This Myth is one we here at Karwig Wines are asked regularly:
Red wine contains sulfites, and therefore causes headaches
The term ‘sulfites’ is an inclusive term for sulfur dioxide (SO2). SO2 is a preservative and widely used in winemaking (and indeed most food industries), because of its antioxidant and antibacterial properties. SO2 plays a very important role in maintaining a wine’s freshness.
Consumption of sulfites is generally harmless, unless you suffer from severe asthma or do not have the particular enzymes necessary to break down sulfites in your body. The amount of sulfites that a wine can contain is highly regulated around the world. Any wine containing more than 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur dioxide must affix to the label ‘contains sulfites’.
In the EU the maximum levels of sulfur dioxide that a wine can contain are 160 ppm for red wine, 210 ppm for white wine and 400 ppm for sweet wines. Quite similar levels apply in the US, Australia and around the world.
The fact that red wines typically contain less sulfites may seem surprising to people who blame sulfites for their red wine headaches!
Red wines contain tannin, which is a stabilizing agent. Additionally, almost all red wines go through malolactic fermentation. Therefore, less sulfur dioxide is needed to protect the wine during winemaking and maturation.
So there goes myth #1.
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