon, red peppers….and so forth and so on? And lose your breath? Nope.

How about dried apricots? To this day, I don’t know why dried apricots don’t have “contains sulfites” on them because I have heard from very reliable sources that they contain more sulfites than wine.

I digress for a second.

The 1970’s gave us plenty of new and exciting gifts to the world. Disco is still great. Everyone still sings along to Neil Diamond songs, Rock and Roll really took off and TV dinners were born. I’m just having fun typing!! And salad bars were created.

Sulfur dioxide is an antioxidant and exists in plants naturally. Nearly every single fruit and vegetable we consume “contains sulfites” as the roots pull sulfur out of the ground and deposit in the plant tissues we consume. Our digestive system loves sulfur. As does our cardiovascular system. Sulfur to humans is essential to our lives.

In the 1970’s salad bars were created. Ever notice that soon after you cut an apple the inner fruit starts to brown? What is occurring is oxidation of malic acid (among other oxidative issues).

Are you interested in going up to a salad bar and enjoying browned apples and other fruits and vegetable looking past their prime? I think not. Someone came up with the idea of sprinkling sulfites onto the salad thereby preserving the fresh and tasty visual of the foods on the salad bar.

The difference between my cleaning solution and the fruits and vegetables I mentioned and wine is the sulfur in my cleaning solution is free and in the dried apricots, wine and fruits and vegetables, it is bound in solution.

When sulfur is free, it can and will agitate our respiratory system so much that we stop breathing. If the sulfur is bound, it cannot and will not negatively affect our respiratory system.

Our bodies have learned to positively use sulfur throughout our bodies because we have been consuming sulfur in our food since the beginning of time.

The salad bar, much like my cleaning solution, would have free sulfur dioxide because it would essentially be hard to bind it in solution by spraying it on the salads.

Guess what happens if you put free sulfur dioxide in your mouth which is part of your respiratory system? Guess what happens if you are the slightest bit asthmatic? Could that be a good thing? I think not!

In a knee jerk reaction, our government stepped in and said no to salad bar use (hooray) and that any product adding sulfites had to list the sulfites on the label (how the dried fruit industry gets away without having to label is beyond the scope of this article).

We use sulfur dioxide in winemaking to reduce bacterial spoilage and to reduce oxidative stress on the wines, a good thing. Sulfur has been added to wine since at least the Roman days, at minimum. When we add it, we know what we are doing and 100% of it binds in solution, just like the fruits and vegetables. When we consume wine and natural foods with sulfur our bodies say hooray and use the sulfur in positive ways throughout our entire body.

Again, in its free form, like my cleaning solution which we want it to be both free and bound so we know we have enough to work microbially. It binds first and any excess sulfur becomes free which then restricts my airway when I blend it for cleaning. I step away and I get my breath back. Easy, simple, next…

When we use it in wine it binds to the wine, reduces oxidative and bacterial stress, thereby allowing the wine to age gracefully over many years. If you can smell sulfur in wine, the winemaker should be fired as they are way over the legal limit. You have to be a really sloppy winemaker to make this mistake. Like, really sloppy.

Since the Roman times and through today, if you want to manage your empty barrels, you always, always, always burn sulfur wicks in the barrels to preserve them. This is one method in which sulfur is introduced into wine – the filling of barrels.

The wine industry got caught in the crosshairs of the sulfur conversation and today in the US, we have to label our wines with “contains sulfites” even if the winery does not add sulfites because sulfites will exist in the grapes naturally.

Because the sulfur is bound in solution I know of no known health issues with the sulfur, only benefits.

We do strongly believe that the headaches, stuffy noses, flush skin, watery eyes, have everything to do with a histamine reaction, with the histamines either created by the body through an allergen added to the wine or by histamines added to the wine. Either health problem is not intentional, it’s just that if one doesn’t know there is a health problem with an additive, how would the winemaker know since the well over 100 additives have been deemed safe and effective for their purpose.

We do believe the health maladies from wine come from protein based fining agents in white wines and sometimes in red wines, added tannins which could contain a heavy dosage of added histamines since grape skins do indeed contain histamines or from coloring agents, either derived from insects (yes, I typed that) or from concentrated grape skins. All of these could cause our bodies to create histamines (like a bee sting causes our bodies to create histamines), or from the added products.

But certainly not from the sulfites.



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