One of the most common misconceptions in the world of wine drinkers is the notion that wines can be completely sulfite free. While limiting the amount of sulfites is possible, the natural process used to create and preserve wine does involve sulfites. Unfortunately, the truth is that sulfite-free wines don’t exist. Without added sulfites, most wines today would not be able to preserve their distinct taste and quality for very long.
Sulfite Free Wines vs No Added Sulfites
Having a completely sulfite free wine is very much impossible due the fermentation process. As a natural bi-product of the fermentation process, sulfites work to counteract the negative effects of the yeast and other bacteria. Without this buffer against the degrading characteristics of the yeast and bacteria, many wines today would not exist.
However, the problem with no-added sulfites wines is that the naturally occurring sulfites in wine do not last very long after the fermentation process. This puts pressure on many wine producers to sustain the quality and taste of their wine long after after the bottling process. It’s why commercial wine producers understand the benefits for preserving wine quality for extended periods of time.
To do this, many producers add in extra sulfites to help preserve the wine long after the naturally expected expiration date, not by months, but by years. The benefit is an increase in shelf life so commercialized wine can sit for a long time, with no pressure to sell. However, the negative side-effects to adding in non-naturally occurring sulfites is its effect on consumers affected by allergies.
Sulfite Allergy (when drinking Wine)
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines sulfites as an allergen. Wine producers whose product contains a sulfite level of 10 mg/L or higher must disclose this on their wine label. Consumers affected by this allergy will experience symptoms similar to those with other types allergy including:
- a burning or itching sensation on the lips, mouth, or throat
- runny nose or nasal congestion
- rash or hives, which may be itchy
- digestive upset, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- shortness of breath
- swelling of the lips, mouth, or throat
The severe reaction to an allergen comes in the form of Anaphylaxis. This reaction is life threatening and a major cause for concern amongst those with allergen sensitivity.
Due to this concern, consumers look for wines that contain the smallest levels of sulfite possible. Wine producers whose product contains a sulfite level below the 10 mg/L threshold may apply for an exemption from the FDA. The exemption allows for producers to be classified and label their product as “sulfite free”.
However, the FDA only regulates wines that are low in alcohol, specifically those less than 7% alcohol by volume (ABV). Since most wines are over 7%, they are instead regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) which doesn’t have the same labeling requirements.
Natural but Unnecessary. Additives in wine
There are many other additives found in most wines today. Besides helping with preservation properties, these additives assist in many aspects of the wine making process. This includes but is not limited to taste, color and texture.
Some of the most common additives include:
- Mega Purple
- Aroma Enhancers
- Clays like bentonite, milk products, and even dried fish bladders used in fining
While many of the additives above include familiar products, there are some that are clearly not household names.
“Normally, wineries can use any product found in nature in winemaking, including dangerously concentrated sulfur, factory-grown yeasts, and gelatin, and still label the products “organic.”” Laura Burgess, VinePair
SYLTBAR Wines are Low in Sulfites
SYLTBAR Wines are naturally produced by our producers in Italy. They aim to not just be organic, but much more superior. By working with the soil in the land and what it provides, these wines are produced following Green Project protocols. By not cutting corners, and creating wine the way nature intended, SYLTBAR Wines have no added sulfites so are naturally low in sulfites.
Our Sparkling Wines are not meant to be aged, and should be consumed within 2-3 years. We stand by the quality of our products, which is why we’ve added expiration dates to our bottles. Although it limits the amount of time SYLTBAR natural wines can sit on a shelf, we believe that we shouldn’t shortcut our customers by adding things they don’t need in their wines.