Sulfites have a bad rap. They’re blamed for the splitting headache you get after one or two glasses of wine...and the foggy hangover you wake up with the next day to boot. But are they really the culprit? Here’s what you need to know about these compounds, plus a few of our favorite low-sulfite wines to add to your cart ASAP.
What Are Sulfites?
Sulfites are naturally occurring compounds that are a product of fermentation. All wines have some sulfites since they’re made with yeast, but many winemakers add extra sulfites to their vintages as a preservative and to prevent bacterial growth. So, while it’s impossible to buy wine that’s totally sulfite-free, low-sulfite wines do exist. If you’d like to avoid them as much as possible, look for bottles that say “no sulfites added” on the label, or hunt down organic wines, which are required to be made from organically grown grapes and without added sulfites. (Just be sure to drink them in a timely fashion, since they’re not designed to age well...but we doubt we had to tell you that.)
What Are the Side Effects of Sulfites?
Contrary to popular belief, sulfites do not cause headaches. Those who are sensitive to sulfites may experience asthma-like symptoms when they consume foods or drinks that contain them; sulfite sensitivity is also much more likely in people who already have asthma. (According to the FDA, an estimated 1 percent of the population is actually sulfite sensitive, and about 5 percent of that group has asthma as well.) Rarely, sulfites can cause anaphylaxis in people who are allergic, says the Cleveland Clinic. Those who are sulfite-sensitive may experience symptoms that range from mild wheezing to a serious asthmatic reaction, likely due to the inhalation of sulfur dioxide that happens while they eat or drink.
Are Sulfites Bad for You?
TBH, additional sulfites don’t present a problem for most people. In fact, there are lots of foods that contain sulfites that you probably on the reg, like some jams, canned vegetables, fresh or frozen shrimp and dried fruit. If you can eat those without any issues, odds are you don’t have a sulfite sensitivity. In other words, that crushing hangover you’re experiencing is likely caused by dehydration, not sulfites. But if you’re sensitive to sulfites, stick to low-sulfite wines. (Even if you aren’t, we totally get it if you’re not keen on tossing back a goblet of non-organic preservatives.)
Read on for 11 low-sulfite wines to add to your rack, pronto.
1. Cobble Creek Cabernet Sauvignon
This pick is made with California grapes from Castoro Cellars’ first organic vineyard. Rich with a dark berry nose and lush mouthfeel, this gluten-free, vegan wine is intense enough to hold its own against beef, steak and rich desserts. Its flavor is spicy, oaky and fruity, making it ideal for sipping alongside cheese, burgers or chocolate.
2. Bonterra Organic Sauvignon Blanc
A versatile sipper that strikes just the right balance of dry, crisp and citrusy. This light-bodied California gem from Bonterra is equipped with hints of fresh cut grass, melon and grapefruit. It’s just the pairing for grilled fish or soft cheese.
3. 2018 Bruno Dubois Rococo
Meet the ideal Cabernet Franc to serve whenever you’re grilling steak or pork chops. Sniff this pick from Bruno Dubois before you sip to take in the floral aroma, then taste notes of raspberry, cassis, pepper and tobacco.
4. 2018 Très Chic Rosé
We don’t know about you, but we sip our favorite pink drink all year round. This crisp, dry bottle from Le Grand Courtâge is citrusy and slightly herbaceous with notes of raspberry and grapefruit. It’ll cut right through decadent cheeses and creamy pasta dishes.
5. 2019 Wonderful Wine Co. Syrah
Meet Winc’s clean line of vinos that launched in 2020, the Wonderful Wine Co. More importantly though, meet their full-bodied Spanish red that’s begging for a spot at your dinner table. Made from sustainably farmed organic grapes, it has bold flavors of plum, fig and black cherry and pairs beautifully with barbecue or lamb. It’s available as part of The Out of Your Gourd Pack, which also includes the brand’s 2020 Tempranillo and Malvasia Bianca.
6. Avaline White Blend
Get in, we’re going to Galicia. Whether you’re sipping this crisp, fruity blend made from organic grapes at brunch with a fruit plate or at dinner with steamed mussels, this vegan Avaline vino’s fresh finish and notes of pear and citrus are sure to shine through. Did we mention it’s free of added sugar, colors and concentrates?
7. USUAL Red Blend
We love the elegant single-serve bottles Usual Wines come in. The small-batch vintages are sustainably farmed and free of added sugar, preservatives and sulfites. Try the fruity red blend, complete with notes of dark cherry, cocoa and cassis. Score free shipping by ordering 12 or more glasses.
8. 2019 #TBT Chardonnay
Looking for something everyone at your table will be happy with? This light, slightly sweet pick is floral, bright and bursting with citrus and tropical flavors. Serve it cold with sushi or Thai food, or drink it alfresco with grilled chicken or shellfish. (P.S.: You can save $2 on each bottle by becoming a Winc member.)
9. 2019 Far + Wide Frappato
Frappatos are made from a rare Sicilian grape that creates a lighter-bodied, juicy red you’ll never forget—and this one is available at a discount via Winc. It’s fruit-forward with the essences of raspberry, red cherry, rhubarb and tomato leaf in every sip. Try it slightly chilled with ribs, fries or pizza.
10. Frey Organic Natural White
This white table wine from Frey Vineyards in California is made with a blend of Butte County Chenin Blanc and Mendocino Chardonnay grapes, resulting in a medium-bodied, acidic sipper for the books. Crisp, soft and dry, this wine allows you to savor notes of melon and pear between bites of chicken or shrimp.
11. Dry Farm Wines Rosé Membership
Every single rosé in this curated subscription box is lab-tested to ensure that it’s sugar-free and low in both alcohol and sulfites. Better yet, if you get a bottle you don’t like, Dry Farm Wines will replace it or refund you. What do you have to lose?
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