What Are Sulphites?

Craig Paskett
18th April 2020

What Are Sulphites?

Preservatives are widely used in winemaking for their antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Sulphites, commonly known as Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), is the compound used to prevent oxidisation and maintain a wine’s freshness. So to answer the question ‘what are sulphites’, read below.

Covered in this article is the following:

So, what are sulphites? Sulphites are naturally occurring compounds found in the majority of wines which inhibit microbial growth. You may have noticed the “contains sulphites” reference on wine labels. Winemakers’ are required to advise if they have used them by law as a small percentage of people have sulphite allergies. The primary reason winemakers add artificial SO2 compounds is to preserve the wine for longer.

Does Wine Contain Sulphites
Sulphite warning on the back of a wine bottle

Below is a list of common misunderstandings about the topic of ‘what are sulphites’ in wine.

“Organic & Bio-dynamic Wine Is Sulphite Free”

Some people think that Organic Wine is sulphite free. This is not true. Organic wine may contain between 10-40 parts per millilitre, known as PPM. In order to be certified organic, a wine must not contain any added sulphites above this level. 

“Red Wine Is Higher In Sulphites Than White Wine”

Red wines need less added SO2 as they are higher in tannins than white wine. Skins, seeds and stems contain tannins. These act as natural antioxidants and preservatives which reduce the need to add sulphites. In fact, while European regulations allow up to 210 ppm in conventional white wine, the limit for red wine is only 160 ppm.

The residual sugar and acidity of the wine help determine the amount of sulphide that is needed. Dryer wines with more natural acidity will tend to be lower in sulphites. Sweet wines and dessert wines, on the other hand, are higher in sulphites.

“Sulphites In Wine Causes Headaches”

The so-called “red wine headache” is definitely a real thing. Although white wine is higher in sulphites and sugar than red wine, it is less likely to cause a headache. That suggests that it’s probably something else in red wine that’s responsible for the notorious red wine headache. This includes histamines, tyramine and tannins, not to mention the alcohol itself which causes dehydration.

How To Remove Sulphites In Wine

The Ullo wine purifier claims to remove sulphites from wine, restoring wine to its natural preservative-free state. Special filters are made from super porous polymers, removing the SO2 from your wine. Watch the video below to see how the Ullo sulphite remover it works. If you buy one of these, you don’t have to worry about ‘what are sulphites’? They’ll be gone!

Ullo Wine Sulphite Remover

Learn how to remove sulphites from your wine with the Ullo

Wine Drops are another product which can help anyone who suffers an allergic reaction to sulphites when drinking wine. Each drop oxidises any preservatives in the wine and quickly reacts with the sulphites to neutralise them.

Do Natural Wines Contain Sulphites?

Natural wines do not contain any sulphites. This means that there can be slight differences in taste between one bottle to the next, even though the natural wine has been made from the same grapes at the same vineyard. Because natural wine does not contain any additives (this includes sulphites), the wine continues to evolve in the bottle. How the natural wine changes will depend on how the wine is stored. Sunlight, temperature and moisture all can impact the wines evolution and this is even more prevalent when no sulphides are used to stabilise the wine.

Where to Buy Sulphite Free Wines

Most wine stores will have a small selection of Sulphite free wines. However, the number of wines without sulphite increases every year as more people become aware of what they are consuming. There are a number of online retailers in the UK which sell sulphite free wines. The ones we recommend are:


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We hope you liked reading this content and found the answer to your question ‘what are sulphites’. If you’d simply just like to learn more about wine from the comfort of your own home, be sure to check out our online blog and sign up to our mailing list.

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