Before you blame the wine …
I was working a sommelier shift a few weeks back and, at one of the tables, a young woman told me that she couldn’t drink wine because the sulphites gave her migraines. I asked her if she was sure it was a sulphite intolerance and she replied that she was told that the headaches are caused by sulphites.
Of course, I didn’t force the issue, but sulphites are often blamed for health issues when they are not really the cause. I have been known to rail against them, but my beef with sulphites tends to be how and when they are used in winemaking, and have little to do with health issues.
But that is a whole other issue.
Sulphites refer to the family of sulphur-based compounds – those most commonly used in winemaking being the gas, sulphur dioxide (SO2), and the powder, potassium metabisulphite. While it all sounds very chemical, sulphites are naturally produced by many organisms and found in such food items as grapes, oranges and hens’ eggs. They are even produced by our own bodies, close to a gram per day. They are also a naturally occurring byproduct of the fermentation of grape sugars by yeasts, so all wines contain at least a minimum of sulphites.
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