Attention! Contains sulfites!

What are sulfites?

Sulfites are chemical compounds containing sulfite ion. They are often used as preservatives in the production of wine, dried fruits, dried potato products, beer, carbonated soft drinks, etc. Their aim is prevention of product spoilage and oxidation. They are natural ingredient in almost all wines.


Sulfites – a major role in wine production!

Sulfur dioxide - a compound obtained from sulfur and oxygen, forms in small quantities during fermentation. The wine producers also add it. As the saying goes, sulfur dioxide for wine is what the combination of aspirin and vitamins is for people. Sulfur dioxide as a natural byproduct of fermentation is found even in wines without added sulfi tes, including bio wines. It has a versatile and indispensable role in wine production. We can safely say that the control of all processes and guiding them to the right direction are unthinkable without sulfur dioxide. The role of sulfur dioxide in wine production is based on its following characteristics:

  • it acts as an antiseptic;
  • it is a very strong antioxidant;
  • it is a good extractant;
  • it is a means of controlling fermentation.

All these advantages make it a permanent component of the technology but we must not forget that if misused or overdosed it has a negative impact on human health. The following sources of sulfi tes are used in wine industry – gaseous, liquid, sulfurous acid, salts of the sulfurous and pyrosulfurous acid.

Should wine contain sulfites and why?

Sulfi tation helps to isolate the lemon-shaped yeast (Kloeckera apiculata) that stop sugar decomposing at an alcohol content of 5% volume and are, therefore, harmful. Sulfi tes have been used in wine production since ancient times. During the Roman Empire wine producers used to ignite sulfur candles in the amphorae with wine in order to prevent it from turning into vinegar. When casks became the mass vessel for storing wines they were also treated with sulfi tes to stop the growth of harmful bacteria and yeast. The addition of sulfuric compounds became common in the 19th – 20th c. and is currently applied in all leading wine-producing countries. The studies of Louis Pasteur imposed the belief that no quality wines can be produced that could withstand long transportation or storage without the use of sulfur dioxide.

What is the quantity of sulfites in wine?

The actual levels of the sulfi tes in wine vary from approximately 100 to 150 million parts (as in the dried apricots), whereas the maximum content according to the US legislature is 350. White dessert wines have the highest content followed by semi-dry white wines and rosé wines – these wines need maximum protection. The dry red wines contain the least sulfi tes.

Is wine containing sulfites harmful?

No! The wine is not harmful!
If used properly sulfi tes neither aff ect the taste of the wine nor have any impact on human health. All those that worry about the sulfi te content can put their mind at ease – sulfi tes are constantly reducing, whereas the more sensitive people are below 5%. The latest studies in diff erent wine categories show that the sulfi te content in wines is reduced. This is made possible through the use of new technologies, by applying diff erent practices and more modern equipment. The careful sorting of grapes, the use of fruit with maximum ripeness, oxygen control at all stages of production process, improving hygienic standards in the storage facilities, proper bottling – all these help to make wines with no faults and with minimum sulfi te content.

Wine is life! Taste and discover new worlds!

Ivan Makedonski