By Contributing Columnist Richard Olsen-Harbich
You know all those urban legend stories -- like the one about alligators in the NYC sewers and the blind date that ends with you waking up in a bathtub of ice. Well, we have our own version of an urban legend in the wine industry. It goes something like this…
All of the stories are the same and involve a couple returning from a recent trip to Europe. The couple talks about how they drank wine like crazy and never once had a hangover. They reminisce about how they met local winemakers who told them “American wines all have sulfites and ours don’t.” The couple agrees that when they are back home in the U.S. they cannot drink wine the same way and enjoy it as much. They insist that the sulfites used in American wine gives them a headache and they inevitably want to know why we have to use them. They usually try to stick to white wine because of the sulfites in reds. They never buy another bottle of American wine.
What’s going on here?
The reality is that this is an actual story that has been told to me many times. My answer to them is always the same: “perhaps it has something to do with you being relaxed and on vacation!” I tell them the reason they feel so good in Europe is simple; “You know, being away from home, the kids, the pets, the daily grind of work, sleeping a little later, having lots of 'intimate time'."
At this point most of them give me dirty looks and shake their heads in disbelief. Some of the wives will snort and elbow their husbands in the ribs. I try to explain there’s nothing in the medical literature proving sulfites have anything to do with headaches and that red wines contain lower levels of sulfites compared to whites. By now of course, I’ve lost them.
Whatever people may want to believe, one thing is for certain. The problem is not sulfites. It’s time for this urban legend to be debunked.