Sulfites and Wine Drinking Myths
In this column, I will try to dispel one of the most irritating and untrue notion about sulfites and wine drinking: too many times have I heard “I cannot drink wine, the sulfites in it give me such a headache!”. A great many experiments have been done on the subject, so not to have to mention a plethora of studies; I’ll just quote one of the researchers, Dr Curtis Ellison an epidemiologist at Boston University School of Medicine. He states “the vast majority (probably 99.9%) of people who get a headache after drinking wine are not suffering because of the sulfites but from other substances in wine, including the alcohol. These people should drink with food; also taking 400mg of Ibuprofen about a half hour before you drink will most of the time prevent a headache”.
In wine the sulfites are present naturally and some are added to prevent bacterial growth and as I write, I vividly remember my dad at spring time, in his vineyard, the copper sulfite apparatus on his back, pumping and spraying away on his vines the light purple mist of the sulfur solution, his outfit, hands and face dyed a bluish tint; or, in the summer, when making his barrels aseptic, shooing us boys away when burning the sulfur wick in the upside down barrels, the acrid smoke and the gun powderlike crackling and sparkling of the wick making for a fascinating scene in the dark cellar…
But, back to science: sulfites are present in most baked goods, canned vegetables, pickled foods, dried fruits and jam and many other foods in addition to wine, as a matter of fact: most wines contain less than 100 parts per million (ppm) of total sulfites, in comparison dried fruits may contain 500 to 1000 ppm.
How often have you heard “I shouldn’t eat those dry fruits -or these pickles-, they give me headache”? !.. To be serious, an extremely small number of people are truly allergic and should be very careful of all these products. For these people, there are a few wines that are made without added sulfites( containing less than 1ppm), but they usually have unusual aromas and are so perishable that they should be refrigerated and consumed within 18 months of their bottling.
Note that wines from around the world contain sulfites, but only when sold in the US do they have to carry on their label “contain sulfites”.
Voila, enough for these darn sulfites, as there is such a great deal of evidence that moderate wine consumption can help us stay healthy.
The virtues of wine far outweighing its negatives:” in the light of the current scientific evidence, it appears that wine drinking can play a role in preventing -or at least in reducing the risk of- a wide range of health hazards”.
For example: studies show that people who consume moderately alcoholic beverages (and particularly wine) have a much lower risk of coronary heart disease than do abstainers; it has also been observed that diabetes occurs less commonly among moderate drinkers than among abstainers and in addition, several other studies document that elderly people who are moderate drinkers, in comparison to non drinkers, have lower risk to develop dementia…
Need I say more? Raise your glass, of red wine, preferably -it has less carbs and calories they say- and toast to the last of winter and remember: “in vino veritas”.
See you at Mille Fleurs or Bertrand at Mister A’s and if you have any questions or comments, give me a call, any week day mornings at 858.756.3113 and please be nice, those sulfites give me a whale of a headache!