Monday, February 13, 2006

Sulfites & Wine

Grape skins not only host the yeast that ferments grapes into wine, they also contain vinegar bacteria that can spoil new wine. Adding sulfites (sulfur dioxide and its salts) helps to prevent the spoilage. Sulfites inhibit the growth of molds and bacteria, curtail oxidation (browning), and also preserve flavor.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), one percent of the general population and five percent of asthmatics are affected by sulfites. Sulfite allergy symptoms range from mild gastrointestinal distress to death. If you were allergic to sulfites, you would know it. You would be sensitive to many conventional supermarket and convenience foods that are preserved with sulfites.

Getting a headache after drinking wine is usually the result of three factors: sulfites, amines, or overindulgence. We all know when we’ve had too many, but the cause of a throbbing head after one glass of wine has been the subject of numerous studies.

Many people incorrectly blame sulfites for their wine headaches. If your headaches are severe only when you drink red wine, you can rule out sulfites as the culprit. Many highly-processed foods have had sulfites added to them. And, contrary to popular opinion, white wines contain even more than reds!

The third suspect is a group of chemicals called amines, which occur naturally in fermented foods and beverages. Wine contains two kinds: histamines and tyramines. A study conducted by Mark Daeschel, Professor of Food Science and Technology at Oregon State University, confirmed that histamines dilate blood vessels in the brain, while tyramines constrict them. Either effect may cause headaches in people sensitive to one or both of the chemicals. In this case, red wines do generally have a higher content than white wines, but as with sulfites, few people suffer from sensitivity to amines.

A Few Facts

All wines contain sulfites naturally. They are a by-product of fermentation.

There is no such thing as wines that contain no sulfites, or sulfite-free wines.

There are wines that can be labeled as "No Sulfites Added," but these wines still contain between 6 and 15 ppm (parts per million).

There are less sulfites used in wine production today than at any other time in history. Better technology, equipment, and sanitation practices all contribute to less bacterial spoilage, and therefore less need for adding sulfites.

Wines labeled "Organic" do not contain added sulfites, those labeled "Made from Organically Grown Grapes" may contain added sulfites.

To this day, there has yet to be found a better way to keep wine from spoiling than the use of sulfite.


Blogger Debbie said...

Thanks for this information. Sulfites get a bum rap though they're rarely to blame for that wine headache (I'm betting your "overindulgence" factor causes far more trouble!)

I have known people to ask for sulfite-free wines, not realizing that those are basically flukes since the sulfites occur naturally. Organic wineries won't add sulfites, but it's unlikely that their wines would be sulfite-free.

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Burgundy wine
(French: Bourgogne or Vin de Bourgogne) is wine made in the Burgundy region in eastern France.[1] The most famous wines produced here - those commonly referred to as Burgundies - are red wines made from Pinot Noir grapes or white wines made from Chardonnay grapes. Red and white wines are also made from other grape varieties, such as Gamay and Aligoté respectively. Small amounts of rosé and sparkling wine are also produced in the region. Chardonnay-dominated Chablis and Gamay-dominated Beaujolais are formally part of Burgundy wine region, but wines from those subregions are usually referred to by their own names rather than as "Burgundy wines".

Burgundy has a higher number of Appellation d'origine contrôlées (AOCs) than any other French region, and is often seen as the most terroir-conscious of the French wine regions. The various Burgundy AOCs are classified from carefully delineated Grand Cru vineyards down to more non-specific regional appellations. The practice of delineating vineyards by their terroir in Burgundy go back to Medieval times, when various monasteries played a key role in developing the Burgundy wine industry. The appellations of Burgundy (not including Chablis).

Overview in the middle, the southern part to the left, and the northern part to the right. The Burgundy region runs from Auxerre in the north down to Mâcon in the south, or down to Lyon if the Beaujolais area is included as part of Burgundy. Chablis, a white wine made from Chardonnay grapes, is produced in the area around Auxerre. Other smaller appellations near to Chablis include Irancy, which produces red wines and Saint-Bris, which produces white wines from Sauvignon Blanc. Some way south of Chablis is the Côte d'Or, where Burgundy's most famous and most expensive wines originate, and where all Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy (except for Chablis Grand Cru) are situated. The Côte d'Or itself is split into two parts: the Côte de Nuits which starts just south of Dijon and runs till Corgoloin, a few kilometers south of the town of Nuits-Saint-Georges, and the Côte de Beaune which starts at Ladoix and ends at Dezize-les-Maranges. The wine-growing part of this area in the heart of Burgundy is just 40 kilometres (25 mi) long, and in most places less than 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) wide. The area is made up of tiny villages surrounded by a combination of flat and sloped vineyards on the eastern side of a hilly region, providing some rain and weather shelter from the prevailing westerly winds. T

he best wines - from "Grand Cru" vineyards - of this region are usually grown from the middle and higher part of the slopes, where the vineyards have the most exposure to sunshine and the best drainage, while the "Premier Cru" come from a little less favourably exposed slopes. The relatively ordinary "Village" wines are produced from the flat territory nearer the villages. The Côte de Nuits contains 24 out of the 25 red Grand Cru appellations in Burgundy, while all of the region's white Grand Crus are located in the Côte de Beaune. This is explained by the presence of different soils, which favour Pinot Noir and Chardonnay respectively. Further south is the Côte Chalonnaise, where again a mix of mostly red and white wines are produced, although the appellations found here such as Mercurey, Rully and Givry are less well known than their counterparts in the Côte d'Or. Below the Côte Chalonnaise is the Mâconnais region, known for producing large quantities of easy-drinking and more affordable white wine. Further south again is the Beaujolais region, famous for fruity red wines made from Gamay. Burgundy experiences a continental climate characterized by very cold winters and hot summers. The weather is very unpredictable with rains, hail, and frost all possible around harvest time. Because of this climate, there is a lot of variation between vintages from Burgundy.
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7:28 AM  

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