4 Easy Facts about Sulphites in Wine

Posted on April 11, 2017 by Alexander Thomson McLean | 0 comments

organic grapes for sulphite free wines

We've been writing for a while now about natural wines that are made with no added sulphites and wine intolerances as well as the different effects that they have on people. Despite people learning more about their bodies and the increased demand, these wines are still made in tiny quantities. We all want to know more about the differences between 'no sulphites added', natural and conventional wines. Have a look at our guide and its 4 quick snippets about low sulphite wines to learn some basics.

Fact 1 - Sulphites are bad news

If you have read our other posts, we have mentioned that organic wines have restrictions on sulphites, so they have lower than 100 mg/l levels. Huge and excessive amounts of sulphites is bad for you and the ordinary bottle of conventional wine can sometimes contain 3 times more sulphites than organic wine. Our strictly no added sulphites wine cases contain wines that we have sourced with under 10 mg/l of sulphites and only naturally occurring. So, nothing extra added in!

Asthmatics, in particular, feel the effect of sulphites the most, where the sulphite level is usually already above 45 mg/l. So, this does mean that sulphites are not great for you. Let’s be honest, we do consume foods that are not really the best for us, but if we've got a choice about having the same delicious produce without harmful chemicals and just general rubbish, what would you chose?

Fact 2 - More than 2.5 million people cannot drink conventional wine

Let’s check the facts and do some basic calculations.

Alexandra Richmond, senior health and beauty analyst at Mintel, said: ''An estimated 21 million adults in the UK suffer from at least one allergy, with 10 million suffering from more than one. There is a whopping 4 out of 10 people to suffer from allergic reaction during their life”.

NHS statistics says that 4.3 million adults are currently suffering from asthma in the UK. Asthmatics are incredibly sensitive to sulphites. Similar data exists for general sulphite intolerance: the numbers are reported as low as 3-5%, yet if you take the whole population of the UK it will mean millions would be much better off without drinking wines with excessive sulphites in them. Millions of people around us cannot enjoy a glass of wine without feeling nauseous, experiencing breathing difficulties or, in case of asthmatics, putting themselves at risk.

As the numbers are growing, our concern is on the rise that we consume too much preservatives in our foods. 

Fact 3 - Unfortunately there is no such thing as sulphite free wine

Sadly, this is true. Some minor quantities of sulphites are occurring naturally in every wine. All natural wines contain some small quantities too, yet these are generally very low - under 10 mg/l or slightly more (depends on the soil, i.e. volcanic from Sicily). Naturally occurring sulphites are generally harmless and exist in tiny quantities. That is why there is a difference between ‘no added sulphites wines’ and low sulphite wines. The latter will have a low amount of sulphites added, but they also will be between 10 and 45mg/l – so that most people won’t even notice them. They generally tend to be called natural wines. They are made with minimal interventions in the winery and its lower sulphite contents will mean they are healthier for you too.

Fact 4 - It is not just about wine

We are consuming a lot of sulphites in general. There are some foods that are full of preservatives. Here are  just a few examples (see more details in our wine intolerance article):

pickled foods and vinegar

dried fruit eg dried apricots, prunes, raisins etc

tinned coconut milk

beer and cider

vegetable juices

some soft drinks

grape juice (haha not wine)

ketchup and other bottled condiments


dehydrated, pre-cut or peeled potatoes

fresh or frozen prawns

processed meat products

We’ve learned to look at the labels, preferably go for organic produce and, when possible, create sauces from scratch or go for more natural produce (not microwave meals!) It is time to start giving thought to your wines.

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