Sulphites: Are They Bad For You, And What Are They For?
Do you find that drinking wine has more morning-after consequences than other forms of alcohol? If this sounds familiar, it may be a particular ingredient in wine that you're reacting to: sulphites. These preservatives can cause adverse reactions in those who have a sensitivity - and some people are actually allergic to them.
If you suspect you might have a sulphite intolerance, and are wondering if you should start checking for them on your wine labels, read on. We're going to explain what sulphites are, the health risks they can pose and how our low-sulphite wines can help you continue to enjoy a glass, without the consequences.
What are sulphites?
Wines, of course, improve with age. But have you ever wondered how they can remain unspoiled for so long, without going bad? The answer lies with sulphites: a common preservative that helps the wine maintain its freshness and taste for a long period of time.
The term 'sulphite' is actually a catchall term for a group of chemical preservatives, with the most common being sulphur dioxide. Sulphites aren’t just found in wine - they’re widely used in the beverage and food industries, and help prevent discolouration, oxidation and spoiling.
Sulphites in wine
In winemaking, sulphites preserve wine by preventing oxidation and maintaining the freshness of the drink, while also stopping the growth of unwanted bacteria and yeasts. Sulphur dioxide is actually a naturally occurring ingredient in wines (it's a byproduct of fermentation), but many winemakers choose to add extra for this reason. Some also use sulphur dioxide for sanitation purposes in the winery, to ensure that the barrels and other equipment are kept sterile.
Are sulphites bad for you?
For most people, consuming sulphites is safe. In fact, you're probably ingesting them in many other forms beyond wine. Many baked goods, pickles, crisps, dried fruits and jams contain sulphites to keep their freshness. And without sulphites, things like prawns, pre-prepared potatoes and guacamole would turn dark and discoloured on our supermarket shelves.
However, for some people, sulphites can trigger adverse reactions. This can include a variety of symptoms, from hay fever-like symptoms like sneezing and hives, to (more commonly) a more severe headache after a night’s indulgence. If you find that wine gives you a worse hangover than other kinds of alcohol, sulphites could be the culprit, which is why at Pale Fox, we try our best to keep our sulphite levels as low as possible.
Are there more sulphites in red or white wine?
It's a commonly-held belief that red wine contains more sulphites than white wine - however, this isn't quite accurate. Sulphite levels in wine depend on how the wine is made, and its sugar content.
White wine tends to be higher in sugar, thus attracting more bacteria - so more sulphites are required to halt their growth. If you find red wine makes you feel worse than white wine, you may be struggling to break down the histamines or tannins (both found in grape skins).
Does wine without sulphites exist?
If you have a sulphite sensitivity, you may already be avoiding wine - but there are wines out there that are specifically made to have very low sulphite levels. In particular, natural and organic wines tend to be a good bet, due to the way they're made.
Our Pale Fox Prosecco is very low in sulphites, thanks to a natural winemaking process with very little intervention. We only add 40 mg per litre of sulphites to our prosecco, putting it within the 50mg threshold in Italy for it to be classed as a natural wine. Many sparkling wines have four times that amount! If you have a severe sulphite allergy, it's advised that you avoid wine - but if you only have a sulphite sensitivity, low-sulphite wines like Pale Fox is a safe (and delicious) option.
What is natural wine?
Making natural wines (sometimes called raw wines), is all about using fewer pesticides, fewer chemicals and fewer interventions. It starts with using organically or biodynamically grown grapes, and then fermenting their juice with natural processes - with very little additives or filtering.
In the wine world, more and more producers are realising the value of old winemaking traditions and putting more trust in nature to achieve great results. This is why the natural wine movement is rapidly growing and evolving. At Pale Fox, we fully support the idea of trusting nature to do its magic - which is why we don't add high levels of sulphites to our vegan sparkling wines.
The Pale Fox promise
At Pale Fox, we're all about fermenting the very best grapes with a natural, slow fermentation process to make them truly sing. We ferment our pale, delicate Glera grape using indigenous yeasts - nothing artificial. Then, once a still white wine has been created, we begin our extra-slow secondary fermentation to create Pale Fox’s creamy sparkle.
Our award-winning sparkling wines are:
We stick to conscious methods of wine production with respect to nature. We avoid the use of pesticides and chemical additives, as well as artificial methods of fermentation and carbonation.
Levels of sulphites in the Pale Fox range are very low, and will give no negative effects to the vast majority of people. We use only the tiniest amount of sulphites, to preserve the wine’s freshness and flavour.
Our Prosecco is low in sugar - this not only reduces the need for preservatives but provides a deliciously light, dry finish.
We truly believe that there is no need for animal products in winemaking, and proudly opt for clay as a filtering agent instead of eggs or milk-derived proteins.
The Pale Fox team proudly leads by example, being one of the few wine producers relying on 100% renewable energy in the process, starting from the beginning in the vineyard to delivery using carbon-neutral couriers. Not only that, but we like to give back by planting a tree with each order.
Our DOCG prosecco has been rated as the best in the world by one of the top wine critics in the industry, James Suckling. Cucina & Vini, the leading food and drink magazine of Italy, has rated our Prosecco as the best in the Asolo region. So if you're looking for a low-sulphite sparkling wine to grace your table, look no further. Order here today.