Sulphite free wines and low sulphur wines have seen a sharp increase in demand globally over the last 12 months. As more and more people are educating themselves through the internet, they’re discovering that they are not alone in experiencing unpleasant symptoms when consuming various alcoholic drinks which are pumped full of chemicals – sulphur in particular. And as awareness of the problem is growing, they’re finding the solution is becoming more readily available with websites like specialising in low sulphur and sulphite free wines.

Sulphur has been used for thousands of years as a preservative in wine. However in recent years with the advent of globalisation and factory production on a massive scale, it was perceived by the powers that be in these big companies that there was a need for a very effective preservative, an anti oxidant, to prevent products from spoiling before they could get to market. So sulphites were produced to be added to a vast array of foods from freshly caught prawns, to sausages, dried fruits, crisps, processed ready meals right through the spectrum to include mass produced alcoholic drinks, including wines.

In theory this seemed like a good idea. However as the supermarkets have consistently applied pressure on producers to reduce prices and forced them to use cheaper and cheaper ingredients, the addition of chemical preservatives has got higher and higher. Now cheap wine is more chemical solution than grape juice.

Unfortunately it is only in the last ten years that people have started to realise these sulphites can be potentially hazardous to their health. I’m not talking just about those of us who suffer from an allergy to sulphites which is potentially fatal, but the damage they’ve been causing to us all, over the years as they’re in most of the products we eat and drink on a regular basis.

Asthma rates in “developed” countries where these sulphites are used have soared to over 30% in children since the 1970s when they were at 2%. In “undeveloped” countries where they don’t use these artificial preservatives the asthma rate in children is still 2%. Throat and stomach cancers are hugely on the increase in developed countries too. These chemicals in our foods have been slowly poisoning us for years. I’ve heard from a lot people in their 30s who have sudenly started reacting to certain things like wine, which they have always been able to drink before. Give them a sulphite free wine and suddenly they are able to drink it without any adverse reaction! I believe our bodies can only tolerate a certain amount of toxins, and over time we get “full”. Our bodies then start telling us to stop imbibing these chemicals – in a variety of unpleasant ways!

The Centre for Scientific Research in the Public Interest recommended banning sulphites in the 1970s – but were suitably ignored of course. Last year (2010) the World Health Organisation recommended “phasing them out”. Phasing them out??? Why? If they’re not bad for you, why get rid of them? If they are admitting they are bad for you, gradually phasing them out isn’t the answer – stop poisoning people now!

So the lucky people who are aware of the problem can make an informed choice and search out natural products like sulphur free or very low sulphur wines, and foods of course. There’s a big increase in demand for organic foods and fresh produce rather than the processed rubbish we’ve been buying for years.

Certain winemakers are now reconsidering the sulphur they’ve been adding to preserve their wines. It seemed the perfect solution to ensuring their quality wines remained in good condition, but they are now being made aware that this sulphur is actually bad for us in large amounts. Most good winemakers use it in moderation. Unfortunately the cheap mass produced wines are pumped full of it as the base wine is such poor quality in the first place, so there isn’t likely to be any change here.

The UK has just seen the launch of the first dedicated low sulphur wine brand – SoLo S02 with their first wine “Navitas”. It’s a red blend from the Rhone Valley and is not just low in sulphur but technically sulphite free. It’s also a lovely wine in it’s own right, soft, fresh and smooth with good fruit and a very clean finish. If you want to cut out these artificial preservatives I suggest you treat yourself to a few bottles of this – not only is it delicious, you won’t get that nasty chemical hangover either!