Whether you are an expert or simply a wine (rosé) lover , you will have read it on all the labels. You have heard certain myths about it. Surely the one that never goes out of fashion:

“Those give you a headache!”

You follow me, right?  We are talking about the dreaded sulphites.

Today we try to bring clarity to a topic that most don’t fully understand.

We will not talk about chemistry or microbiology, but we will talk about the fundamental things to understand about this topic and avoid being unprepared.

First of all, sulphites (or sulfur dioxide) are chemical substances used as preservatives in food, and therefore also in wine. Wine is a food, isn’t it?

Sulfur dioxide has two main functions. The first function is to slow down or prevent the development of yeasts and bacteria.

“So if there are no yeasts due to sulfur, how does fermentation take place?

The amount of sulfur used is so low as to kill only a small part of yeasts, the “bad” ones that would produce unpleasant substances. The “good” yeasts, those selected by winemakers after careful studies, are able to withstand the low doses of sulfur used.

Another important function of sulfur dioxide is the antioxidant one. A peculiarity of wine is its relationship with oxygen. Too much contact with air will oxidize the wine!

 “Like when we leave a bottle of wine open for days in the fridge?”

Exactly! Sulfur dioxide helps slow down this oxidation process. The higher the sulfite content, the slower the oxidation process will be.

“Perfect! A bag of sulphites per bottle, and I can enjoy it for a month without it going bad! “

Calm down! Sulfur can be toxic at high concentrations.

No need to worry.  There are very restrictive laws about it. I speak from experience and can tell you 80mg/l is about half the legal limit, this is an adequate amount of sulphur to ensure long aging without problems.

“Lately I often hear about wines without sulfites, do they exist?”

Yeasts during fermentation always produce a minimal amount of sulphites as a by-product of their metabolism. So no, wines without sulfites do not exist. There are instead WINES WITHOUT ADDED SULPHITES . Which is very different.

It is foolish to produce a wine completely without sulfites. Using sulfur as a preservative is more benefical than harmful to your finished wine.

The goal of many companies is to reduce their quantity because they want to make the wine as natural as possible and modern vinification techniques allow it, but complete elimination is not safe if you want to obtain a wine without defects over time.

“Better to risk having a defective wine, than a wine with sulfur that causes me a headache … don’t you think?”

My friend, this is another myth to debunk! Sulfur dioxide in wine does not cause headaches. The doses are so low that it is not possible for the side effect to occur.

Do you want to know where your headache come from?

One of the causes is common to the consumption of other spirits as the wine contains alcohol. Alcohol is a dehydrator and if you do not rehydrate after consuming alcoholic beverages, the brain may experience dehydration that manifests itself with an annoying headache.

The second cause could derive from a wine of poor quality. The quality of the wine is measured primarily in the health of the grapes. Healthy grapes, good wine. Moldy grapes?

Be Careful!

Where hygiene is low and the grapes are not of good quality, molds can develop that produce substances, biogenic amines, which have an effect on the nervous system and can cause “headaches”.

“How do you know if the grapes are healthy? There is no writing on the bottle!

You’re right, you buy the bottle of wine, you don’t know the quality of the grapes that went into making that wine.

Visiting wineries is a good way to see and understand the cleanliness of the winemaking.

This gives you the opportunity to explore and  evaluate them and their work. Even for us of those who work in production, we are happy to answer your questions! Don’t believe everything you read.

chemical formula of sulfur dioxide. A sulfur atom (S) and two of Oxygen


Below is a list of foods that contain sulphites but  go unnoticed. The value is the maximum limit set by the European Regulation 1129 of 2011.

  • Dried fruit (apricots, raisins, plums, peaches, figs): 2000 mg / kg
  • Dried bananas: 1000 mg / kg
  • Dried apples and pears: 600 mg / kg
  • Dijon mustard (strong): 500 mg / kg
  • Preparations for mashed and dehydrated potato flakes: 400 mg / kg
  • Packaged lemon juice: 350 mg / l
  • Mustard (other types, sweet): 250 mg / kg
  • Stockfish and cod: 200 mg / kg
  • Dried tomatoes: 200 mg / kg
  • White and rosé wine: 200 mg / l
  • Vinegar: 170 mg / l
  • Crustaceans: 150 mg / kg
  • Red wine: 150 mg / l