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Feb 11, 2008 10:33 AM

Sulfite free wines

I am new to this particular board - I am regular hound from the LA restaurant board - so if I am asking a question that has already been answered, I apologize, but...

Can anyone recommend good sulfite free wines. Any color will do. I would particularly like to hear from anyone with a sulfite sensitivity.


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  1. Sulfite free wines tend to be very unstable. A restaurant I worked at had a few of them, there was a lot of bottle variation and many bad bottles. I don't remember the wineries.

    1. Hi EliAnnKat. Hope this helps:

      There's a few things to keep in mind-

      all wines will contain some degree of sulfites. They occur naturally during a wine's fermentation.

      As Somnifor said, they help to stabilize the wine and those without additional sulfites can turn easily. I've not had good luck with the few that I have tried.

      If you don't know if you have a sensitivity to sulfites specifically, than you may find that there are wines you do not react to. Though sulfites are first to be blamed for headaches, they are not always the cause. The chance of having a sulfite allergy is something like 1 in 100,000. Wine is an incredibly complex drink with hundreds of different chemical compounds, any one of which can cause a reaction. Some people find themselves sensitive to tannin, varietals, wineries, yeasts, etc. Not to mention that eggs or dried fruit will contain a much higher degree of sulfites than a glass of wine.

      If you do have a sulfite allergy, make sure you get a bottle labeled sulfite free- as "organic" or made with "organic fruit" are not the same thing.

      If it helps:

      white wine will have more sulfites than red. Wines closed with stelvin closures typically require less sulfites than those in natural cork.

      1. Sulfites in wine have been given a bad rap, and unfairly blamed for a reaction to wine. Multiple double-blind medical studies (all listed on the National Library of Medicine website) determined that sulfites only cause problems to those humans who suffer from sulfite oxidase deficiency, occuring in about 1% of the population in the US, or those who suffer from asthma (5% of the US population), and only when their exposure to sulfites is great -- 300 ppm, much more than would be found in wine.

        A sulfite sensitivity or allergy is quite a rare thing. Of course, the number of drinkers inaccurately claiming sulfite "allergies" by far outnumbers the people actually lacking the sulfite enzyme or having asthma.

        The easy litmus test is this: If you can eat dried fruits, packaged fruit juices or lunchmeat without a reaction, then it's not sulfites in wine that are causing the reaction. All those foods contain far more sulfites than wine. And bear in mind that a glass of wine contains 10 mg of sulfites and the human body itself produces about 1000 mg/day, so 100 times more than in a single glass of wine. Read more about this from the UC-Davis wine school:

        You may be interested to learn that sulfites are not always added to wine to stabilize it, but that sulfites are a by-product of a yeast fermentation, so they occur naturally.

        Your "sulfite" reaction may be caused by something else. Read more here:

        Good luck to you.

        4 Replies
          1. re: maria lorraine

            Hi Maria - I just had a LEAP MRT blood test which tests sensitivities to 150 items...of which I was highly sensitive to SODIUM METABISULFITE (which has many names and is used as a preservative and a antioxidant in wine. Wine uses this at more than 100PPM+. My first experience with sulfite issues was when I had a rash on my neck for over two years and I thought it was just me itching my neck from my hair touching it during the day. About a year ago, my face started to itch horrible when my hair was so long it was sitting on my face. I went to get my hair cut and told my hairstylist about it. She suggested I try a sulfite free shampoo. A week+ later my rash was gone. Since then I have went to sulfite free dried fruit, and then ham/sausage/bacon. I do not eat a lot of the meat, but I have wondered if dried fruit was an issue. The unsulfered, etc dried fruit has been no problem for me. I wondered about wine too...headaches were not always a problem, but I have some major digestive issues and I drank red wine very regularly. There is sulfites in produce, although, I am not sure how NATURAL that is (lol). I mean it could have been leached into the soil from man, where it gets absorbed into our; there is a controversy about that anyway. Whatever the case, I am very sensitive to it at this point. I had to stop using moisturizers all together because I kept breaking out from even the ALL NATURAL SENSITIVE options. My dermatologist did not mention anything about sulfites...nor did any of my other doctors. There is info on both sides of the sulfite coin, but even if issues occur only with a certain amount of is added to everything including our drinking maybe it is purely based on the AMOUNT of exposure. In my research over the past few days, the most interesting and enlightening fact I found was that they add this sulfite as an ANTIOXIDANT. Anytime I would read/hear about the new *antioxidant miracle* I thought it was always NATURALLY occuring...I did not know it could be added artificially!!! This stuff is an inorganic compound too. Let's just say I have a new mindset about antioxidant properties now...and deeper sense of researching those items I automatically took for safe!


              Make sure you get the IgE-based testing.

              Like many "food sensitivity" tests, the LEAP MRT test is on the Quackwatch list, and being investigated by the FDA for inaccurate diagnostic claims.

              These tests dupe the consumer with aggressive marketing that contains inflated accuracy claims made out to be scientific ones.

