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Mar 21, 2011 01:17 PM

Wines low in sulfites

This question has no doubt been raised before; in fact, I saw some discussion from way back in 2004. But is there new.updated info on where I might find decent wine that is low in sulfites? ((I have recently developed an allergy to most wine containing sulfites.) Thanks for any input!

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  1. Hi, Millerowski:

    If you haven't already read this:

    Have you been tested to be allergic by an allergist? The reason I ask is that a true sulfite allergy is pretty rare.


    5 Replies
    1. re: kaleokahu

      I have done the elimination technique, experimenting on myself, as it were. I can drink spirits without an allergic rx., but when I drink a typical wine, I get red blotches on my face and neck. I have re-tested this (i.e not imbibed any wine for a week or more, then drunk some). I drank some sulfite-free organic sake and did NOT have a rx. So, at this point I don't know if I am allergic to wine in general or to the "extra" sulfites in wine. First, I have to buy some low-sulfite wine to test it out. Or, as you imply, I should got to an allergist. Not my favorite option because allergists seem to want to spend 3 years of giving one injections, etc. I have not been able to find low-sulfite wine in my usual wine haunts, but I see that there are wineries who advertise on-line from which one could order on-line. Lordy, Lordy, I would hate to give up wine.
      Thanks for your reply....

      1. re: millerowski

        Aloha, millerowski:

        I am sorry for your situation. At least you are going about it methodically.

        If you read the thread I cited, you understand that there really is no such thing as sulfite-free. And many winemakers will not say (or do not know!) the SO2 content of their wines. I would encourage you to search out wineries that publish their "numbers", so you have some more data points.

        If you find something you do not rx to, and you like a lot, it might be worth sending off a sample of it to an oenological chemist. A free+total SO2 test usually costs less than a bottle. But keep an open mind--you may find the sulfite levels to be higher than you expect.


        1. re: kaleokahu

          Another thing to try, whilst thinking methodically, is have a friend pour the wine for you so you won't know what exactly you're drinking -- your brain can have a profound impact on how your body reacts. Better yet, you pour the wine into unlabeled identical bottles, then have your friend pour the wine after switching them around; thus neither of you will know if the wine in question is a "low/no-sulfate" wine or not...

          That is, of course, if you feel like being a guinea pig :)

          1. re: mateo21

            While your testing suggestion make sense as a methodology, I would be careful with it because there's evidence that very few people are really allergic to sulfites and those that are can become seriously ill from them. To me this can be like telling a person who is allergic to peanuts to experiment with that.

            1. re: Midlife

              Yar! Point taken, however, in this scenario the OP does not enter into anaphylaxis upon consuming wine (as is common with peanuts) so I think in this case, my methodology would be OK -- assuming the OP would tolerate another case of "red blotches".

    2. I'm familiar with two US wines that do not have to carry the "Contains Sulfites" labeling because they do not add sulfites in winemaking and have less that the minimum residual amount 10ppm (I think) which requires that label. One is Coturri, the other is Frey.

      Most winemakers will tell you that not adding sulfites is very tricky to deal with and that these wines are not stable enough to last very long, I've had both Coturri and Frey and found them pretty decent for what they are. In Coturri's case the wines are usually rather fruity and full-bodied, which can be a good thing or bad depending on your taste preference.

      I've also had some no-sulfites-added wines that were pretty bad. They looked and tasted almost rusty out of the bottle. If you really want to drink wine, though, the two I mentioned are worth looking for.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Midlife

        Is Frey the same as Frei Brothers? I don't believe they add sulfites, either, and the products are passable.

        1. re: invinotheresverde

          No. Frei Brothers is a stealth label of Gallo (IIRC); Frey is not.

          FWIW, both Cotturi and Frey wines can be very dodgy as far as quality goes (e.g. off flavors, brett, etc.). There is a trend towards low sulfur for some botique artisanal wines, especially in France and Italy. The idea has more to do with the flavors rather than a health thing, but be warned, that these wines do not travel well and, if you do find any, drink them young.

          P.S. Sulfite allergies usually take the form of a asthma type reaction and can be very dangerous to those affected. People with this issue know what to avoid.....

          1. re: invinotheresverde

            A check of Frei Bros site shows nothing at all about sulfites. The name is easily confused with Frey:

            I carried Coturri wines in my shop and Tony Coturri did a tasting for us.Many of his wines are very definitely fruit forward too excess ................ one of his Zinfandels tasted almost late harvest to me, but he also did a field blend that was very 'normal' and extremely good. He told me he bottles by the individual barrel which would suggest he's trying to isolate the issues which can be a problem without the stabilization of sulfites. Interestingly, he does not label his wines "no sulfites added" when he could. He says it's just the natural way of making wine but it is likely also so as not to lump his product marketing with the negatives of no sulfite wines. He gets enough criticism without the label.

            1. re: Midlife

              Must've been Frey. Damn pregnancy brain.

        2. We stayed at the White Rose Winery / B&B in Carthage, MO during spring break. He does not add any sulfites. These are high quality wines.