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February 06, 2006


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Here, here!

Hi Rich,

Surpise! You are defending an additive you were accusing the wine industry of using, among ohers, in your prior article, to produce WMV?? So what happens to terroir and purity?

( I just could not resist. You do not need to answer this one.)

I heard this argument many times in our tasting room, slightly differently, however and perhaps closer to the reality. In Europe up until last November, it was not required to post on the label that a wine contained sulfites. Therefore many assumed that European wines did not contain any. A reasonable assumption.

By the way since November it is the law in Europe to post the sulfite statement on the label.

So there is no need to bash European winemakers as I doubt any of them made such false claims. Even disguised in a joke it is an unnecessary gratuitous swipe.

People complain from rashes and headaches and frequently attribute them to red wine or the sulfites in red wine. These ills are real but the culprit is not sulfites. The culprit is amine.

Amine, if present in wine, depletes a certain enzyme in our stomach that would have depleted histamines that come from such processed foods as bread, cheese, cold cuts, etc... People who react to wines containing amine will have a reaction to the foods that they consume. This is the pathway believed to be responsible for headaches and rashes induced by amine rich wines. Amines are believed to be produced by a bacterial activity during certain malo-lactic fermentations. Amine is not a very well understood topic but is not a frequent occurrence in wine.

So in a nutshell a wine drinker that does not suffer from asthma (and that is further not allergic to sulfites therefore) ( a WHO study says about 4 to 8% of asthmatics are allergic to sulfites) should have no adverse reaction to sulfite in wine.


Your topic was a good idea to bring up. It is more effective to speak about it factually and less sensationally.

There is no need to resort to scaremongering about alcohol either. Most people know that too much of anything is not good for you. Why stop at or start with alcohol? Last article you left the impression that wine in general is more or less a chemical potion put together by unscrupulous winemakers who use all sorts of ingredients including sulfites. Now you defend sulfites but scare us about alcohol except to remind us that it is OK to drink in moderation. This tabloid approach to a serious topic does not do you justice.

Now if we can get back to some good wine!!


I think you missed my point - but nice job on the amines! The use of sulfite and the pure expression of terroir are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, real terroir could probably not be expressed without sulfite as (aside from being a natural by-product anyway) it really is a necessary part of winemaking, needed to prevent spoilage. After all, an oxidized wine with high volatile acidity does little to allow terroir to express itself. I put sulfur in a different category than the other additives I discussed in my first post. I believe it is quite different in that sulfur preserves what the wine already is -while many other additives try to mask and change a wines natural character - into something else.

I find the "scaremongering" comment interesting, especially coming from a wine producer. As a winemaker, I truly believe that (along side all other types of wine discussions and promotions) we also need to confront the realities of alcohol head on and face up to our responsibilities regarding it's use. The facts are what they are.


Since we are snowed in let us carry the conversation, out of all places in cyberspace. Even though we seem to be the only ones who are participating!!

Of course I agree with you on the benefits of adding SO2 in wines. But your initial column did not leave room for such.

Your broadside did not leave room for sulfites or any other additives, that, for all I know, you use yourself. And as such it appeared to be a gratuitous attack on the wine industry, when you present little evidence. I did not miss your point I just think you over reached.

On scaremongering, as you say, the facts are the facts. I was just suggesting that there is no need to sensationalize them. It is an important topic.


There is an interesting bit here on organic wine from the only truly organic winery in the Finger Lakes: Four Chimneys http://www.fourchimneysorganicwines.com/whyorganic.htm
It addresses both Sulfites and sorbate compounds (which may be the cause of the headaches people complain of).

A second winery in the Finger Lakes, Silver Thread Vineyards http://www.silverthreadwine.com/ follows organic practices but is unable to be certified organic as he can not control what his neighbors spray on their nearby fields.

Hi Rich~
In your 2/6 article, you mention that European wines often have more sulfite additive than American wines. Do you have any sources for this, as I am having a related discussion with a colleague. Neither of us have been able to find documentation, as such. Thanks! Chef Kathy Lovin, MCFE, Albuquerque, NM

Thanks for interesting discussions. My wife is very alergic (one of the 0.4%?) and get rashes drinking wine (moderately). While we lived in Norway, it was possible to buy 3 liter cartons of wine, and she definetly got rashes of those. Does any of you know any wines that peoples tend to be able to drink without getting rashes? We are living in US now and hava found wine without sulfites added, but from reading the above, there may still be sulfites in that wine as well. Look forward to your reply.



Thanks for this article! I gave up wine two and a half years ago because it proved to be a Migraine attack trigger for me. I recently heard that sulfite-free wine could have me back drinkin' the stuff without problem, but the person at my local wine shop told me about the rumors you echo here. I appreciate your well-written, well-informed opinion.

-Janet Geddis

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