Sulphites in wine

Sulphites in wine are a problem for me, causing an allergic reaction. I guess it depends upon the quantity of Sulphur, because almost all reds are fine… its just a few whites - in particular desert whites, some Champagne and dry Burgundies (oh, and yeast-in-bottle beers). Price makes no difference.

I might add that TWS own label Brut Champagne is superb, highly enjoyable.

I was wondering if the members have any suggestions for removing the Sulphur? or is there any way of knowing the S content in the bottle before buying?

Bad luck, lapin_rouge.

As best I understand it, the sensitivity is to sulphur dioxide gas. Sulphites added as a preservative before bottling (to prevent premature oxidisation) equilibrate in solution with the liberation of a certain amount of sulphur dioxide. Some gets bound, and some remains free.

There are certain wines marketed under the “natural” banner which eschew the addition of sulphites, though that isn’t necessarily an answer, because there is going to be a natural level of SO2 in the wine from the fermentation process. Plus, the longer term storage properties of that wine may be adversely affected. Still, it may be useful to know they exist.

Sulphites/SO2 may also be used at other times in the winemaking process prior to bottling.

I’ve a feeling that other low added sulphite level champagnes would include Marguet and Bollinger. Roederer and Drappier also use low levels of sulphite addition, and there are other growers who do this too.

Incidentally, have you been tested to confirm that this is truly the allergy you suffer from? I think it is the case that many people who regularly suffer a headache after drinking certain wines test negative for reacting to SO2, so presumably are reacting to something else. A useful test might be to see if you react to eating some dried apricots - they are usually packaged using high levels of SO2 to stop them discolouring.

Beyond undertaking chemical analysis on each line, I’m not sure there’s any way of knowing how much free SO2 is present. I don’t know if it might help, but a splashy decant before serving may help as it is a volatile gas. No promises though.


On another thread on this forum someone shared an interesting graph showing sulphur levels in different foods and drinks. Fruit and veg had way more in them than wine. Very interesting debate

I also share some scepticism about whether it is really the sulphites you are reacting to, but if you are convinced I suggest you look at so-called natural wines. You cannot be 100% sure that every natural wine is lower in sulphites than any conventional wine, but generally they will be.

Perhaps more importantly, natural winemakers, and those that sell natural wine, can at least often tell you the sulphite levels in their wines, because it is important to them. Also look for “contains sulphites” on the label. If it is absent, to be legal it means the wine contains less than 10 mg/li sulphites. But don’t worry too much if the label does say “contains sulphites”, because 10 mg/li is a very low bar, and in many cases it can be exceeded due to the fermentation, without adding sulphites at all.

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Many thanks to all - the dried apricot test it shall be. Having chuntered through t’interweb, seems that a few drops of hydrogen peroxide could neutralise the sulphite, and there are even sulphite test papers available! I shall report back…

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Just read an article on the use of hydrogen peroxide, for sulphide removal and the instructions for the test papers. But be careful. Hydrogen peroxide could finish up oxidising your wine if I understand it right, and acids and sulphides in your wine could mess up the test paper results.

But it sounds interesting, and I look forward to hearing how you get on :slight_smile:

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There is some more chat on sulphites here: Wine gadgets including a gadget called Ullo that is supposed to remove some sulphites from wine.

As @Ghost-of-Mr-Tallis suggests, the natural level of sulphites is something to be considered. The fermentation process uses the natural yeasts present on wine skins, so SO2 will be a result. If red wine seems OK, then it may not be sulphites causing a reaction. I started a thread some time ago about alcohol tolerance decreasing with age…is this the issue?

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Red wine generally has lower sulphite levels than white , Rosé and sweet white wines . Because red wine contains more tannins and other Phoneolics which have antibacterial effects, the need to add as much sulphites from an antiseptic and antibacterial effect is lessened . It makes perfect sense from what @lapin_rouge says that he may in fact have a genuine sulphite intolerance or allergy. Are you by any chance asthmatic? A % of ashmatics also suffer from sulphite allergy, around 2% I believe.
Drinking more “dry” reds should help as less sugar equates to less sulphite generally and also unoaked wines tend to have lower levels…(this is due to méchage of the barrels to sanitize them ) .As others have said, organic wines will also tend to have reduced levels too.


It’s rather technical but this is a great article on sulphites in wine


Actually yes to Asthma - and thanks for your (and others) detailed reply - nice to understand WHY ! & the barrel situation explains why oaked Burgundy (some Chablis too) can be problematic. Shame because I do like my wine! fortunately there are PLENTY of good wines at TWS to choose from.

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Personally I would caution against adding hydrogen peroxide to your wine. Hydrogen peroxide is a very pokey oxidant and will do far more harm to the wine than the benefit of removing sulphites.

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Completely agree. We used to use hydrogen peroxide in the lab to force the degradation of otherwise stable pharmaceuticals so we could check how safely they broke down. Would hate to think what it’d do to your wine. Other tests we used were heat and uv light which we know are best avoided too!

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Enough to make your hair go white…


Wines do not state any quantity of Sulphites on the label, just contains. As a non chemist, I am probably introducing a red herring…but, with some colleagues, we were looking at the analysis on a bottle of supermarket own label water. Sulphite levels were considered by us to be high!

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Under European law, any wine containing more than 10ppm (parts per million) MUST bear the "contains sulphite label. I’m unsure in other territories what the legalities are . These are the limits : dry red 150mg/L (150ppm), dry whites/roses 200mg/L (200ppm),
Sweet reds (i.e.: more than 5g/L sugar) 200mg/L (200ppm)
As you can imagine then, sweet whites will be higher again and Botrytized wines even more so.
As someone stated, a bag of dried fruit does in fact contain more than your average btl of wine so I wonder then is there controlled limits on bottled water ? Interesting .

I have bought (Amazon) some sulphite test strips… will be interesting to see how various wines measure up. 1st off a Vire-Clesse 2015 (£15, not TWS) tested at between 10 & 50ppm sulphite, absolutely fine to drink, really dry - so yes, low sulphite oaked whites do exist.

This Sherry also passed the low sulphite tests, I’m amazed that Sherry isn’t more popular.


Oh, the wine lovers lament! That and “Why isn’t Riesling more popular?”



Interesting - are the strips measuring free SO2 or total? 10-50ppm is what I would expect to see as a free sulphur value in a wine - say somewhere around 25-30 mg/L with a total sulphur level of say 120mg/L If total, that is pretty low, as you say. Our Society’s Muscadet 2017 for example had a free SO2 of 22mg/L at bottling and a total SO2 of 129mg/L

As I understand it, it is the free (active to be precise) SO2 that causes issues for those with allergies so a low free level is useful there - but obviously provides less protection for the wine if ageing is planned.

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Hmm. Test strips don’t say exactly what is measured except “10 / 50 / 100 / 250 / 500 ppm”

In the interest of Science I shall get some of the TWS Muscadet 2017 in and do some ‘research’ - perhaps with new potatoes + trout & almonds. Will be a useful benchmark with the the actual S02 numbers helpfully provided.