Health/ Sulphite/ Residual Sugar

This wine contains sulfite! The text is on (almost) all wine bottles. But what is sulphite and is it really as bad as many people think. There is still some confusion about sulphite Does it cause headaches and other diseases?

The winemaker wants to turn his grapes into a beautiful wine. But grapes, like all other fruits, are sensitive to oxygen. Sulphite is needed to prevent the grapes from rotting. Sulphite (SO2) is found in all plants. It is used as a colorant but also as a preservative. So not only in wine is it also used in many foods, which often contain more sulphite than wine. It ensures that meat and fruit do not turn brown. Such as dried fruit, potato-based dishes, in beer, ready meals, vinegar, snacks, mustard and fruit juice.

Some people are sensitive to sulfite. For example, people who suffer from asthma or have difficulty breaking it down because they do not have certain enzymes in their bodies. Below are some frequently asked questions answered.

Q: What is sulfite

A: Sulphite is an anti-oxidant. It stops the oxidation in wine. Moreover, it stops the growth of bacteria and prevents the wine from smelling and tasting badly.

Q: Is there a sulphite in an organically made wine?

A: Sulphite is used with organic wine, but those quantities are very low. The grapes are healthier and the hygiene in the cellar gets a lot of attention. The cleaner the room and barrels, the cleaner the wine. Only when bottling is a tiny bit of sulphite used to keep the wine fresh and clear. “Regular” wines may contain up to 10 times more sulphites then organic wines.

Q: When is the sulfite added?

A: In the wine process there are three moments to add sulphite.

During the fermentation, after the fermentation and during bottling. A farmer can add sulphite, but sulphite also occurs during fermentation when the grape juice turns into wine. So even wine where no sulphite is added at all contains (a very small amount of) sulphite. There are EU directives on how much sulphite a winegrower can use

Q: Does sulfite cause a headache?

A: Usually, sulphite is not the reason for the headache. Often the amount of alcohol in relation to drinking too little water, the tannin or the histamine in wine is the cause. On the other hand, a higher content of sulphite can activate your system to react with a  histamine intolerance or a sensitivity for histamine which can result in palpitations, stuffiness and headache.

Q: Is there more sulphite in red wine?

A: White wine and sweet wine usually contain more sulphite than red wines because the tannin in red wine protects against oxidation. In addition, red wines undergo a (second) malolactic fermentation which also makes the wine “firmer”.

Sugar: residual sugar

Q: Do organic wines contain more or less residual sugars?

A: According to the EU standards for Organic wines no residual sugars can be added to Organic wine in the contrary with “regular” wines. This makes it more complicated for the winemaker to make a smooth and soft wine. “Regular” wines are very often made more soft and smooth by adding sugar.

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