Sulphites in Wine
You have probably seen an obvious ‘Contains Sulphites’ label on your bottle of wine and wondered what they were and why they matter. Well, if you find yourself with crippling headaches the day after a few glasses of wine, pay attention to why we keep these sulphites at the lowest level we can.
The term sulphites is an inclusive term for sulphur dioxide (SO2), a preservative that’s widely added in the winemaking process (and most food industries) for its antioxidant properties. Although, it does occur naturally in the fermentation process too. SO2 plays a role in preventing oxidization and maintaining a wine’s freshness.
There has long been an anecdotal association with these sulphites in wines and the effect they have on your hangover. Firstly, it is fundamental to note that the main symptoms of a ‘hangover’ are a direct cause of the alcohol present in wine or any other alcoholic beverage, which prompts dehydration. It doesn’t follow that a low or no-sulphite wine will mean that one doesn’t experience any negative effects the next day whatsoever. However, it appears that some of the classic hangover symptoms, specifically headaches, can be eliminated or at least alleviated by drinking low or no sulphite wines, especially in people who have sulphite allergies or sensitivities.
This headache isn’t the case for everyone. We’re not saying everyone will react to the amount of sulphites present in a bottle of wine or prosecco. But, if you do have a sulphite sensitivity a headache is a mild symptom of exposure. Other more serious symptoms of the allergy can include asthma, hot flushes and fevers, but these aren’t common after drinking wine. It is thought that around 1-2% of people have a severe sulphite allergy, although it appears to be the case that a greater number have some form of mild intolerance. There is still a lot of research to be done on this topic, specifically concerning how prevalent sulphite allergies are and what levels of sulphites are required to trigger an allergic reaction.
Overall, there does seem to be sufficient evidence to support the case for allergic reactions, namely headaches, to sulphites in wine for a significant section of the population. Our approach is simple: if we can produce a quality wine without adding excess sulphites, we will. We only add 40mg/L of sulphites to our prosecco, this puts it under the 50mg/L threshold in Italy for the wine to be classed as natural. For reference, lots of sparkling wines have four times this amount. On balance, this lower quantity will mean that fewer people experience negative side effects the next morning, and more will be able to enjoy Pale Fox with no regrets.