1 – Why is sulphur added to wine?
For thousands of years sulphites have been added to wines and they’ve also been used since the 17th century as preservatives in foods. As well as foods, sulphur acts as a preservative in wine. It’s an anti-oxidant, which means that it will stop oxygen from having a reaction with the wine and changing it to vinegar. It also sterilizes the wine, destroying any organisms that could be contained in it. A large amount of sulphites isn’t needed if a wine is produced and stored correctly and under extremely good conditions, but if no sulphites were added to the wine the bottle would last less than a year.
2 – Does sulphur have any effect on people?
Sulphites can cause a reaction in some people, and people with asthma have the most risk of having a reaction. A reaction to sulphites can include a stuffy nose or congestion and difficulty breathing. Like any allergic reaction, some people might not have any reaction at all to sulphites while others may have a severe reaction. Young wines and sweet wines will have the highest sulphite levels, and after being bottled for a few years most sulphites will be gone.
3 – What is RWH?
RWH stands for Red Wine Headache. The cause of this has been debated. Some people think that a sensitivity to sulphites, which affects about 1% of the population, is the cause. Others think that the tannins contained in wine can cause the headaches. Tannins are also found at high levels in chocolate and tea, and some people who get migraines are also sensitive to these. An additional group of people think that histamines in wine can cause the headaches, because people who are sensitive to histamines do not have a specific enzyme and combined with the alcohol that will start a headache. While any one of these could cause the RWH, they are all natural reactions to the wine and not a reaction to anything artificial that has been added. Taking aspirin before drinking the wine can sometimes reduce the RWH.
4 – What’s the difference between a RWH and a hangover?
The RWH will happen around 15 minutes after drinking wine if you have sensitivity to that wine. A hangover, on the other hand, happens the following morning and is caused by drinking too much and becoming dehydrated. If you don’t want to get a hangover you should drink in moderation, eat while drinking and drink a lot of water.
5 – Which has more sulphites, red or white wines?
White wines have more sulphites than reds, and sweet wines will have the most in order to stop the breakdown of any leftover sugar that’s in the wine.
6 – Can I get a wine with absolutely no preservatives?
Not really. During fermentation small amounts of sulphites are created. As the wine ages these sulphites are consumed and once the bottle of wine is opened they’ll dissolve in the air. If a wine has really low levels of sulphites the wine could ferment, giving you a fizzy bottle of wine or vinegar. If you’re still concerned about sulphites in wines, remember that several dried fruits and other types of foods could have larger amounts of sulphites than certain types of wines do.