Sulfites Are Off the Hook!
OK, it’s about time we were honest about sulfites. They’re not some chemical ogre or poison, they’re a perfectly natural by-product of fermentation. When yeast and sugar get together to make carbon dioxide and alcohol, they also make small amounts of sulfur dioxide, so there’s some in every wine on the planet.
It's true that the sulfites that people get their panties in a bunch over are the ones that are added after fermentation rather than the ones that occur during, but we’re still not talking huge amounts here. Naturally-occurring sulfites are present in wine in concentrations of between five and 40 parts per million (ppm), while added sulfites are anything between 50-350ppm.
The extra sulfites are added as preservatives, to keep the wine fresh and to protect its delicate flavours; even organic wines allow up to 100ppm of sulphites, although the figure tends to be nearer 75ppm.
But that is a huge amount!
We all blame sulfites for those killer hangovers that are the price to pay for a good night. However, this is quite wrong. What people don’t realize is that those same compounds they pin their pounding heads on occur in lots of the foods they eat every day. They’re added to foods for the same reasons they’re added to wines – to preserve freshness, flavour and color. It will surprise many people to know that there are actually more sulfites in popular, everyday foodstuffs than there is in a bottle of wine. So, where’s the headache?
Eat your words!
Think about the foods you eat every day, or most days – dried apricots, pickled onions, sauerkraut, bottled lemon and lime juice, cheeses, processed meats… Most of these foods have concentrations of sulphites that are over 100ppm, with some dried fruits featuring an amazing (and by amazing, we mean unnoticeable) 2,000ppm!
This means that you have to stop blaming sulfites for your hangovers and take some responsibility! Then again, you could just shift the blame onto that cheese sandwich you scarfed down earlier…