              Read more here about the inaccurate claims of "food sensitivity" tests:

              Clinical Nutrition Insight published an article about the inaccuracy of the tests. You can read a portion of that article here:


              I wish you well in feeling better, and hope you will get better information as to what is causing your symptoms. It could be that something, or several things, other than sulfites, are causing those symptoms.

              1. re: NOMORECHOWINGSULFITE

                To add to what ML has already said, it is important to keep in mind that NO ONE has EVER said or claimed that there are zero human beings on the planet with sensitivities to sulfites. Of course there are. However, there are any number of inaccurate statements -- some well-intentioned but misinformed; others . . . well, let's just say that they aren't necessarily all that well-intentioned, and leave it at that.

                This makes it all the more CRUCIAL that

                a) one get tested ***properly*** and ***accurately*** ;
                b) one doesn't "go off half cocked" but takes the time to know and understand the FACTS about wine, the use of sulfites -- both in wine, AND in other foods;
                c) one pays close attention to what one eats and drinks, and how it affects them personally; and,
                d) one uses words carefully and accurately when discussing this issue, both with medical providers, and in public generally.

                One "fact" or statement I would disagree with, for example, is when you wrote above that, "Wine uses this at more than 100PPM+." Some wines do, you are right. But there are many wines -- indeed, I would *guess* most, from all the wineries I have worked for, and wines which I have measured -- that have levels of sulfites not only less than 100ppm but significantly less: many table wines from California, France, Germany, and elsewhere around the world are measured at below 30ppm, while some are *essentially* sulfite-free. (Warning: I would not rush out and drink wines which claim to be "sulfite-free" were I sensitive to sulfites, nor would I recommend anyone do so. Rather, I would recommend one continue to exercise an abundance of caution.)

                I join ML in hoping you feel better soon, and trust that you will . . .

            2. I've been talking with an owner of a totally organic vineyard who is adament that if any wine claims to be sulfite free it is only because of the measurement system they are using.

              As others have said, the sulfite message on wines are leading many people to blame them for problems unconnected with sulfites.

              If you are alergic to sulfites then you will know about it and be avoiding a whole range of foodstuffs and juices.

              Also, have you looked at the ingredients on a bottle of mineral water??

              9 Replies
              1. re: Gussie Finknottle

                The maximum allowable level of sulfites is 300 parts per million (ppm). The threshold level at which the "Contains Sulfites" statement must appear on the label is 10ppm.

                I once wrote an article about sulfites in wine. (Well, actually, i've written about it several times, but . . . ) In so doing, I interviewed the head of the ATF (now TTTB) lab which tested sulfite levels in wine. In the course of our discussion, I asked him about the labeling requirement, (so called) "organic wines," and the level of sulfites in wine. In particular I asked him about the wines that claimed they were "sulfite-free" -- i.e.: below 10ppm and thus exempt from the requirement of printing "Contains sulfites" or "Contains sulfiting agents" on the label. He replied, "We take their word for it."

                Rather surprised, I repeated the question. He repeated the answer.

                I asked if he ever verified the claims with/through random testing. (The ATF would buy bottles at retail, as well as take them directly from wineries, and test them in their labs.) He said, "We've never tested a sample that was below 30 [ppm]."

                OK, I thought, but 30 is OVER the reporting limit of 10, which I said to him.

                He replied, "We've never tested a sample that was below 30."

                Yes, but what about the wineries that claim to be below 10?

                He replied, "You're not listening. We've NEVER tested any sample that was below 30."

                * * * *

                So much for "sulfite-free."


                1. re: zin1953

                  One specific Sonoma winery owner, whose wines do not have the "contains sulfites" labeling but also do not say they are sulfite-free, has told me that he has lab tests that show he is below 10ppm. I think I may have mentioned this here in the past. His reasoning for not calling his wines Sulfite Free is that most such wines are just not very good and he wants his wines to be tasted and enjoyed as wines that happen to be made by someone who is a totally 100% organic farmer and winemaker. He doesn't do it to sell wine to people seeking to avoid sulfites, but because he believes in the methodology. He and his brother are also organic farmers of fruits and vegetables.

                  1. re: Midlife

                    Well, I've never found a wine that was "sulfite-free," as sulfites are a naturally occurring by-product of fermentation. I have seen wines labeled "No Sulfites Added," which can indeed be true, but that won't mean the wine is sulfite-free.

                    As for being <10ppm, it's definitely possible. My point is only that -- at that time -- the ATF lab had never tested a sample that low; they just accepted the winery's claim.


                    1. re: zin1953

                      Understood. I had the impression that this winery has their wines tested independently because one of his issues was the cost of doing it on a regular basis to be able to NOT use the 'contains sulfites' label.

                  2. re: zin1953

                    I am the production manager at a small winery in Missouri. We send our wines for sulfite ppm testing at an independent laboratory. Using the lab's results, the government (TTB) allows us to state on our labels "Contains no detectable sulfites. These wines test at 0 (zero) ppm (not only less than 10 ppm but really zero ppm). The lab is Vinquiry, and their testing is accurate at less than 10 ppm.
                    Higher sulfite concentrations mute tastes and aromas (all organoleptic sensations), and this is especially evident in our excellent Cab Franc. Sulfites help the winemaker but not the wines (if handled correctly from grape to bottling).
                    I do not want to make this an advertisement, so contact me if you are interested in our truly sulfite-free wines.

