Organic Wine – Does it Contain Sulfites?

Written by Max Goldberg on September 18, 2010. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.


In wine, there are naturally occurring sulfites and added sulfites. The naturally occurring sulfites are a by-product of the fermentation process and it is nearly impossible to have a sulfite-free wine.

Winemakers have been working with sulfite agents, added sulfites, for hundreds of years. They were originally introduced in Europe as a preservative and are used to prevent spoiling.

It is possible, however, to have a wine that is free of added sulfates and that is organic wine. The four main attributes of USDA certified organic wine are:

- Made from grapes that are certified organic

- No toxic or synthetic chemicals, preservatives or pesticides may be used in the grape-growing process

- No added sulfites in the winemaking process

- The sulfite level (from naturally occurring sulfites) cannot exceed 20 parts per million.

Aside from USDA certified organic wine, which is not too common, there is also wine that has “made from organic grapes” on the label. The two main differences difference between a wine that is “made from organic grapes” and a USDA certified organic wine:

- It can contain added sulfites

- Approved sulfite level is higher — 100 parts per million.

As you can imagine, winegrowers who use heavy amounts of chemicals on the grapes will also want to use added  and synthetic sulfites, so as to increase the shelf life of their wine.

Some people are concerned about sulfites because of allergic reactions. Others do not want synthetic sulfites in their body.

My take: If I were still drinking (it’s been 11 years already), I would be looking for USDA certified organic wine only. I would not want to be putting synthetic sulfites into my body and buying certified organic wine would be the only way to prevent this from happening.

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