Naturally, there is no wine without sulfites. However, some United States winemakers today produce sulfite free wine and the bottle label should clearly state that.
If you have allergies or are a person who is sensitive to wine, be sure to read your bottle labels and inquire at wineries you visit or stores you shop in about sulfite content.
All wines contain some naturally occurring sulfites. They are a byproduct of fermentation. Some winemakers may also add sulfites during fermentation to protect and preserve their wine’s character, flavor and color from spoiling.
In the late 1980’s, in response to a public outcry over the use of sulfites on other fruits and vegetables served raw (the advent of the salad bar is partially to blame), the United States federal government required a warning label on some wine.
If the total sulfites in wine are above 10 parts per million, that wine label must read “Contains Sulfites”.
If no wine sulfites are added, but there are still sulfites in wine that have occurred as a by-product of fermentation, the label can read “No Added Sulfites”. So, even if the wine bottle does not state there are no sulfites, this does not mean they aren’t there naturally.
A small percentage of the population, especially those with allergies or food sensitivities, may feel some wines worsen their symptoms.
If you are looking for the lowest level of sulfites in wine, a wine labeled as organic should also be a safer choice.
And different types of wines have different sulfite content. Sweet white wines and dessert wines contain the most sulfites. Wines that are semi-sweet come in a close second for sulfur dioxide content. Dry red wines have the lowest sulfite content, and dry white wines are in the middle.
The bottom line is there have always been sulfites in wine and there most likely always will be.