Are Sulphites in Wine Your Enemy?

Are Sulphites in Wine Your Enemy?

Lots of wine queries come my way.  One that receives a lot of discussion, and negative press, is the topic of sulphites in wine.  They take the blame for everything from migraines to allergic reactions.  After all, isn’t any chemical added to wine bad?

Not necessarily so.  That is, unless you are prone to asthma, which may be triggered by sulphites, or are truly allergic to sulphites.  Those are legitimate concerns.  However, there is no solid evidence that sulphites trigger migraines.  In fact, they provide a very useful function in bottled wine: they prevent bacterial growth that changes wine to vinegar (and who wants to drink expensive vinegar?).  Plus, they hinder oxidation, a type of fault not at all desirable in table wines.  No one wants their white wine at dinner to taste like Sherry.  Only Sherry should taste like Sherry; oxidation is a part of its charm – oxidation in dinner wine, not so much.

So, let’s look at the big picture.  How much sulphite does wine usually contain?  Frankly, wine contains very little sulphites compared to other foods we never even think about.  Organic wines are touted with tags of no added sulphites, but the word “added” is key.  What is conveniently omitted: fermentation always produces a “natural” amount of sulphite in wine.  That means organic wine contains 5 to 30 ppm just from the fermentation process. A more typical glass of red contains around 50 ppm (parts per million) due to the added sulphite.  All that being said, compare those to frozen French fries at over 1800 ppm and dried fruit that clocks in at around 3000 ppm.

The takeaway is, if you are concerned about sulphites, wine is the least of your worries.  Hope this helps you fret less and enjoy another glass. Cheers!

As usual, my ratings are based on a 5 star system developed by Michael Broadbent: 5 stars: Outstanding; 4 stars: Very good; 3 stars: Good; 2 stars: Moderately good; 1 star: Not very good, but not bad; No stars: Poor.

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Chardonnay 2020
★★★½+ $16.95 (Vintages)
Summer BBQing needs a more full bodied Chardonnay to stand up to the bold, smoky flavours. This dry white from Australia has the fortitude to meet those challenges. The palate presents vivid tropical fruit flavours (think pineapple, lemon pulp, peppery mango) melded with warm vanilla spice. Marry this delightful, good value white with grilled chicken or salmon for a happy pairing. Flavourful sauces with citrus like Piri Piri will make it even better.

Creekside Iconoclast Semillon /Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ★★★★  $23.00 (Vintages)
A typical Bordeaux style white blend made with mostly Semillon and some Sauvignon that is not common in Niagara since both grapes are not extremely winter hardy.  Despite this, Creekside continues to produce this excellent white that has an added richness due to the Semillon.  Noticeable minerals wrap around a core of lemon, mango, guava, and herbs seasoned with a little vanilla.  An excellent match for salmon grilled with lemon slices.

Castelo do Mar Albariño 2020 ★★★★  $18.95 (Vintages)
This clear, pale lemon coloured white makes an attractive summer wine.  It is unoaked and spritely enough to enjoy with grilled seafood, but has enough body that it would pair nicely with your cheese and charcuterie board as well.  Imbued with lovely notes of stone fruits, pear, and citrus, it’s one of my favourite Spanish wines.

Saintly The Good Rosé ★★★½  $19.95 (LCBO)
If you like the paler, lighter style of Rosé from Provence, you will like this Niagara wine.  The wine notes did not indicate the grapes used, but the aroma suggests Gamay and/or Pinot Noir.  Nice flavours of berry, watermelon, lemon, and yellow apple with an herbal tinge.  Try it with Ahi Tuna or have a glass before dinner.

 Segura Viudas Brut Rose Cava NV ★★★½   $16.65 (LCBO)
The perfect pour at your summer get together is Sparkling. It’s fresh and appealing as an aperitif and has enough stuffing to be enjoyed with the meal as well. Take for instance this good and good value Cava from Spain. The wine is made mostly with Trepat and Pinot Noir, which produces a sparkler imbued with strawberry, cherry, melon, and biscuit. Add to that an attractive fine mousse and you have the recipe for a delightful summer evening of wine, food, and friends.

Featherstone Cabernet Franc 2019  ★★★★  $21.95 (Vintages)
Cab Franc, which is one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon (for the curious, the other parent is Sauvignon Blanc), originated in Bordeaux in France, but it has become one of Niagara’s most noteworthy grapes. This reliably excellent version from Featherstone gets better every year. Aromas of blackberry and sweet clove spiced vanilla predominate at first, but they are followed by smoke, black cherry, raspberry, and plum jam. It presents as rather full bodied with noticeable, but not too grippy, tannins. The finish hangs on nicely. It will continue to develop over the next 3-5 years, but is enjoyable now with BBQ steak, hard aged cheeses, or grilled Portobello caps drizzled with olive oil.

Torre Zambra Madia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2019 ★★★★   $16.95 (Vintages)
This nicely rustic Italian red is both organic and vegan as well as very good value for the excellent quality offered.  It’s quite full bodied and complex with leather, cedar, and earth combining with spiced plum, black cherry, and pomegranate.  Lasagna made with Italian sausage or mushrooms and this wine would make a first-rate dinner.

The Black Chook Shiraz/Viognier 2020 ★★★★   $18.95 (Vintages)
A red that embodies what we have come to know as the classic big Australian Shiraz, but with a nod to the French style of Syrah by co-fermentation with Viognier that adds aromatics.  By the way, for you trivia lovers, Chook is the Aussie term for chicken.  Oak aging gives a nice spiciness, the Shiraz delivers cascades of blackberry jam, chocolate, and black plum while the Viognier adds some lavender and green tea to the mix.   Light your BBQ and serve it with a marinated flank steak grilled medium rare topped with chimichurri.