So you've heard sulfites in wine are bad for you. First off, this isn't exactly true. Sulfites have gotten a bad rap, but the reality is they are in many foods (as a preservative) in far greater amounts than they're permitted in wine. A small percentage of people have adverse allergic reactions to sulfites and need to search out low-sulfite wines. If this is you, or you're just curious to explore minimal-intervention wines, it's helpful to know what to look for.
Is There Such a Thing as a "Sulfite-Free" Wine?
Sorry, but no. Misinformation and perhaps the server at the wine bar on the corner might tell you otherwise. But, all wine has some amount of sulfites. The difference is that some are naturally occurring during fermentation, only amounting to small amounts of 5-15 parts per million (PPM) versus additional sulfites incorporated during the winemaking process and/or at bottling. Added sulfites could range anywhere from 0-350 PPM. So, while you won't find a sulfite-free wine, you can find a low-sulfite wine.
How to Find Low-Sulfite Wines
There are plenty of low-sulfite wines available. The only thing is, they won't necessarily be labeled as such. Annoying, I know. Almost all wines will have the "contain sulfites" notation on the label for legal reasons. But in terms of whether it's natural or added or actual amounts in parts per million - you'll be hard pressed to find that on the bottle itself. For that, and other winemaking details, you'll likely need to track down a tech sheet or talk to a knowledgeable staff person at the bottle shop.
Here's the good news. You can filter out wines with added sulfites pretty quickly when you start to only consider natural wines.
Natural wines go by the ethos of nothing added or taken away, and therefore they have minimal amounts of sulfites compared to their highly manipulated commercial counterparts. You can find low-sulfite reds, whites, oranges, rosés, and bubbles with 5-25 PPM sulfites. These are really small amounts compared to the 350 PPM that is allowed for American-made wines. So, if you're looking to stock your home wine cellar with low-sulfite wines, start filtering your search by focusing on natural wines. From web shops to bottle shops, there's a vast selection.
A Few Low-Sulfite Wines and Where to Find Them
From Seattle bottle shops, to New York wine bars, to the worldwide web, there are a growing number of places to find your new fave low-sulfite wine. Looking for a juicy, chillable red? A spritzy rosé, or bloomy white? You'll find them all. Here are a few to get you started.
- Mary Taylor Anjou Blanc - A budget stunner from France's Loire Valley, this chenin is dry yet textured with fleshy orchard fruits, honeyed apple and quince, white lily, mouthwatering acidity, and a chalky minerality.
- Martha Stoumen 'Benchalnds' Red Blend - A beautiful blend of petite sirah, nero d'avola, and zinfandel from Mendocino, California, this red is such a fun little number. Full of tart cherry, punchy orange, cherry cola, and Italian plum, this wine will remind you of that dreamy summer fling from your youth.
- POE Manchester Ridge Pinot Noir - Looking for serious, but not too serious? The pinot from POE is for you. A Mendocino Ridge AVA belle, it finds that balance between bright brambly fruits, spice drawer, and forest floor.
- Gulp Hablo Orange - A crowd-pleasing, low-sulfite, skin-contact wine from Castilla-La Mancha, Spain, it's a blend of verdejo and sauvignon blanc. The wine is aromatic with orange blossom, jackfruit, and then perfectly bitter dried orange peel. Preserved apricots and tea make up a textured palate. Bonus points - it's a 1 liter bottle.
- Furlani Rosato Frizzante - A gem from Northern Italy, this pét-nat is all wild berries, raspberry iced tea, and river stones. There's zero added sulfur or disgorgement for these baby bubbles, so get ready for a real taste explosion.
Lean Into Those Low-Sulfite Wines
If you're looking to avoid those extra sulfites in wine, lean into the minimal intervention natural wines with few to no additional sulfites and get a taste of the purity of fermented grapes. Keep in mind that when drinking these wines, you'll want to pay extra attention to the storage conditions and drink them relatively young, as the lack of sulfites will make it a bit more challenging for them to stay shelf stable for years to come.