                    1. re: TimP

                      While owning a wine retail shop and tasting bar I became familiar with a Sonoma-based sulfite-free winery called Coturri (which I've posted about here a few times). I happen to like their wines but they are roundly criticized, by many, for being unstable, over-concentrated, high alcohol fruit bombs that can't be aged at all. Parker seems to like them too but gets lots of flack for the above issues when he reviews them. The winery insists they have library bottles that are 10-15 years old and still drink well.

                      One of their wines is a Zinfandel that really tastes more like a late harvest Zin than anything else, but they make a Pinot that is fruity, but not over-the-top, and a field blend that tastes very normal to me.

                      I'm very curious as to how you feel your wines meet up to the issues leveled at Coturri.

                      1. re: Midlife

                        Thanks! Have been drinking Tony's (Coturri) wines for a couple of years now with no ill affects. Their wines are very full flavored, and have not yet had a "bad" bottle. We are careful with wine storage, and try to have it shipped in cool weather. Would like to find more California wineries which do not add sulfites. The natural occuring ones don't seem to bother me at all, but the artificial ones, whether in food or wine, causes migranes. Tony also makes wine for Cruz de Comal, a great Texas wine!

                      2. re: TimP

                        Is this Westphalia Winery? (I'm a Missouri girl, originally.)

                        The 0 ppm of sulfites seems suspect to me, since sulfites naturally occur as a by-product of fermentation. Levels are usually 30 - 40 ppm if no sulfites are added.
                        Read Jason's post above about his interview with the head of TTB, and no wine was ever found with <30 ppm.

                        The main issue for me with your wines is their stability -- their ability over time to hold onto their fruit flavors and roundness, and not atrophy in flavor and become mere bones of their former fleshy selves. This happens so consistently with wines with no added sulfites that it's a legitimate issue to raise in light of your wines.

                        So, I am in disagreement with your statement that "Sulfites help the winemaker but not the wines (if handled correctly from grape to bottling)." Sulfites help both the winemaker and the wines enormously, preserving their beauty, fullness, fruitiness, complexity, ageability, and much more.

                        While you say "Higher sulfite concentrations mute tastes and aromas," what seems more consistently true is that the lack of added sulfites causes wines to become thin and insipid and lose flavor."

                        When sulfites are used at a high enough level to "mute tastes and aromas," they are being used incorrectliy. Sulfites control microbial growth that adversely affects the wine. Sulfites often don't kill the microbes, merely keep them from multiplying and turning the wine to crap. How much SO2 you use is a function of the wine's pH. At a higher pH when more sulfites would be necessary to halt microbial growth -- and at that level the sulfites would mute flavors and aromas -- another agent is used instead that doesn't adversely affect the wine's quality.

                        Another question is if the 0 ppm test result is for one wine tested once for SO2, or if that 0 ppm is a consistent result over several tests of all your wines. That result doesn't make scientific sense.

                        With all the misinformation about sulfites and the maladies they've been falsely accused of causing, having no sulfites is not an attribute, and more likely is a detriment.

                        In any case, growing and making wine in MIssouri is coming along. I remember when the only vines grown were vitus labrusca or vitus aestivalis, and now it seems more vinifera varieties are finding expression. I have many lovely memories of Missouri wine country and of tooling around the back roads in a vintage convertible.

                    2. You've gotten a good run down on sulfites here. But if you still want to go down this road...

                      If you can find a local shop that carries a good selection of Organic and Bio-Dynamic wines from France you should be able to find some bottles with no to low additions. There are a number of vignerons in the 'natural wine' camp who are experimenting with reducing or eliminating sulfite additions. I believe Marcel Lapierre has no sulfites added in the Morgon bottling that KL brings in to the US. I also recently had a nice Poulsard from Tissot in the Jura that the merchant told me had no sulfites added though internet searches seem to only indicate that he is a minimalist on the issue. And if you have deep pockets, a tasting of Allemand's "Sans Soufre" Cornas against a regular bottling would be a tasty way to explore this.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Nathan P

                        marie lorainne and zin1953 have given very accurate info on sulfites in wine. some of the other posts are a bit misleading. there is difference between sulfites and sulphur.

                        sulfites occur naturally in all wine at extremely low concentration as mentioned above. IMO the terms "no sulfites added" or "sans soufre" are misleading. they simply mean that no sulphur is used. even if there is no sulphur used the wine will still contain sulfites. (EU labeling laws are different so you may find some wines there that do not contain the sulfite warning because the threshold for labeling is higher than in the US)

                        sulphur is used in the vineyards to help control molds and in the winery to stabilize and protect the wine. noticeable levels of sulphur are frequently found in delicate young white wines, especially german riesling. the rotten egg odor can be most off-putting but will usually dissapate with bottle age or blow off with air. sulphur as opposed to sulfites can also cause headaches if the concentration is high. many producers today are reducing or eliminating their sulphur usage but more for the improvement of the wine than for lowering sulfite levels.