So Sorry Sulfites
I wish I was given a bottle of wine for every person who has told me that they get headaches from the sulfites in red wine. For all those people, I send my sincere apologies to the sulfite community. If you have ever eaten a fruit you have ingested sulfites. If you have ever eaten at a salad bar you have ingested sulfites. And if you drink white wines to avoid sulfites, you ingest more sulfites than the red wine drinker.
These poor misunderstood sulfites are naturally occurring sulfur-based compounds found on earth. They can be found on fruits and vegetables and act as a preservative providing beneficial antimicrobial, anti-browning, and antioxidant properties. Due to the fact that they are natural, the FDA allows their use in cooked or processed food. Foods such as soup mixes, pickles, vegetable juices, teas and even potato chips contain sulfites. If you think you might be sensitive to sulfites eat a bag of chips and find out if you are in the minority of people who are truly allergic.
Since wine is a "processed food" the US and most wine regions, if not all, allow the addition of sulfites into wines to promote longevity. Some wineries add less than others and wineries that strive to be organic add little to none. Whether they are added or not, sulfites will still naturally be found in your favorite wine.
Now for those of you who suffer from red wine headaches I have a few suggestions. First, drink plenty of water while drinking wine. Red wine has a higher alcohol content than white and the headaches may be caused by dehydration. Second, you may be having an allergic reaction to the histamines absorbed from the oak barrels. White wines tend to be oaked less therefore causing fewer headaches. Some red wines spend years in barrel so search for wines that are aged for shorter periods of time in oak, wines that use old oak, or wines that are aged in vessels other than oak.
So please stop blaming those poor sulfites and give red wine a chance.
Maria Baniel is a Wine Consultant and offers affordable educational wine seminars and tastings for private, corporate and fundraising events. To schedule your next wine experience, contact Maria at
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