If the name ‘sulfites’ immediately conjures up a negative image in your mind, due to the implied presence of sulfur, you’re not alone. Especially when it comes to wine, sulfites have cultivated a bad reputation for causing a wide variety of problems, such as headaches, asthma, etc. So what’s the trick to remove sulfites from wine?
There are several myths surrounding this mysterious group of compounds, but many of them are simply not true. In fact, sulfites can often be a good thing! They help prevent microbial growth in your wine and slows down the rate of natural oxidation. They’re also used to preserve all sorts of foods besides wine, and these products often contain many more sulfites than what you’d find in your bottle.
Regardless of whether sulfites are truly harmful, removing sulfites from your wine is very easy. Before we teach you how to do that, we’re going to discuss whether you really want to. That’s because the amount of sulfites in wine is actually fairly low. So you might not want to bother with having to take the extra step, regardless of how easy it might be. To find out all about sulfites in wine, read on. But before we start, why don’t you check out “How to Tell if Wine is Bad?” to see factors to know if your bottle of wine went bad.
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Why Are Sulfites Added To Wine?
Wait… what even are sulfites? Though the term encapsulates several sulfur-based compounds, the most prominent one of them is sulfur dioxide (SO2). This compound makes its way into almost all kinds of processed foods, since they are affordable preservatives. Sometimes, they are also added to natural gas and are a good indicator of leaks due to their distinct rotten egg smell.
The practice of adding sulfites to preserve wines dates all the way back to Ancient Rome. However, besides the artificially added compounds, all wines have natural sulfites built up from the fermentation process. As mentioned, sulfites prevent microbial growth in wine that ultimately ruins its aromas and flavors. It also keeps oxidation at bay. All wines, even if they are sealed, are exposed to some amount of oxygen that slips through the seal. This transforms the taste of wine and too much oxidation will lead to the subtle notes of your wine disappearing into the air. More than 90% of commercial wines contain both, natural and added sulfites.
Check out “How to Store Wine After Opening” for tips on how to keep your wine fresh after opening.
Myths Surrounding Sulfites
Initially, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified sulfites as an allergen back in 1986 after a slew of citizens complained of asthma-related issues. Besides these cases, various instances of severe asthmatic or allergic reactions have also been reported. This was the start of several confounding claims regarding sulfites. Red wine, in particular, is thought to have more sulfites that cause headaches and migraine. Other symptoms that have been observed by some include chest tightness, coughing, wheezing, and others.
Having thoughts of your wine not tasting so well now that you’re reading about sulfites? Why don’t you try “How to Make Wine Taste Better” to see methods to make your bottle taste better.
The reason we called these claims confounding is that there is no scientific research that links sulfites to most of these ailments. Several studies have been conducted over the years. They have all typically found that wines contain far too low sulfites to cause any issues. Severe cases are rare, but there is some evidence to suggest that those suffering from, or prone to asthma, are more vulnerable to sulfites in general.
What about the claim that red wine causes more headaches? The truth is that it is actually white wines that contain more sulfites. This is because sulfites help in a process called secondary fermentation, which sweetens and enhances the flavor of the wine. However, there is an explanation for why some might experience these symptoms after drinking red wine. Two, rather. The first is that some might just be dehydrated after consuming alcohol. And those who are prone to headaches might be suffering as a result of lack of water instead of sulfites. Alternatively, red wines do contain more of a chemical called histamine, which is also known to cause headaches.
How to Remove Sulfites From Wine
If you are prone to asthma or headaches, there are several easy ways to remove sulfites from wine. If you have a bottle of oxygen peroxide lying at home, one of the ways is simply adding a few drops will clear the air. However, we won’t recommend this method because there is a high probability that chemical-grade hydrogen peroxide will offset the taste of your wine.
So what else can you do? There are several food-safe hydrogen peroxide additives that one can use to get the same effect, but without the downside. Just the wine is a good example of one such chemical. There are also a wide variety of aerators that you can purchase. These aerators not only remove wine, but oxidize some red wines to enhance their flavors and extract the full richness of the grapes. They’re very simple to use, and most simply need to be attached to the nozzle of your bottle and poured normally.
Lastly, one other way is that you can simply decant your wine if you intend on hosting a party. Check this amazing decanter we found here. The disadvantage of this method is that it takes a few hours to complete. You might not have that much time at your disposal. However, it is thought to be a classy way to prepare your wine, especially if it has aged for a while.
Sulfites have earned a bad reputation for some justified, and other unjustified reasons over the course of the past few decades. They remain a valuable ingredient not just for the winemaking process. Also, more broadly in the entire food industry, as a preservative that keeps items fresh. However, if you have had bad experiences with some wines in the past and simply want to remove sulfites from wine; there are three easy ways of doing so. You can either pour a few drops of food–grade hydrogen peroxide into your wine, purchase a small, nifty aerator, or decant your wine in a large vessel to get the desired result.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out our related articles like “What Does Wine Taste Like?“, “The Most Popular Sweet Wines”, or “Beginner Wines that You Need to Try” to enhance your wine selection at home. Leave a comment below letting us know your favorite bottle of wine.
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