Does organic wine have added sulfites? No! However, it would be to your advantage to know that sulfite-free wine is nonexistent because sulfites are present naturally thanks to the fermentation process. However, there are different sulfur levels in wine.
If all this seems confusing, don’t fret, this article will help you learn why organic wine doesn’t have added sulfites. All over Western Europe and Canada, organic wine is categorized as wine made from organically grown grapes.
What Are Sulfites?
Sulfites are antioxidants and preservatives that keep bacteria in check. They ensure the wine isn’t ruined by bacteria, thus increasing its shelf-life.
In the United States, the rules dictate that winemakers shouldn’t add sulfites to sell organic wine. The law also dictates that naturally occurring sulfites shouldn’t exceed ten parts per million.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is a natural fermentation process byproduct that has been used in the winemaking process for centuries. Unfortunately, not all wine consumers agree with sulfites and end up suffering asthma-like symptoms after consumption.
If you are one of these people and still love drinking wine, you can try an FDA-approved organic wine. Alternatively, you can opt for a European or South American (Chilean) wine that contains lower sulfites levels when compared to non-organic wines.
If naturally occurring sulfites and added sulfites are eliminated, the wine’s shelf-life reduces significantly. The taste also gets affected.
How is Organic Wine Produced?
Natural and organic wines are produced with limited intervention in the winery. Winemakers making natural and organic sulfite-free wines rely on natural processes in the winery.
There are stringent organic certification rules and organic farming practices that dictate everything that happens in the vineyard. There are zero artificial chemicals, synthetic chemical products, and harmful pesticides used in organic vineyards.
In essence, organically certified wines are produced from 100% organically grown grapes, and the wines are manufactured without using any chemicals.
Organic wine produced and imported for the US market is categorized either as Organic or Made With Organically Grown Grapes.
Wines in these two categories are made with 100% USDA Certified Organically Grown Grapes. However, their fundamental difference is the use of sulfites, which are;
- Sulfite levels in Made with organically grown grapes
- Wines with authorization to display USDA organic seal “No Sulphites Added” on their labels
Note: The United States Department of Agriculture dictates that sulfur dioxide should be added to yield than 100 parts per million in finished grape wine. However, sulfur dioxide shouldn’t be added to wine produced with other organic fruit such as apples.
How is Conventional Wine Made?
Wineries use hundreds of chemicals alongside sulfites to make conventional wines. In addition, certain conventional winemakers add flavor agents, sugar, and oak chips.
Certified organic wine is permitted to carry about 70 chemicals in the US, including organic and naturally occurring enzymes, acids, and salts.
The Food and Drug Administration dictates that chemicals added in certified-organic wine shouldn’t adversely affect human health and the environment.
Does Organic Wine Have Low Sulfite?
Despite having zero sulfites added into organic wine, these wines may still have 10 to 40 parts-per-million naturally occurring sulfites. Some classic organic wines carry the words ‘contains sulfites,’ but not all occurred naturally.
Remember, sulfites are a preservative used widely in the food and drink industry to prolong the shelf-life of commodities that we consume. They’re added into wines for preservation because they halt oxidation.
In essence, sulfites are used to maintain the wine’s freshness. However, they can be irritant to you if you are sensitive to sulfites. In general, sulfites are harmless unless you are allergic to them and your body lacks the correct enzymes to break them down.
If you have an allergy, you will also notice that your body reacts to foods and fruits with high sulfur content. However, if you only react to wine, your problem isn’t the sulfur; it could be something else.
Please consider that an allergy to sulfur may develop over time, and you could, after some years (usually five or more), start reacting sulfur.
The reason why red wine makes you suffer headaches after consumption isn’t because it has a lot of sulfites. White wine has more sulfites than red, but what makes you experience the headaches are the tannins in the red wine.
Tannins are included in wines because they’re a stabilizing agent. When added, fewer amounts of sulfur are needed to protect wines when they’re being made and left to mature.
What are the Differences Between Wines with Sulfur and Those Without?
The most different thing is the taste. The depth of the flavor in organic wines, its freshness, its distinct color stands out from wines laden with chemicals and preservatives. Organic wines and natural wines have a different taste to conventional wines, and that’s why they’re sort after more.
Sulfites and Your Health
Without additional chemicals and preservatives such as sulfites, the wine remains tamper-free, and it has lots of benefits for your health and the environment as well. Below are some of the effects you can suffer from if you have sulfite sensitivity:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Breathing trouble
- Tingling sensations
- Itching and rashes
- Some part of your body, including your mouth and throat, will start to swell
Although the FDA registers sulfites as safe, many people suffer side effects such as hives, headaches, and hangovers after drinking wine with added sulfites.
Some people also suffer a combination of fatigue, throbbing headaches, thirst, and body aches after consuming wines with added sulfites. However, they are also advised to check the alcohol levels before laying all the blame on sulfite consumption.
Research studies show that sulfites play a huge role in triggering asthma—up to 10% of adults with asthma experience adverse reactions to sulfites. Up to 3% of these people suffer from life-threatening reactions after consuming sulfites.
On the plus side, in as much as sulfites may cause all the problems listed above, the FDA asserts that only 1% of the US population suffers from a sulfite allergy. The likely culprits are high alcohol levels, tannins, and histamines.
Another reason why you may be having allergic reactions could stem from the 60 plus ingredients used in conventional wines that are not disclosed on the label.
Getting Wines Without Added Sulfites
Organic wine, natural wine, and biodynamic wines are made with low to zero chemicals as possible.
These are wines that have better health benefits and have fewer side effects than conventionally produced wines. You can also start consuming low-sugar wines that don’t have added sulfites.
Can You Enjoy a Sulfite-Free Wine?
You will never get a wine with zero sulfites. However, you can find a wine that has low sulfite levels that occur naturally. They’re not chemically created. Sulfites have for centuries been the go-to option for preserving freshness in wines and enhancing both color and taste.
Unfortunately, with many commercial wines carrying tons of other undisclosed ingredients and undergoing product manipulations, it’s little wonder that people face various health issues after consuming said wines.
Piece of advice: to bring down any likelihood of suffering side effects, always go through the writing on the wine bottle. Make sure you pick a wine with “no added sulfites” on the label.
If you consider yourself a wine connoisseur who either loves red wine, white wine, or rosé, there are plenty of low-sulfite wines for your choosing.
Start by selecting a mixed pack of the everyday wine you’re used to, and make sure they have low sulfites with a “no added sulfites” message on the label.
Organic wines made from grapes have minimal sulfites caused by the fruit fermentation process. These are wines with zero to minimal chemicals added to them to lengthen their shelf life.
Non-organic wines (Commercial) wines have added sulfites and many other forms of chemicals to help them have a longer shelf life. Some additives make some wines sparkly and others bubbly.
Most organic wines with minimal sulfites will not cause you to suffer from headaches and other illnesses if you drink them moderately. However, commercial wines can make you sickly if you are allergic to sulfites and other added ingredients that don’t get disclosed.
Always read the label to know what kind of wine you’re purchasing, especially if you are allergic to sulfites. Remember, all wines have sulfites; the difference is naturally occurring sulfites and added sulfites.