Recently, I met an avid wine consumer, who enjoyed the anticipation and experience of a glass of wine each night. She shared that wine made her feel awful the next day, and was planning to swear off wine forever! Does this sound like you? If so, you are not alone. Why is it that wine, which has been consumed during one’s entire adult lifetime—and by people for centuries before —is only now giving drinkers headaches, rashes, stuffy noses and enough unpleasantries that they’d rather ditch their favorite beverage than find a solution?
The Sulfite Myth
First, we are going to debunk the myth that sulfites are the culprit of all such ailments. One reason so many conscious label readers tend to jump on the “sulfites bandwagon” is that they only see the statement “Contains Sulfites” on most bottles of wine. Any educated person could conclude that sulfites are the problem, based on the information provided. The FDA states that only .4% of the population is considered highly allergic to sulfites to the point that their throat can close. The sulfite-sensitive people just outside of the .4%, may get an uncomfortable tingling in their throats, heartburn, cramps, or flush skin.
Additives and Chemicals
Unfortunately, what you might find shocking, is that sulfites are most likely NOT the only ingredient. Surprisingly there are over 150 additives that are allowed in wine, and producers are not required to disclose any of them! That means you are consuming much more than just fermented grape juice. Additionally, there was a recent study commissioned by a French consumer magazine Que Choisir and conducted by the Excell enology lab, that tested 300 wines, and 90% showed some detectable trace of chemicals.
Histamines and Allergies
If you are finding that you can drink white wine and not red, then you do not have a sulfite allergy, as white wines have more sulfites than red wines (unless you are drinking “organic wine”). A suggestion would be to first eliminate the high tannic (high histamine content) wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Zinfandel, as you may have an allergic reaction to one of these specific grape varietals due to the histamine content, while the sulfites are sitting quietly in the corner getting blamed. Alternatives would be Pinot Noirs, Merlot or Malbec.
Where do you go from here?
For those who have a bad reaction to wine, and for others who simply wake up the next morning wishing they could crawl back under the covers, aka. hangover, there is still hope… drink organic.
First, switch to only drinking “Organic Wine” (USDA symbol which has “No added Sulfites”) or wines that have the statement “Made with Organic Grapes.”If that does not solve the problem, and your reactions are congestion or rash-based, start experimenting with grape varietals what work best for you and your body.
By choosing “Organic Wines” and wines “Made with Organic Grapes” you have made the choice to eliminate “vineyard chemicals” and “winemaking additives,” and are on the path to enjoying wine again.
Annie Rabin Arnold was raised in a brick and mortar wine store that her grandfather opened in 1938. After college, traveling around the world and 10 years of working in the film business, Annie had acquired enough skills and knowledge to bring a new outlook into an old business. Her goals were unleashed in 2010 when she took a leap of faith and turned her local family business, with 74 years of knowledge and experience, into a nationwide phenomenon called Organic Wine Exchange. O.W.E. is a unique website that combines wine education with the sales of organic and biodynamic wines from around the world. Annie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org