No, You're Not Allergic to the Sulfites in Wine

Categories: Talking Points

rsz_woman_sneezing.jpg
lenetstan / Shutterstock
​"Oo, I'm allergic to sulfites," SFoodie has heard white-wine drinkers say when passing up an offer of pinot noir. Wine-shop managers have complained to us about the number of customers who come in, asking for sulfite-free wines.

Dear sulfite sufferers: You are wrong.

While sulfite-free wines do exist, they are rare. Houston Press's food blog recently published a myth-busting, geeked-out post about the ubiquitous use of sulfur dioxide in winemaking. It is used to prevent unwanted bacteria from growing in the wine and protect it from oxidation. White wines, in fact, often contain more SO2 than red.

That headache you get after drinking Cabs and Zins, blogger Jeremy Parzen says? It's pretty much a hangover from drinking high-alcohol wines. But the other factor that Parzen doesn't mention is that drinking alcohol causes the capillaries in your face and sinuses to swell. You may think you're having an allergic reaction, but you're really just drinking too much.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

My Voice Nation Help
12 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Roscoe5104
Roscoe5104

There is such a thing as a sulfite allergy but it cause symptoms of an allergic reaction (ie an asthma attack itchy or swelling of the tongue/mouth, not just a headache. There are many foods out there that contain sulfites and if you can eat these without a reaction, you probably don't have a sulfite allergy.  Baked goodsSoup mixesJamsCanned vegetablesPickled foodsGraviesDried fruitPotato chipsTrail mixVegetable juicesSparkling grape juiceApple ciderBottled lemon juice and lime juiceTeaMany condimentsMolassesFresh or frozen shrimpGuacamole

Shapent
Shapent

As with all these articles on Wine and especially the additives in wine, Every critic that can barely write more than one sentence claims to know all about Chemistry mix of organic wine and the people that consume them.  All very misguided people that write as if they are experts. Just because it is written in a printed magazine or online it is fact.. NOT SO. Please will somebody do some factual research before blabbering such nonsense again about So2 in wine. SO2 turns to Sulphuric Acid when added to water. Drink up those that think that is good for you...... For everybody else there are over 150 producers making "No Added So2" wines and about 30 wineries that i know of, many of which are in nearly every wine store in the US, making 100% organic wine certified by the FDA  with FDA lab certificates showing 0 Parts per Million SO2. Go figure why SFoodie...

FoodieSF
FoodieSF

actually when i went to read the original article it is evident that the only thing he was trying to dispel is the "sulfite headache" myth- the author freely admits that there is a large portion of the population allergic to the sulfites: "​So why does the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau require that winemakers write "contains sulfites" on the label? The requirement is owed to the fact that 5 percent of asthmatics can have a violent reaction to sulfites. Until the Common Market Organisation reforms of the 1990s, European Union winemakers were not required to write "contains sulfites" on the label."

George, wine merchants
George, wine merchants

Sorry, but I disagree. People are allergic to sulphites and benefit from no sulphur added wines.

westside
westside

Red Wines contain a higher amount of histamines. Might it be those and not the sulfites that cause problems?

Joe
Joe

So when is SFWeekly going to bust the gluten-intolerance/allergy fallacy? Celiac disease, yes. Gluten allergy, unproven. 

Wangston
Wangston

Hmm. I have a friend who gets really nasty asthma attacks when drinking red wine.

That doesn't mean it's the sulfites, but it's definitely an allergic reaction and not a hangover or misinterpreted capillary swelling.

It's one (reasonable) thing to deny that sulfites are the cause (although if there's a higher concentration of sulfites in red wine, we could still claim a correlation), another (unreasonable, unfounded, likely to piss people off) thing to deny that there are people who suffer allergic reactions to red wines.

Be careful.

Joe
Joe

The article said white wines often have more sulfites in them, yet the people who claim to be allergic to sulfites say they can drink white wine but not red.

Allergies are notoriously hard to pin down, especially when food is involved. You would have to make a list of all the things that friend of yours eats, drinks, and breathes around the time that he takes a sip of red wine, and then eliminate them one by one before you can narrow it down to the known allergen. Also, your friend needs to ask himself whether he gets asthma attacks at other times.

BTW, an asthma attack is pretty extreme. Are you sure that's what it is?

Wangston
Wangston

> yet the people who claim to be allergic to sulfites say they can drink white wine but not red.

Then it's pretty reasonable to rule out sulfites as a cause of red wine allergies.

> BTW, an asthma attack is pretty extreme. Are you sure that's what it is?

She is sure, inhaler and everything, so I buy it. I think the likeliest explanation is a reaction to something in red wine. But of course it could be a million other things. AFAIK there's no scratch test evidence or anything like that in this case.

tim_{d}
tim_{d}

Really? I think food reactions are not that hard to pin down when they happen quickly and consistently. Things that take hours or days to manifest can be tricky. When my tongue swells and my throat starts itching minutes after I take a sip of white wine, well, there's not much mystery, is there? It's not like I have a Ritual Wine Meal. Shockingly, I sometimes forego the cheese and crackers. Sometimes, even the glass!

(I'm allergic to most whites and not most reds. Maybe I'm *actually* allergic to sulfites! But you're right that the actual molecular trigger could be any number of things.)

Ben Narasin
Ben Narasin

Bravo truth teller.  It is also true that sulfites, which are the net end result of sulfur, occur naturally in wine, as they occur naturally in grapes, as the sulfur occurs naturally in the soil.  So true "sulfite free" wine probably doesn't exist at all - though "no sulfites added" does.

Some very careful (some would say eccentric, others would say perfectionist), wine makers make wine without adding sulfur, but its comes with a high risk of sucking.  When done right, they can be exceptional though, even if some argue their ageability is limited.

The other reason people get headaches - they drink cheap ("crappy") wine which may have relied on other additives that need not be disclosed for flavor, stability or color and which always seem to make me feel like c$&* the next day, even when consumed in moderation.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...