Sulphites in wine has long been a contentious issue with those in the know like some members of the medical profession, allergy specialists and sulphite sensitive people well aware of the severe harm they can cause. So it was fantastic to see a full page article all about it in the Daily Mail (5th June, page 45). Read the article online here.

Overall I thought the article was fairly good. It concentrated on the growing number of people who are developing an allergy to sulphites, and the lack of understanding about the whole issue from the NHS – that’s not criticism of the NHS, most doctors aren’t even aware of the problem. But it didn’t delve far enough into the problem and it completely avoided the main issue – that sulphites are very harmful to those of us who are not allergic to them.

If you want a deeper understanding of the issues go to www.goodwineonline.co.uk and check out their specialist information pages on the subject. They specialise in sulphite free – indeed completely chemical free wines – which are actively good for you.

It was quite clear to me from the article that the allergy specialists look at things from their own perspective while the cancer specialists do likewise: “For 90 per cent of people, sulphites are not a problem, says Dr Adrian Morris” – that is absolute rubbish! OK 90% of people probably don’t experience an allergic reaction, but then as any allergy specialist will tell you, the ones who do experience the reaction are actually the lucky ones as their bodies are warning them not to imbibe sulphites.

Sulphites have been very heavily linked to cancer, and the alarming increase in rates of asthma in the developed world. In fact the Centre for Scientific Research in the Public Interest recommended banning them altogether in the 1970s soon after they killed 30+ people who ate from a salad bar in the USA. And now the British Medical Association has recommended “phasing them out” – would they do that if they weren’t harmful? – bearing in mind that artificial sulphites are in nearly EVERYTHING we eat and drink in the UK.

The article was probably helpful to those people who have recently developed the allergy and think they are alone – they are not! It’s about 10% of the population and growing quickly, it’s just that many people don’t realise it’s a sulphite allergy as it’s so hard to diagnose. Many think it’s alcohol itself, or possibly certain foods. But as sulphites are in VIRTUALLY ALL processed foods and drinks it’s very difficult to pinpoint.

Do you have a sulphite allergy?

If you feel ill after a couple of glasses of supermarket wine, a pint of beer or a processed meal you may well have a sulphite allergy, and you may be able to instantly go back to leading a full enjoyable life eating good food, drinking wine and beer again – it really is quite simple. Symptoms can vary dramatically from restricted breathing, flushing, vomiting, the swelling up of the inside of the mouth, itching, sneezing, streaming nose…..the list is endless. Many different symptoms……but just one cause – allergy to sulphites!

The sulphite allergy test

Virtually all wines contain sulphites. Certainly virtually every wine available in the supermarkets and high streets is mass produced and full of chemicals, including sulphites. So the simple test is to drink some natural sulphite free wine. Many allergy sufferers will be nervous as they associate their reaction with wine – it isn’t the wine, it is the chemicals (sulphites plus possibly others) in the wine, so don’t worry. The chance of you being allergic to anything else in a natural wine is virtually zero. Take it slowly till you get your confidence up, just one sip, then a glass. You’ll then realise you can drink good quality sulphite free wines without any reaction whatsoever.

You can buy them from www.goodwineonline.co.uk. They got into them years ago as one of their directors has a severe sulphite allergy, and they have helped literally thousands of sulphite allergy sufferers return to enjoying good wine again.

But you don’t need to have an allergy to switch to drinking these wines. Cutting out the artificial additives in life is a choice more and more people are making as they realise the harm they have been doing to them over the years.

“Organic” does NOT mean low in sulphites.

One final note that the article got hugely wrong was this association that somehow organic wine is low in sulphites – it is not! Yes, by EU law the permitted levels are lower than non organic wines but still very high by many standards and many still contain more than enough sulphites to give an allergic person a very severe reaction. The same is true of Biodynamic wines which are permitted to contain 90 mg/l of added sulphites, we believe about three times the threshold for instigating a reaction!

If you have a sulphite allergy you should drink only sulphite free wines, not just organic or biodynamic certified as these could still be very dangerous for you. Be very careful though as there are plenty of retailers claiming to sell “natural wines” but the vast majority of these aren’t natural at all! These retailers are under the misaprehension that because the grapes are grown organically or biodynamically that the wine will be low in sulphites.

Make sure you search for SULPHITE FREE WINES as these are completely different to “organic”, “biodynamic” or “natural” wines which virtually all contain sulphites (there are a few exceptions). Most retailers, like most winemakers, don’t understand the allergy issue at all, and will mistakenly give you false advice.

The term “natural wine” is very much in fashion at the moment and while many producers of natural wines don’t add chemicals, as there is no legal definition for the term other producers who do add chemicals are classifying their wines as “natural wines” purely because they use some organic or biodynamic farming methods. So opting for a wine that a retailer calls “natural” is like playing Russian Roulette, and could be very dangerous indeed! In fact we sampled some New Zealand “natural wines” at the Real Wine Fair which were farmed biodynamically but pumped full of sulphites – not natural at all!

Your best bet is to go to a specialist like www.goodwineonline.co.uk who have a dedicated “sulphite free” wine section.