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Sulfites: What's the warning label about?

All wines contain sulfites, which are both a naturally occurring by-product of fermentation and a natural preservative that wine makers have used for thousands of years. A few wines are billed as "low sulfite" or "no sulfites added," but this is a bit of a scam meant to take advantage of consumer hysteria, and these wines generally either (1) spoil very quickly in the bottle or (2) use some kind of synthetic preservative in place of sulfites.

Unless you have been diagnosed by a physician as a severe asthmatic with a sulfite sensitivity - a condition that affects fewer than 1 in a million people - there is absolutely no reason for you to be concerned about sulfites. If you're simply worried about the warning label on U.S. wines, I'd frankly encourage you to relax and not worry about it. If you actually are one of the unhappy minority who is allergic to sulfites - and have received this formal diagnosis from your physician - then you really need to stick to your doctor's advice, which will be to avoid all wines, as well as all beers, most sausages, greens from salad bars, many cheeses, and a wide variety of other foods that are routinely treated with sulfites.

If you'd like to read more on this topic, it's covered in the March 29 edition of our 30 Second Wine Advisor.



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