Saturday, September 5, 2009

Good Sense on Wine Sulfites

From Robin Garr's WineLover's Page email newsletter:

"First, let's get one thing perfectly clear about sulfites in wine: This is a natural process that's been used by winemakers for a couple of thousand years, with the benign purpose of keeping your wine from spoiling before you can drink it.

"With the limited exception of sulfite-sensitive asthmatics, who must avoid sausages, pickles and many other good things in addition to wine, most of us needn't worry about it. If you get a headache or a stuffy nose after drinking wine, you may be allergic to something - very likely the histamines in some red wines, or in the case of hangovers, simple over-indulgence. But it's not the sulfites.

"But the scary warning label, added to wine by government fiat as recently as the 1990s, prompts reactions that range from wary to hysterical among some wine consumers...."


I regularly hear people say they avoid red wines, or certain kinds of red wines, because "they give me a headache." I don't really know what to make of this complaint. I suspect a substantial number are the result simplyi of overindulgence, as Robin says above. The alcohol in the wines, folks, will give you a headache if you drink enough of it. You don't need mysterious evil added chemicals. And some red wines contain a lot of alcohol -- 16% or more in some cases!


Twits said...

The relationship of "red wine headaches" and elevated histamines in red wine is fairly well documented. There is a lot of apocryphal evidence that proper aging softens (if that is the proper term) the histamines so that they do not induce such headaches. Another method suggests some rather unconventional aeration techniques, such as pouring the entire contents of the young red into a wide-mouth kitchen bowl and letting it sit for 75-90 minutes and then returning it to the bowl is foolproof against headaches caused by histamines (saw this demonstrated 20 years ago at the old Hans Kornell sparkling wine facility). Something about air affects the histamines to make them less evil, or so we are led to believe. Since I do not suffer such ill effects, I am not the one to try it -- but would love to hear the results from anyone who does.
-- V. Pompous Toadus

Twits said...

That sentence in the middle should read "...letting it sit for 75-90 minutes and then returning it to the bottle, is foolproof against headaches..."