What are Sulfites?
Sulfites, or sulfiting agents, are sulfur-based substances used as preservatives. They are used primarily to reduce or prevent spoilage and discoloration during the preparation, storage and distribution of foods and wine. Sulfur has been used as a preservative in winemaking for hundreds of years to prevent spoilage.
Not only does sulfur dioxide inhibit the growth of molds and bacteria, but it also stops oxidation (browning) and preserves the wine's natural flavor. Without sulfur, grape juice would turn to vinegar. Even if sulfites are not added to wine, there will always be a small amount of sulfites present because it is naturally occurring in the environment and in grapes during alcoholic fermentation.
Two forms of sulfites found in wine are sulfur dioxide (SO2) and potassium metabisulfite. (K2S2O5)
Who is Affected By Sulfites?
There are several groups of people who are affected by sulfites in wine and Champagne:
- Sulfite allergic
- Sulfite sensitive or intolerant
- A percentage of asthmatics
What are Some Reactions to Sulfites?
For some moderate wine drinkers the average level of sulfites found in many commercial wines can cause heartburn or other side effects. Many are not aware that mild, unpleasant reactions such as: headaches, nausea, flushed face, nasal congestion, itching, or gastro-intestinal distress may be caused by sulfites.