Organic wine, sulphite free wine, preservative free wine, biodynamic wine, low sulphur wine, no added preservative wine – is it any wonder that people are confused!? Perhaps the biggest misunderstanding is that people (wrongly) assume that organic wine is low in sulphites – it is not. Sulphites are a natural compound of sulphur and oxygen, and are permitted in organic wines. Some organic wines will contain less TOTAL sulphur than mass produced wines, but they will likely have just as much active FREE sulphur as any other wine. This is because winemakers like to leave a certain amount of free sulphur to hunt out rogue oxygen molecules (and sugars and other compounds) dissolved in the wine, to prevent it oxidising in the bottle. Whether the wine is organic or not, they still need to leave the same amount of FREE sulphur in there.
It’s likely that organic wines will contain less BOUND sulphur and therefore also less TOTAL sulphur, as the regulations for organic wines tend to be more strict than for normal wines, although these regulations will differ between organic bodies and countries/regions. This BOUND sulphur is partly responsible for the hangover/headache, whereas it’s the FREE sulphur which is responsible for causing the allergic reaction in sulphite intolerant people. If you are intolerant to sulphites it’s possible you may be able to safely drink one or two organic wines, but simply being certified organic doesn’t mean a wine will be safe for you. You need to find wines that are low in FREE sulphur. There are only a handful of ‘No Added Preservative’ wines or ‘No Added Suphur’ wines produced globally and frankly most of these are awful quality. However www.goodwineonline.co.uk specialise in wines very low in FREE sulphur (although there is no official classification for this and producers don’t put this information on the label). If you have a reaction to sulphites in wine try some of their recommended low sulphite wines, they should be absolutely fine for you, and of course they’re all selected for their great taste too.