"Contains Sulfites." It's on the back label of practically every wine bottle. Most of us pay no attention to it. Like when your mom is hollering at you to clean up your room.
Winefolly.com deserves the credit for most of what follows.
Sulfites are a preservative in wine. They both preserve the unopened bottle on the store shelf and your open bottle from yesterday. Sulfites added to wine as a preservative supplement those that occur naturally in the vineyard and in the winemaking process.
Added sulfites are about five times more prevalent in commercial (grocery store) wines than in real estate-bottled wines for the reasons stated above. They are also more common in whites than reds and more common in lower acid and sweeter wines than in dry red wines. Once again, the purpose for all of this is to preserve the product.
The problem with the "contains sulfites" admonition is that the percentage of sulfites is not spelled out. If a wine has less than 10mg/l it may be labeled sulfite-free. If it has between 11-300mg/l the label only has to say contains sulfites. So if you have asthma, that may be a problem and if you value your thiamine level (Vitamin B1), that could also take a hit.
Just to keep things in perspective, most wine is 99.99% sulfite-free. Candy has twice as many sulfites. Jams and jellies, three times. Sodas, four times. Packaged meats and prepared soups, 5 times. Frozen juices, six times. French fries, twenty times. And dried fruit, forty times!
So wine ain't so bad! Swirling wine in the glass, by the way, releases up to fifty percent of its sulfites into the air.
Additives in today's mass market wines are the real problem. Sulfite-free may be on the label but whatever else is used to make that twelve dollar bottle taste so good doesn't have to be disclosed. And that's scary.
Please join us Thursday July 25th after 5pm when Cheri Rubio leads us in a tasting of three from Santa Rita of Chile and a very special Shiraz from Wakefield of Australia.